Facts about California Native American Tribes

Facts about California Native American Tribes

Posted By PowWows.com July 1st, 2019 Blog

The Native American Tribes of California

There are 109 federally recognized Native American tribes in the state of California, more than 70 additional groups have petitioned for recognition. All have a unique history and culture. Here are the names and quick highlights of some of these. 

California is home to more people of Native American heritage than any other state. The list of California Native American tribes below gives you a starting point to learn more about the more than 100 tribes in the state.



Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians of the Agua Caliente Indian Reservation

  • Have occupied the Tahquitz Canyon for over 5000 years
  • The name Agua Caliente was given to them by Spaniards and literally translates to ‘hot water’. This was due to the hot springs within their tribal ground
  • Created rock lined irrigating ditches for their crops that still stand to this day

Alturas Indian Rancheria

  • Are members of the Achumawi, also known as the “Pit River Indians”
  • Choose their leader democratically
  • Considered it rude to call someone by their name and instead used their relationship descriptor such as ‘uncle’

Augustine Band of Cahuilla Indians 

  • Have inhabited the Coachella Valley for over 3000 years
  • Was once the smallest Native American tribe
  • Was down to one living member in the 1970’s but has since made a comeback

Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria

  • Was originally made up of Native Americans from various tribes that had been estranged or lost their lands
  • Was one of 34 tribes that lost their recognition due to the Rancheria Act of 1983
  • Had their recognition reinstated after a class action lawsuit titled Tillie-Hardwick

Berry Creek Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California

  • Currently over 300 members
  • Headquartered in Orville, Butte County
  • Artist Frank Day was born to this tribe

Big Lagoon Rancheria

  • Are a mixture of Yurok and Tolowa people
  • The tribe owns and operates the Arcata Hotel in Arcata
  • Is partnered with the Lost Coyotes Band of Cahuilla and Cupeño Native American tribe whom they operate the Barstow Casino with

Big Pine Band Paiute Tribe of the Owens Valley

  • Their most important source of food was pine nuts
  • They called themselves “Numa” which meant people
  • Lived lives that focused on harmony with all things

Related Info – Pow Wows In California


Big Sandy Rancheria of Western Mono Indians of California

  • Are members of the Mono-people nation or Monache
  • Cooked food in baskets with hot stones
  • Monache focused more on games and feasting than ceremony

Big Valley Band of Pomo Indians of the Big Valley Rancheria

  • They speak Eastern Pomo, also known as Bahtssal
  • Has nearly 700 members
  • Hosts the annual Tule Boat Festival, which consists of building and racing boats

Bishop Pauite Tribe

  • Are descendants of the Nu-Mu, the original people of Owens Valley
  • Has over 2000 members
  • Are members of the Great Basin culture group

Blue Lake Rancheria

  • Consists of Wiyot, Hupa and Yurok nation members
  • Has less than 60 members
  • Focuses on environmental causes

Bridgeport Indian Colony

  • Consists of members from the Miwok, Mono, Paiute, Shoshone and Washoe tribes
  • Has over 120 members
  • Their traditional language is Northern Paiute

Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California

  • Was created by a small handful of Upsani and Me-wak Native Americans that escaped the cultural oppression of Spanish missionaries.

Cabazon Band of Mission Indians

  • Members of the Cahuilla nation
  • The term “Mission Indian” is given to tribes that were known for being subjugated by Spanish missionaries
  • Though they are labeled mission Indians, the tribe themselves were never conquered by the Spanish

Cachil DeHe Band of Wintun Indians of the Colusa Indian Community of the Colusa Rancheria

Cahuilla Band of Mission Indians of the Cahuilla Reservation

  • Are skilled in basket weaving and making pottery
  • Originally from the Coachella Valley
  • Traditional beliefs hold that the world was created by two brothers, Mukat and Tamaoit

Cahto Indian Tribe of the Laytonville Rancheria

  • Many of their stories have been translated and preserved
  • Their name means ‘Lake’ in Northern Pomo
  • They had a tradition of keeping romantic relationships a secret for as long as possible, only making it official once they were found out

California Valley Miwok Tribe

  • Was founded in 1916 with only 12 members
  • Used too be a much larger tribe
  • Originally of the Sierra Miwok nation 

Campo Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the Campo Indian Reservation

Cedarville Rancheria

  • Was founded in 1914 by six tribesman
  • Are members of the Northern Paiute
  • Pre-contact they were a tribe of desert hunter-gatherers

Chemehuevi Indian Tribe of the Chemehuevi Reservation

Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria

  • Established in 1906
  • Is a tribe that consists of members from the Yurok, Wiyot and Tolowa Nations
  • Is located within the ancestral ground of the Yurok people

Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California

  • Is made of members of the Sierra Mi-wuk
  • It gets its name from literally being a chicken farm
  • “Me-wuk, Mewuk and Miwok” is the same and describes their tribe’s name and language, however they refer to themselves as Ko-Ca’, which means people

Cloverdale Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California

  • A branch of the Pomo Nation
  • Have ancient stories that center around many of California’s landmarks
  • Basket weaving is a very cherished tradition within their culture

Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California

  • Are of the Western Mono people
  • The acorn is of important symbolism in their culture
  • They have a population of over 180

Colorado River Indian Tribes of the Colorado River Indian Reservation

  • Consists of Chemehuevi, Mohave, Hopi and Navajo people
  • Nearly 10,000 members strong
  • The Hopi and Navajo didn’t come to the area until the 1940’s

Cortina Indian Rancheria of Wintun Indians of California

  • Consists of just over 20 members
  • Members of the Kletsel Dehe Wintun Nation
  • They are headquartered west of Arbuckle, California

Coyote Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California

  • Were widely discriminated by local towns before the Pomo Mothers club
  • The original Rancheria was purchased by a mix of Ca-ba-kana, Pomo and Katca people for $200.00
  • Their traditional diet consisted of wild game, cloves and acorns

Death Valley Timbi-Sha Shoshone Tribe

  • Do not like the term “Death Valley”, feeling it is a mislead description and borderline slander of their home
  • One of the few Native American tribes that still live on their ancestral grounds
  • Can weave baskets capable of holding water

Dry Creek Rancheria of Pomo Indians 

Elem Indian Colony of Pomo Indians of the Sulphur Bank Rancheria

  • Founded in 1936
  • Rattlesnake Island is a place of ceremony to them
  • Has a population of over 100

Elk Valley Rancheria

  • Consits of Yurok and Tolowa people
  • Has a population of fewer than 100
  • Located east of Crescent City, California

Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians

  • Ewiiaapaayp means “Leaning rock”
  • The tribe owns Leaning Rock Water
  • Their reservation was originally named the “Cuyapaipe Reservation” 

Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria

  • Consists of Coast Miwok and Southern Pomo people
  • Many still live within their ancestral territories
  • The earliest European records of Natives in this area date back to the 16th

Fort Bidwell Indian Community of the Fort Bidwell Reservation of California

  • Consists of Paiute people
  • Established in 1897
  • Enjoyed community marksmanship competitions

Fort Independence Indian Community of Paiute Indians of the Fort Independence Reservation

  • Consists of Piute people whom moved close to Fort Independence due to actions of the U.S. Government harming their ability to harvest food
  • Considers Owen Valley to be sacred
  • Still highly value the spiritual significance of the land

Fort Mojave Indian Tribe

  • The actual name of their tribe is “Pipa Aha Macav”, which translates to “People by the River”.
  • Had trade networks that went all of the way to the Pacific Ocean
  • Mutavilya is the name of their prime deity in tradition

Greenville Rancheria

Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians of California

  • Consists of Wintun and Wailki people
  • Has a population of over 162
  • Was founded in 1907

Guidiville Rancheria of California

  • A branch of the Pomo Nation
  • Federal recognition wasn’t reinstated until 1992
  • Were pushed out of their ancestral lands of Lake County, California

Habematolel Pomo of Upper Lake

  • Originally called “Xabe ma tole” or “People of Rock Village”
  • Were forced off of their reservation in the 50’s, but were able to return in the 80’s
  • Have existed for over 11,000 years

Hoopa Valley Tribe

  • Descendants of the Athabasken tribe
  • One of the few tribes not forced from their homeland during the 1840’s
  • Architectural and canoe designs were reminiscent of their arctic heritage

Hopland Band of Pomo Indians

  • Their ancestral grounds is the Sanel Valley
  • Consists mostly of Pomo people
  • Population is over 700

Inaja Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the Inaja and Cosmit Reservation

  • Belongs to the Kumeyaay Nation
  • Is located at the base of Cuyamaca Peak
  • Ione Band of Miwok Indians of California
  • ‘Inaja’ and ‘Cosmit’ are separate land parcels which is what gives the reservation its unique name

Jackson Band of Miwuk Indians

  • Own and operate the Jackson Casino

Jamul Indian Village of California

Karuk Tribe 

  • Has a 5000-foot cultural center that also hosts classroom, library and much more
  • Is one of the largest tribes in California
  • Works tirelessly to push their tribe towards the future

Kashia Band of Pomo Indians of the Stewart’s Point Rancheria

  • They are also referred to as the “Kashaya Pomo”
  • “Wina·má· bakʰe ya” is their name for themselves which translates to “People Who Belong on the Land”.
  • Though they were conscripted by Russian settlers, they were never forced to convert to Catholicism

Koi Nation of Northern California

  • Originally an island tribe from Clear Lake, their name translates to “People of Water”
  • They are amongst the longest inhabiting people in North America, spanning over 14,000 years
  • Their language is a dialect of Hokan, one of the oldest Native American languages

La Jolla Band of Luiseño Indians 

  • One of the six Luiseno tribes
  • The Kumeyaay once called their location “The land of holes” for unknown reasons
  • The origin of the name “La Jolla” is still debated

La Posta Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the La Posta Indian Reservation

  • Established in 1893
  • Currently has a population of under 20
  • Belongs to the Kuemyaay Nation

Lone Pine Paiute-Shoshone Tribe

  • Consists of Mono and Timbisha people
  • Has a population of over 300
  • Both the Mono and Timbisha speak a unique dialect of a common language

Los Coyotes Band of Cahuilla & Cupeno Indians 

  • Is the largest reservation in San Diego County
  • Host Hot springs Mountain, the highest peak in San Diego County

 Lytton Rancheria of California

  • Are members of the Pomo Nation
  • Had to rebuild several times due to policies that discriminated Native Americans
  • Develops and sustains vineyards as part of their growing economy

Manchester Band of Pomo Indians of the Manchester Rancheria

  • Spiritual culture had an emphasis on dreams
  • Worked as loggers and farmers after Euro-Americans appeared
  • Try to strike a balance between their traditions and the modern world

Manzanita Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the Manzanita Reservation

  • Are of the Kumeyaay Nation
  • Were talented at agriculture
  • Reservation was established in 1891

Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria

  • Have an in depth mythology about the world that include the first man and woman
  • Their Chieftains were called “Hukbe”
  • Their puberty ceremony for young girls was called “Yupukato”

Mesa Grande Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of the Mesa Grande Reservation

  • Have inhabited San Diego County for over 12,000 years
  • Had a highly organized society that consisted of many sibling tribes they lived in harmony with
  • Reservation was established in 1875 by Ulysses S. Grant

Middletown Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California

  • Established in 1910
  • Consists of Pomo, Wappo and Wintun people
  • Speak a dialect called “Lake Miwuk”

Mooretown Rancheria of Maidu Indians of California

  • Tradionally spoke the Concow language
  • Owns the Feather Fall Casino
  • Located in Oroville East, California

Morongo Band of Cahuilla Mission Indians 

  • Consists of Cahuilla, Serrano, Luiseno, Cupeno and Chemeheuvi people
  • Established in 1876
  • The word Morongo comes from the Serrano tribe Maarenga

Northfork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California

Pala Band of Luiseño Mission Indians of the Pala Reservation

  • Consists of Luiseno and Cupeno people
  • Their ancestral home was Kupa
  • Own and operate Pale Casino Resort and Spa

Paskenta Band of Nomlaki Indians of California

  • Their word for themselves is “Nomlāqa Bōda
  • Has just over 240 members
  • Constructed their homes with bent saplings with vine and thatch

Pauma Band of Luiseño Mission Indians of the Pauma & Yuima Reservation

  • Of the Luiseno people
  • Used dug out canoes to fish in the ocean
  • Their word for home is “kiicha”

Pechanga Band of Luiseño Mission Indians of the Pechanga Reservation

  • Have a large and cherished tradition when it comes to rattles
  • They weave baskets using deer grass, sumac, juncus and red willow
  • Wi’áaşal is what they call “The Great Oak,” a 1000-year-old tree they revere

Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians of California

  • Have inhabited the San Joaquin Valley for over 12,000 years
  • Used decoys during hunts
  • They are also referred to as Foothills Yokuts

Pinoleville Pomo Nation

  • Originally from Potter Valley
  • Were seasonally nomadic
  • Would make necklaces with magnesite

Pit River Tribe

Potter Valley Tribe

  • Of the Pomo people
  • Descendants of the Bo-lo-Kai
  • They have a population of just over 200

Quechan Tribe of the Fort Yuma Indian Reservation

  • Were skilled warriors and traders
  • Had positive relations with the Spanish in the 18th century
  • Still in inhabit part of their ancestral lands

Ramona Band of Cahuilla

  • Founded in 1893
  • Located on traditionally Sauppalpisa territory

Redding Rancheria

  • Consists of Wintun, Achomawi and Yana people
  • Established in 1893
  • Located in Riverside County, California

Redwood Valley or Little River Band of Pomo Indians of the Redwood Valley Rancheria California

  • Of the Pomo Nation
  • Originally lived in the Clear Lake area

Resighini Rancheria

  • Of the Yurok Nation
  • Their dances include The Brush Dance, Jump Dance and White Deer Skin Dance
  • The Brush Dance is used to pray for a sick child, or to ask that the child have a long and healthy life

Rincon Band of Luiseño Mission Indians of the Rincon Reservation

  • Owns and operates the Harrah Resort, Southern California
  • Is in San Diego County
  • Has over 650 members

Round Valley Indian Tribes, Round Valley Reservation

  • Includes members of the Yuki, Maidu, Pomo, Nomlaki, Cahto, Wailaki, and Pit River People
  • Was established in 1856
  • The land originally belonged to the Yuki and the U.S. Government forced the other tribes to live in the location, many of which were historically enemies of the Yuki

San Manual Band of Serrano Mission Indians of the San Manual Reservation

  • Serrano is a Spanish term meaning “Highlander”
  • Their actual name is the “Yuhaaviatam”
  • Yuhaaviatam means “The People of the Pines”

San Pasqual Band of Diegueño Mission Indians of California

  • Are of the Kumeyaay Nation
  • Part of their ancestral lands is now a part of the San Diego Zoo
  • They once had a cherished leader named “Panto” during the 19th century that greatly aided relations with Euro-Americans

Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria

  • Consists of Tachi Yokut people
  • The word “Tachi” means “mud duck”
  • They were seed gatherers with little to no agriculture before Euro-Americans

Santa Ynez Band of Chumash Mission Indians of the Santa Ynez Reservation

Lipay Nation of Santa Ysabel

  • Of The Kumeyaay Nation
  • Was founded in 1893
  • Owns and operates the Santa Ysabel Resort and Casino

Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California

  • Has over 300 members

Sheep Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians

  • Are of the Sierra Miwok
  • Currently only has one remaining member

Sherwood Valley Rancheria of Pomo Indians of California

Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Shingle Springs Rancheria

  • Were once called the “Sacramento-Verona Band of Homeless Indians” by the American government
  • Consists of Miwok and Southern Maidu people
  • Is located in El Dorado County, California

Soboba Band of Luiseño Indians

  • Were able to build their economy in the modern world through Apricot farming
  • Own and operate Soboba Casino
  • Originally allowed Spanish explorers to enter their territory because they wished to learn literacy from them

Susanville Indian Rancheria

Sycuan Band of the Kumeyaay Nation

  • Established in 1875
  • Has a population over 120

Table Mountain Rancheria of California

  • Of the Yokut and Monache people
  • Has a population just over 11
  • The headquarters is in Friant, California

Tejon Indian Tribe

  • Originally from the foothills of Sierra Nevada
  • Original name was the Kitanemuk People
  • Ancestral home was originally a large Native American military base where many tribes would gather during times of war

Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation

  • Established in 1908, was the largest Rancheria in California
  • Consists of Athabascan, Navajo and Apache people
  • Population of nearly 2,000

Torres-Martinez Desert Cahuilla Indians 

  • Established in 1876
  • Has a population over 5,000

Tule River Indian Tribe of the Tule River Reservation

  • Consists Yokuts, Yowlumne, Wukchumnis, Wstern Mono and Tubatlabal people
  • Has a population of nearly 2,000
  • Was established in 1873

Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians of the Tuolumne Rancheria of California

  • Consists of Me-Wuk and Yokut people
  • Would migrate to trade with other tribes if food was scarce
  • Have a history of “The Hand Game” as with many California tribes

Twenty-Nine Palms Band of Mission Indians of California

  • Is of the Chemehuevi people
  • Was established in1867
  • Half of the tribe is in Indio with the other half in Twenty-Nine Palms

United Auburn Indian Community of the Auburn Rancheria of California

  • Consists mostly of Miwok people
  • Bear hunts are conducted with ceremony
  • Established in 1917

Utu Utu Gwaitu Paiute Tribe of the Benton Paiute Reservation

Washoe Tribe

  • Their language is Washoan, a branch of Hokan
  • Their ancestral homeland is Lake Tahoe
  • Tradition holds that they were delivered to Lake Tahoe by the great Coyote Gewe

Wilton Rancheria

  • Of the Miwok people
  • They were originally from the area that is now Sacramento County
  • The Rancheria was officially established in 1928

Wiyot Tribe

  • Was one of the smaller tribes, even before Euro-Americans invaded California
  • Were only 200 strong by 1860
  • Now have just over 100 remaining tribe members

Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation 

  • Originally of the Capay Valley
  • Name means “Home By the Spring Water”
  • They speak the Patwin language

Yurok Tribe of the Yurok Reservation


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Comments

7 thoughts on “Facts about California Native American Tribes

  1. HI THIS PROBABLY DOES NOT MEAN ANYTHING BUT I WANT TO KNOW FOR SURE MABYE U CAN HELP ME COUPLE OF DAYS AGO I WAS AT THE STORE THERE WAS A COUPLE WITH A PET WOLF THE WOLF WAS MALE BIG WHITE LIGHT COLOR EYES WE CONECTED I HE LICKED MY FACE HE WAS VERY FRIENDLY SOMTHING SPECIAL HAPPEND THATS IT LET ME KNOW WHAT U THINK

  2. This article has MANY errors. For one thing, MOST California tribes do have reservations in their ancestral lands. You said that few do. Redding Rancheria is in Redding, not Riverside. There are lots more in this too. Also, there are many unrecognized tribes in California which should be noted. They are Indigenous peoples of the state and should be acknowledged, since they are unrecognized through NO fault of their own.

    Please do some more homework, better yet, take some time and contact tribes directly. I’m willing to help you with this.

  3. dont know where or how old this information is but you way off on some of the tribes ?I am from pauma Yuima band and the boat ?? where many miles inland to be doing any boat??

  4. Judith Lowry says:

    The Nisenan tribe of Nevada County also seeks Federal reinstatement for its illegally terminated rancheria.
    These are the surviving families of the Gold Rush of 1849, which decimated their culture and their lands.
    They are coming back strong and the community at large now stands with them.

  5. Thanks for sharing information about the first inhabitants of my home state. I live about 50 miles outside of Redding, California, the correct location of the Redding Rancheria, which is in Shasta County (not Riverside County.) They host the Stillwater Powwow every year, are big contributors to the community and surrounding areas, and sponsor many wonderful programs.

    • Sylvia Mendoza says:

      I just had an DNA test done and found out I’m 69.7% Native American Where can I find out which tribe I’m from Thanks Sylvia Mendoza

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