Yokuts

Map of the Yokut Tribes in Central California

The Native Americans of the what is now known as the San Joaquin Valley were known as Yokuts. They inhabited the valley from the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta (“the delta”) south to the Tehachapi Mountains and the adjacent foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, which lies to the east. In the northern half of the Yokuts region, there were some tribes inhabiting the foothills of the Coast Range, which lies to the west. There is evidence of Yokuts inhabiting the Carrizo Plain and creating rock art in the Painted Rock area.

The word “Yokuts” mean people. The Yokuts were traditionally divided into tribelets, perhaps as many as 50, each having a dialect, territory, and name of its own. The Yokuts were a friendly and peaceful loving people. The Yokuts lived a simple life, depending on the land for food, clothing, and shelter.

The Yokuts were among the first groups that settled in California. They are called seed-gatherers because they did no farming at all in the days before Columbus. Their main food was acorns. The Yokuts also ate wild plants, roots, and berries. They hunted deer, rabbits, prairie dogs, and other small mammals and birds. They made simple clothing out of bark and grass. Their jewelry and headbands were made of seeds and feathers. The Yokuts found life in the California valleys to be pleasant and peaceful for many centuries. Tule, a species of bullrush, filled the marshland and supplied the Yokut with material for covering their houses. They built round, steep-roofed houses which they framed with posts and covered with tule mats. Up to ten families lived in each house.”

A few Valley Yokuts remain, the most prominent tribe among them being the Tachi.

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