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California Indians and Their Environment

California Indians and Their Environment: An Introduction

Kent G. Lightfoot
Otis Parrish
Lee M. Panich
Tsim D. Schneider
K. Elizabeth Soluri
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: 1
Pages: 512
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  • Book Info
    California Indians and Their Environment
    Book Description:

    Capturing the vitality of California's unique indigenous cultures, this major new introduction incorporates the extensive research of the past thirty years into an illuminating, comprehensive synthesis for a wide audience. Based in part on new archaeological findings, it tells how the California Indians lived in vibrant polities, each boasting a rich village life including chiefs, religious specialists, master craftspeople, dances, feasts, and ceremonies. Throughout, the book emphasizes how these diverse communities interacted with the state's varied landscape, enhancing its already bountiful natural resources through various practices centered around prescribed burning. A handy reference section, illustrated with more than one hundred color photographs, describes the plants, animals, and minerals the California Indians used for food, basketry and cordage, medicine, and more. At a time when we are grappling with the problems of maintaining habitat diversity and sustainable economies, we find that these native peoples and their traditions have much to teach us about the future, as well as the past, of California.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-94228-8
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)

    • Why California Indians Matter
      (pp. 2-13)

      THE INEVITABLE QUESTION IS COMING. I (K.L.) am standing in front of the California Indian Gallery in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology on the Berkeley campus of the University of California. A group of undergraduate students from a section of the Introduction to Archaeology course is touring the exhibit. An earnest, but somewhat skeptical looking student, lags behind the others; all signs indicate she is about to launch the relevancy question. “I love all this great old stuff,” she gestures animatedly at the brightly colored baskets, soap root brushes, and strings of shell beads collected by ethnographers in...

    • The Central Role of Fire
      (pp. 14-37)

      DIVERSITY IS THE KEY to understanding California Indians. The original denizens of the Golden State, similar to those in other complex hunter-gatherer and agrarian societies worldwide, could boast of intensive harvesting systems, innovative methods of food storage, some level of sedentary life, high population densities, significant embellishment of material culture, sophisticated ritual systems, and hierarchical relationships of political and religious leaders. But what makes Native Californians so intriguing is that they accomplished all of this by maintaining an exceptional level of resource diversity at the scale of the local region. In working hard to maintain a plethora of distinctive habitats...

    • Waves of Migration
      (pp. 38-49)

      HOW LONG NATIVE PEOPLE HAVE RESIDED in California is a frequently asked question. Even those students who are skeptical about the relevancy of ethnographic or archaeological collections to our contemporary world are intrigued by the antiquity of Indian material culture. Inevitably, when shown an elegant coiled basket with beautiful black design elements, or a perfectly knapped obsidian projectile point, people want to know how old it is. Addressing when California was first settled and how its material culture evolved over time is critical for understanding cultural diversity among Indian people, as well as providing the time line for the creation...

    • A Landscape of Unparalleled Diversity
      (pp. 50-71)

      CALIFORNIA INDIANS INHERITED and then enhanced a natural world of incredible diversity and productivity. What makes California stand out today to almost anyone visiting from the heartland of America is the fantastic variability that can be found in its topography, climate, geology, and biotic communities within a limited geographic range. For example, on almost any summer day a wide range of temperatures can be enjoyed within an hour’s drive of the Berkeley campus of the University of California. In the mood for some blustery fog and cool temperatures? You can stay bundled up on the Berkeley waterfront or drive over...

    • The Uniqueness of California
      (pp. 72-93)

      CALIFORNIA ANTHROPOLOGY CUT ITS TEETH on trying to make sense of an unparalleled situation among North American Indian societies. At the time of initial European contact and settlement, California was a world like no other. It not only supported one of the highest population densities north of Mexico, but its people exhibited a truly amazing degree of linguistic and cultural diversity. Hundreds of small polities filled the landscape. The thick smoke from the many households made a strong impression on early European explorers, as did the cadre of chiefs, curing doctors, religious specialists, craft experts, and skilled hunters and gatherers,...

    • The First Fire Managers
      (pp. 94-123)

      IT IS THE SUMMER OF 2007. Smoke is billowing, flames are crackling, and fire crews are defiantly trying to stand their ground. We are watching TV images of people evacuating houses, once again, in the Lake Tahoe area. The camera crew is now panning on the smoldering ruins of a house, its elderly owners grief stricken at their loss. It is a heart-wrenching story that plays out, time and time again, during the summer and early fall months across much of California. As major conflagrations continue to take their toll on wildlands, property, and human lives, it is hard to...

    • They Are Not Farmers
      (pp. 124-141)

      I (K.L.) AM PRESENTING A BRIEF INTRODUCTION about the pyrodiversity practices of California Indians in a public symposium on the Berkeley campus. It is hot and muggy in the cramped lecture hall. My lecture is going pretty well, at least in my estimation, even though I am trying to appear cool and collected without breaking a sweat in my new, bright red Hawaiian shirt with the dancing Hula women. I am a little apprehensive—today is the first time that I am lecturing about my perspective on how fire management was commonly employed by local hunter-gatherer communities to enhance and...

    • Where We Go from Here
      (pp. 142-152)

      I (K.L.) AM MEETING WITH A SMALL GROUP of sixth grade students from the Roosevelt Middle School in Oakland, California. It is part of an innovative program that brings university students and professors into an after school curriculum to facilitate the teaching of literacy skills through the study of archaeology.¹ In serving as mentors and coaches, we work with the younger students as they create digital stories about topics that interest them. I am continually amazed at the creativity and hard work of the students who produce inspiring story lines about living in the inner city. But one of the...

    (pp. 153-182)

    • [Introduction]
      (pp. 183-187)

      THE PURPOSE OF THIS GUIDE is to introduce the plants, animals, and minerals utilized by California Indians for foods, for medicinal and spiritual purposes, and for producing their sophisticated material culture, including cordage, clothing, tools, weapons, architectural materials, and ceremonial regalia. It is not meant to be comprehensive, but rather representative of the primary natural resources employed by Native people within each of California’s six geomorphic provinces (map 8).¹ Furthermore, we restrict our discussion to those resources used from the early twentieth century to about 500 years ago. Information is derived primarily from archaeological investigations, Native oral traditions, and ethnographic...

    • Northwest Coast Province
      (pp. 188-209)

      Coastal strand, coastal prairie, northern coastal scrub, closed-cone pine forest, northern coastal forest, montane forest, riparian woodland.

      Na-Dené stock or family: Chilula, Hupa, Tolowa, Whilkut languages; Algic stock or family: Wiyot, Yurok languages; Hokan stock: Chimariko, Karuk, Shasta languages.

      The people of the Northwest Coast Province are renowned for their distinctive architecture, economy, and social organization. Archaeological and ethnographic information documents a plethora of late prehistoric and early historic villages dispersed along the lower reaches of rivers and streams, at the confluences of upper drainages, and along the ocean coast, especially near bays, lagoons, and places where rivers and streams...

    • Central Coast Province
      (pp. 210-251)

      Coastal strand, coastal salt marsh, freshwater marsh, coastal prairie, coastal sage scrub, northern coastal scrub, closed-cone pine forest, northern coastal forest, valley and foothill woodland, valley grassland, riparian woodland, chaparral.

      Yukian stock or family: Yuki, Wappo languages; Hokan stock: Pomo, Salinan, Esselen languages; Utian (Penutian) stock or family: Lake Miwok, Coast Miwok, Costanoan (Ohlone) languages; southern Na-Dené stock or family: Mattole, Nongatl, Sinkyone, Lassik, Wailaki, Cahto languages.

      The Central Coast Province is widely recognized for its spectacular scenery of varied ocean, mountain, and valley landscapes, and its people created sophisticated technologies, cultural practices, and social organizations for supporting large numbers...

    • South Coast Province
      (pp. 252-277)

      Coastal strand, coastal sage scrub, valley grassland, valley and foot hill woodland, chaparral, montane forest, alpine fell-field.

      Chumash languages; Hokan stock: Diegueño languages (Ipai, Kumeyaay, Tipai); Uto-Aztecan stock or family: Tataviam, Luiseño, Gabrielino (Tongva), Juaneño, Fernandeño languages.

      It is tough to generalize about the Indians of the South Coast Province, whose settlements once spanned the off shore Channel Islands, the coastal mainland from the Santa Barbara Channel to Baja California, and the western slopes of the Transverse and Peninsular ranges, which form the backbone of this province. Suffice it to say that significant variation occurred in the settlement patterns, social...

    • Northeast Province
      (pp. 278-301)

      Freshwater marsh, riparian woodland, montane forest, chaparral, pinyon-juniper woodland, sagebrush scrub.

      Hokan stock: Achumawi (Pit River), Atsugewi languages; Utian stock or family: Modoc language.

      At the crossroads of three broad culture areas—California, the Great Basin, and the Plateau—the people of the Northeast Province created a sophisticated lifeway centering around winter villages, fire management of grassland, meadow, and upland resources, and the exploitation of diverse foods from an extensive wetland system of streams, lakes, seasonal marshes, and swamps. As the primary social unit, the winter village was organized into discrete house clusters, where related families established homes, cookhouses, storage...

    • Great Central Valley and Sierra Nevada Province
      (pp. 302-339)

      Valley grassland, riparian woodland, freshwater marsh, alkali sink scrub, valley and foothill woodland, chaparral, montane forest, sub alpine forest, montane meadow, and alpine fell-field.

      Hokan stock: Yana, Washo languages; Uto-Aztecan stock or family: Mono (Monachi), Tubatulabal languages; Penutian stock: Win tuan family (Wintu, Nomlaki, Patwin), Maiduan family (North eastern Maidu, Konkow, Nisenan) of languages; Utian stock or family: Miwokan family (Plains Miwok, Northern Sierra Miwok, Central Sierra Miwok, Southern Sierra Miwok), Yokutsun family of languages.

      The people of the Great Central Valley and Sierra Nevada Province are distinguished by relatively dense populations, large impressive villages marked by many houses, granaries,...

    • Southern Deserts Province
      (pp. 340-364)

      Creosote bush scrub, alkali sink scrub, shadscale scrub, pinyon-juniper woodland, chaparral.

      Hokan stock: speakers of the southern Diegueño (Kumeyaay, Ipai/Tipai), Paipai, Kiliwa languages who inhabit noncoastal desert environs; Uto-Aztecan stock or family: Cupeño, Luiseño, Serrano, Cahuilla, Kitanemuk languages.

      In our consideration of the Southern Deserts Province, we employ the term “California Indian” as a cultural designation rather than a strictly geographical one. Thus, some groups whose homelands are located within the modern political boundaries of the state of California are excluded, while some groups living in Mexico are incorporated into this discussion. Among those whose practices are not included are...

  8. NOTES
    (pp. 365-390)
    (pp. 391-428)
    (pp. 429-450)
    (pp. 451-454)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 455-492)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 493-498)