July 27, 2017

California Penutian Speaking Tribes


Penutian roots are old in California and expanded after Hokan languages were established in the state. To the extent that language and culture may be related, Penutian was the most typically “Californian” of any linguistic root language. In 1750 AD speakers of Penutian tongues occupied nearly half of California and were a solid block of about 30 groups in the California heartland.


Costanoan is a Spanish word meaning “coastal people.” Ohlone is this tribe’s name for themselves, meaning “the people.”

The Costanoans were a sedentary hunter/gatherer language group of the central California coast. They were located  in five villages along the central California coast between San Francisco Bay and the Salinas River and inland to the Mt. Diablo Range.

They lived in domed structures thatched with tule, grass, and fern.

Food sources included corn, seeds, nuts, berries, grapes, honey, fish, deer, bear, mountain lion, and small game.

This culture was destroyed by the abuses of missionization and the White influx after the gold rush. Many Costanoans were absorbed into other cultures. Descendants of others remain in small unrecognized groups today.

Tribes With Recognition or Petitions Pending

Amah Band of Ohlone / Costanoan Indians, Woodside Costanoan Ohlone Rumsen-Mutsen Tribe, Waterville Costanoan Band of Carmel Mission Indians, Monrovia,Costanoan-Rumsen Carmel Tribe, Chino, Esselen Tribe of Monterey County, Mutsun band of Costanoan (Ohlone) Indians (Indian Canyon Band of Costanoan Mutsun Indians), Hollister, Muwekma Ohlone Tribe of the San Francisco Bay Area, San Jose.


The Maidu originally lived in the eastern drainage area of the Sacramento river near Chico, and in large areas on the east and south side of Lassen Peak.They spoke Penutian.

They lived in unhewn timber-framed structures, cone-shaped, covered with grass, brush, tules, and earth.The Maidu were once nomadic, hunter-gatherers. Their staple food was the

Acorn, and they harvested other wild plants, fish, and game.

Offsite Links:

Tribal History

Tribal Websites: Greenville Rancheria, Honey Lake Maidu Tribe, Konkow Maidu, Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria, United Auburn Indian Community (Miwok and Maidu), Susanville Indian Rancheria 


Native Location: San Francisco Bay Area to Monterey; there was a tribe of Ahwaneechee Miwoks who lived in the Yosemite area for nearly 4,000 years before a fatal illness caused them to flee the valley.

Language: Penutian

Identified Shelters: Semi-subterranean, cone-shaped structures with pole frames, covered with bark, brush, grass, or tule; a fire-pit stood in the center and a hole was left on the top of the dome for air circulation.

Food: Acorn, pine nuts, buckeyes, berries, seeds, roots fish, deer, elk, bear, small game, waterfowl.

Off-Site Links:

Miwok Tribal History 

Tribal Websites: Graton Rancheria (Coast Miwok/South Pomo), United Auburn Indian Community (Miwok and Maidu), Ione Band of Miwok Indians, Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians, Jackson Rancheria, California Valley Miwok Tribe

Wintun (Wintu)

Native Location: Area south of Redding to the slopes of Mt. Shasta

Language: Wintun dialect of Penutian

Identified Shelters: In the north, semi-subterranean, cone-shaped structures with a connecting timber framework, covered with bark; in the south, a central post with radiating rafters resting on the surrounding edges of an earth pit, covered by various material.

Food: Deer, small game, bear, salmon, trout, acorns, seeds, nuts, berries.

The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation is a federally recognized tribe of Wintun people, specifically Patwin people or southern Wintun, in Yolo County, California. They were formerly known as the Rumsey Indian Rancheria of Wintun Indians of California.

Off Site Links:

Wintun Tribal History

Tribal Websites: Redding Rancheria, Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation


Native Location: Western side of the Sierra Nevada Mountains and the San Joaquin Valley foothills.

Language: Penutian

Identified Shelters: Semi-subterranean, cone-shaped structures with a connecting pole framework, covered with tule, tarweed, and pine needles.

Food: Pinenuts, manzanita berries, acorns, salmon, deer, rabbit, geese.

Cultural Notes: They were once a nomadic hunter/gatherer tribe which used tools made of bedrock, spears, bows & arrows, and knives. They pierced their ears and nose for decoration and the women often wore tattoos.

Off-Site Links:

Yokuts Tribal History

Tribal Websites: Tachi Yokut Tribe (Santa Rosa Rancheria), Tule River Tribe, Kechayi Band of Yokuts Indians (Dumna People)

Other Penutian Tribes:

  • Konkow
  • Modoc
  • Nisenan
  • Nomiaki
  • Patwin
Penutian language family
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