The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians is a federally recognized tribe of Yokuts and Sierra Miwok people from California.
Official Tribal Name: Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians of the Tuolumne Rancheria of California
Address: PO Box 699, 19595 Mi-Wu Street, Tuolumne, CA 95379
Phone: (209) 928-5300
Fax: (209) 928-1677
Official Website: mewuk.com
Recognition Status: Federally Recognized
Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:
Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:
Alternate names / Alternate spellings: Miwok, Mi Wok, Mewuk, Digger Indians
Name in other languages:
State(s) Today: California
Me-Wuk peoples have a very long and rich history dating back for thousands of years. The Plains and Sierra Miwok traditionally lived in the western Sierra Nevada between the Fresno River and Cosumnes River, in the eastern Central Valley of California, and in the northern Sacramento–San Joaquin River Delta region at the confluences of the Cosumnes River, Mokelumne River, and Sacramento River.
Treaties: Treaty E – 18 Unratified Treaties between 1851-1852 between the California Indians and the US Government
Reservation: Tuolumne Rancheria
The rancheria was established in 1910, and is located near Yosemite National Park.
Land Area: 1700 fee and trust land acres
Tribal Headquarters: Tuolumne, California
Time Zone: Pacific
Population at Contact: Prior to outside contact, first noted by the Spanish Explorers in the Moraga Second Expedition to Central California, which passed through Tuolumne County in 1806, the Sierra Miwok population was somewhere around 10,000. This number fell drastically to 679 by the 1910 census.
Registered Population Today: About 400, half of which live on the Tuolumne Rancheria.
Tribal Enrollment Requirements:
Charter: The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians has a constitution written during the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) period of Indian Policy. The present constitution and by-laws were originally approved on January 15, 1936.
Name of Governing Body: Community Council
Number of Council members: 87 members. Prospective Community Council members have to meet a criterion of eligibility and be voted into the group by the other members of the Community Council.
Dates of Constitutional amendments:
Executive Officers: Chairman, Vice-chairman, Secretary, and Treasurer. The Officers are elected annually from within the Community Council membership.
Committees, Boards, Commissions, and Authorities are established to assist the Community Council in carrying out its’ responsibilities, to provide quality services to the Tribal membership and to develop, maintain, and protect the assets and interests of the Tribe. The tribe has nine standing committees:
- Business & Finance
- Constitution & By-Laws
- Cultural & Historic Preservation
- Education & Recreation
- Integrated Resource Management Plan
- Planning & Development
- Social Services Advisory
- Tribal Housing Authority
- Tribal Law Enforcement Commission
- Tuolumne Me-Wuk Indian Health Board
Executive Director: The Executive Director is responsible and accountable for the day-to-day operations of tribal government programs and services. The Executive Director provides leadership by suggesting strategy, goals, objectives, and targets for tribal government programs and services. The Executive Director regularly attends the meetings of the various committees of the Community Council.
Administration Supervisor: The Administration Supervisor is responsible for various executive administrative and support activities related to the responsibilities of the Tribal Chairman and Executive Director. Under their general direction the Administration Supervisor serves as an information source regarding policies and procedures, as well as supervision of administrative staff. The Administration Supervisor regularly coordinates and monitors special employee and tribal projects.
Governmental Affairs and Administrative Specialist: The Governmental Affairs and Administrative Specialist is the liaison for the Tribe to coordinate with federal, state and local agencies on proposed projects.
Enrollment Specialist: The Enrollment Specialist is the custodian of the membership records and database of Tribal demographics for the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians. The Enrollment Specialist works closely with the Enrollment Committee to process enrollment applications during open enrollment, verify enrollment status, and serves as the initial contact for all enrollment related information. The Enrollment Specialist provides technical review and administrative support to the Enrollment Committee as well as providing statistical data, mailing lists and various other reports to other Tribal Departments.
Recording Secretary: The Recording Secretary maintains the official record of tribal government actions. The office is responsible for taking and processing the minutes of the Community Council meetings and other tribal meetings as prescribed. The Recording Secretary functions as a liaison between tribal members, tribal program staff, and tribal entities. The Recording Secretary disseminates information regarding actions taken by the Community Council and/or Committees of the Community Council. The Office of the Recording Secretary is responsible for storage of the Constitution and amendments, ordinances, resolutions, committee and Council meeting minutes, and any other recommended actions. The Recording Secretary serves as the point of origin for the tribal newsletter and the community calendar of events.
Tribal Hall Receptionist: The Receptionist serves as the initial point of contact whether it is by phone, fax, or in-person. The receptionist greets, and directs individuals to the relevant entity. The receptionist serves as the starting place for general information on upcoming events, meetings, training seminars, and other scheduled Tribal activities and provides clerical support to the Administrative staff and Tribal members as needed.
Elections: Eligible voting members are members of the tribe that live within the community enclosed by the borders of the Tuolumne Rancheria. Committee members are elected annually while special board members usually have staggered terms of varying duration.
Number of fluent Speakers:
Up until the 1950s the Central Sierra Miwok language was spoken fluently by a majority of the Elders of the Tribe. However, the children who grew up in the Boading School era mostly forgot their native language.
Bands, Gens, and Clans
- Big Sandy Rancheria of Mono Indians of California (F)
- Buena Vista Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians of California (F)
- California Valley Miwok Tribe (Sheep Ranch Rancheria) (F)
- Chicken Ranch Rancheria of Me-Wuk Indians (F)
- Choinumni (U)
- Cold Springs Rancheria of Mono Indians of California (F)
- Dunlap Band of Mono Indians (a.k.a. Mono Tribal Council of Dunlap) (U)
- Jackson Band of Me-Wuk Indians of California (Jackson Rancheria) (F)
- Mono Lake Indian Community (U)
- Northfolk Band of Mono Indians(U)
- North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians of California (F)
- Northern Band of Mono-Yokuts (U)
- Picayune Rancheria of Chukchansi Indians of California (California) (F)
- Santa Rosa Indian Community of the Santa Rosa Rancheria (F)
- Shingle Springs Band of Miwok Indians (Shingle Springs Rancheria) (F)
- Table Mountain Rancheria of California (Chukchansi) (F)
- Tejon Indian Tribe (F)
- Tule River Indian Tribe of the Tule River Reservation (F)
- Tuolumne Rancheria (F)
- Wukchumni (U)
- Yosemite Mono Lake Paiute Indian Community (U)
Ceremonies / Dances:
Modern Day Events & Tourism:
Held annually the second weekend of September, the tribe holds an Acorn Festival and intertribal gathering. The 50th Annual Acorn Festival will be held on September 10th and 11th, 2016.
The Indian Market, celebrated in the spring, is another annual traditional event.
Legends / Oral Stories:
Art & Crafts:
Baskets were used throughout the stages of acorn processing, as well as for other tasks. Coiled Basketry was the most common style utilized. Approximately 20 different traditional basket types could be made with this one style. Willow and red bud were the most widespread materials utilized for basketry. Women were responsible for creating and maintaining the family’s baskets.
Northern Shafted Flicker Bird wing and tail feathers are popular for adorning ceremonial objects and dance regalia.
The typical village consisted of umachas (cedar bark homes), chakkas (acorn granaries) and a hangi (ceremonial roundhouse). The ceremonial roundhouse was the epicenter of village life. The roundhouse was used for a variety of purposes by different groups. It was typically 30 to 40 feet in diameter and covered by earth, bark, or shingles.
The Miwok were hunter-gatherers. When resources became scarce around their village, they would migrate to a new area where they could trade with other tribes. The primary food staples were fish, acorns, and deer meat. The diet was also supplemented with various wild berries, seeds and nuts. Abalone shell was often used for trade or used for ceremonial purposes. Washington Clam Shell discs were used for trade or money or wedding gifts.
The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians own and operate the Black Oak Casino, Black Oak Cafe, Seven Sisters Restaurant, The Mill Bar, Kingpins, Willow Creek Lounge, Manzanita Bar, the Bear Creek Convenience Store and Gas Station, the Underground Arcade, West Side Cherry Valley Golf Club, and Brunswick Bowling Center in Tuolumne.
They also operate the Four Seasons Native Plant Nursery. The primary focus is oriented toward the gathering of native plant species in use by the Indian people for traditional, ceremonial, medicinal, and spiritual purposes as well as preservation and restoration of selected gathering areas. They have researched and identified approximately ninety species that are native to this area and are used by the Me-Wuk people.
Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:
Between about 1890 and 1930, children were forcibly taken away from their families at a very early age and were sent to government Indian Schools, where they were forbidden to practise their religion, culture or speak their native language.
Me-Wuk Chiefs & Famous People:
The California Gold Rush era impacted the Miwok people in many traumatic ways, changing their lives forever. In a very short time, the land and environment that had sustained the people for generations was irreparably altered. Stream channels were disturbed, sometimes re-routed, and eventually the land was blasted away causing huge amounts of soil to enter the streams and rivers, destroying the habitat of fish and other aquatic species that once were food for the Miwok people.
Gathering areas that had supplied the Miwok with many foods were unintentionally damaged or cleared for cattle grazing. The cattle also ate the acorns, a major source of food for the Miwok people.
Disease brought in by the newcomers entered the world of the Miwok taking many lives due to the people’s lack of immunity.
There were many attempts by miners and militias commissioned by the federal government to address the “Indian problem,” to control or annihilate the Miwok population. The Miwok people were forced to flee from their homes and seek refuge in more isolated areas for protection and survival. In 1852 the Governor of California offered a $.25 bounty for each Indian scalp. In 1860 the bounty was increased to $5.00.
In 1924 two significant events in Miwok history were observed. First, the Miwok name officially came into use. Before this time Me-Wuk people were referred to as Digger Indians. On Sunday, April 20th, 1924 an effigy of a digger Indian was burned in a ceremony to change the Tribe’s name from Digger to Miwok. This was the culmination of a three day celebration, part of an annual cry ceremony that was held each year by the local Miwok. Then on June 2, 1924, Congress granted citizenship to all Native Americans born in the United States.
In the News: