California and Intermountain Seed Gatherers


The California Indians lived in what is now California between the Rocky Mountains and Sierra Nevada. This area had a mild climate and an abundance of food.

The California tribes had one of the largest populations in North America west of the Great Plains. Over 200,000 Indians lived in California. Between 1851 and 1852, eighteen treaties with the United States were signed by around 400 chiefs. They gave up 75 million acres of land. After this thousands died from disease and hunger. Their population was reduced to 15,000.   

The Intermountain Indians lived in the Great Basin between California and the Rocky Mountains. This land was mostly desert. This region had only a small number of Indians living in it.


wickiup.jpg (16859 bytes) California Native Village

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Model of a Thatch Hut Built by a Student

The people settled in small villages. Depending on where they lived, their homes were either round or rectangular huts. The river tribes lived in dome-shaped huts sometimes covered with earth. The southern tribes built huts with poles and covered them with rush mats or layers of rushes or grass. The central tribes lived in semi-underground homes. These homes had conical roofs covered with bark. The central tribes also lived in thatched roundhouses. The huts varied in size and could hold from one family to many related families.

All villages had a sweat lodge, where the men met and slept. The sweat lodge was made by digging a hole in the ground and covering the top with dirt.

The women and children slept in the huts in the winter. During the summer mats supported by poles or brush were used as shelter.

Some villages had a large structure made of earth and grass. This structure was used for councils and ceremonies.


California Native Clothing

Men wore loincloths or no clothing in the summer. The women wore short skirts made of fibers from bark, grass, tule, and sometimes deerskin. In the winter capes that hung down to the skirts were worn. Both men and women went barefoot except during snow. Skin moccasins were worn during the winter. Fur and fiber blankets were also worn during the winter.

Tattooing was used as a substitute for clothes for some southern tribes.