Miwok 1

Production Date: 
Run Time: 

Establishing shot:
Named locations:
The Tuolumne Reservation/Rancheria, Sonora, CA
Major themes covered:   Life on the Rancheria/Reservation, Sovereignty, Youth Life and Culture on the Reservation, Assimilation, Contemporary Miwok Values, Miwok Family Life, Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians.

The second half of the film records an interview with a young man from the tribe.

1976 Festival Of American Folklife 22
Individuals Named:
The interviewer calls the young man in the second part of the film by name (his first name might be Harvey), but the audio is damaged and as a result the name is barely audible.
Native language spoken:
Noteworthy elements: 

"The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians is a federally recognized Indian tribe located in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada in Tuolumne County, California. The Tuolumne Rancheria was purchased on October 26, 1910 and established as one of two local reservations for landless Indians. The original acquisition consisted of 289.52 acres. Today there are over 1700 fee and trust land acres. There are approximately 200 residents living on the Rancheria and an additional 200 non-resident members of the Tribe."

"Today, the Me-Wuk culture is alive and still widely practiced. There are traditional events that have been created to keep the traditions alive. The Acorn Festival, established in October of 1966, attracts people from all areas to celebrate local tradition. It is now held annually the second weekend of September. It features cultural demonstrations, traditional foods, dance, and Native American vendors. The Indian Market, celebrated in the spring, is another annual traditional event. It is a time to highlight the many traditional activities of the Me-Wuk, including basketry, acorn processing, sharing and games.

Game playing and gambling are not foreign to the Me-Wuk. They have played games of chance for most of their history. One of the more popular games is the "Hand Game," played while singing gambling songs. Teams compete in guessing the "bones." The Tuolumne Band joined the approximately sixty other California gaming tribes with the opening of the Black Oak Casino on May 15, 2001. It was re-designed, re-built and re-opened May 18, 2005. It features four restaurants, a lounge nightclub, bowling alley and family fun center- along with over a thousand slot machines and 20 table games. The Casino has enabled the Tribe to broaden the range of services not only offered to the Indian community, but the broader community at large. Black Oak sponsors a wide range of community events.

In January of 2005 the Tribe opened the Tuolumne Me-Wuk Indian Health Center. It is a tribally owned and operated primary care health center located on the former Westside Property in the city of Tuolumne. It provides pediatric, obstetric, psychiatric, general medical care, minor surgery, and general health education. It continues to grow to meet the needs of the community, for example an on site pharmacy was opened in September of 2006 and the new, state-of-the-art Dental Clinic opened up in April of 2008 on Greenley Road in Sonora.

The Tribe continues to fight assimilation and advocates cultural event participation, knowledge and utilization of traditional methodology, self-determination and Indian sovereignty. The Tribal Vision Statement accurately expresses this sentiment. It states that 'The Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians is a sovereign nation that is dedicated to uphold social and economic stability through self reliance and to promote the health, safety and welfare of our Indian people.'"

[retrieved from http://mewuk.com/cultural/history.htm]

Print Resources:

Baca, Lorenzo. Songs, Dances, and Traditions of the Tuolumne Band of California Miwoks. Los Angeles: Univ. of California, 1986 (M.A. Thesis). Print.

Burrows, Jack. Black Sun of the Miwok. Albuquerque: Univ. of New Mexico Press, 2000. Print.

* "These six vignettes recall Miwok Indians whom Jack Burrows knew as a boy in Murphys, California, during the 1920s and 1930s. The Miwok were hunter-gatherers in the Sierra Nevada foothills when the gold rush overwhelmed them in the mid-nineteenth century. By World War I decades of violence, disease, and poverty had reduced the Miwok to 670 souls scraping by on the social and economic fringes of Anglo society. In twenty more years, Miwok culture had nearly vanished.

A few of the survivors come to life in Burrows's portraits of Miwok old timers such as Mary, Walker, and Aaron who could recall the old days of Miwok autonomy and who still found strength and dignity in indigenous culture. Fading cultural memory, social alienation, and economic desperation, however, drove the younger Miwok such as The Brothers, Andy, and Dickie to destructive choices and behaviors that ultimately ruined their lives. Since World War II, the Miwok have re-established themselves as an indigenous tribe and continue to practice traditional rituals and ceremonies."


Conrotto, Eugene. Miwok Means People: the life and fate of the native inhabitants of the California gold rush country. Fresno, CA: Valley Publishers, 1973. Print.

*This source contains information about Native Californians during the gold rush in the nineteenth century. Conrotto measures the impact the gold rush oo Native cultures and practices. This contact between California Indians and non-Natives was different in character than the missionization of coastal groups of California Indians (including the coastal Miwok). Conrotto's book makes an important argument about the effects of the gold rush on Native populations in California and it also contains a fair amount of photographic reproductions from the time period.


Luthin, Herbert. Surviving Through the Days: Translations of Native California Stories and Songs (A California Indian Reader). Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 2002. Print.

*" This anthology of treasures from the oral literature of native California includes a selection of stories, anecdotes, myths, reminiscences, and songs drawn from a wide sampling of California's many native cultures. Introductions provide cultural and biographical context."


Merriam, C. Hart. Intro. Lowell John Bean. The Dawn of the World: Myths and Tales of the Miwok Indians of California. Lincoln: Univ. of Nebraska Press, 1993. Print.

*This is an important albeit somewhat dated (originally published in 1910) anthropological resource with regard to the culture and practices of Miwok Indians. The "Introduction" by Lowell John Bean creates a bridge between early anthropological perspectives on California Indians and more current perspectives. Note: Lowell John Bean's contribution to contemporary anthropological scholarship on California Indians has been prolific and spans across different tribes and bands.


Williams, Jack S. The Miwok of California (The Library of Native Americans). New York: Powerkids Press, 2005. Print.

*This resource is especially useful for K-12 educators looking for accessible and accurate information about American Indian Tribes. From the publishers: "Each title in this compelling series paints an accurate and sensitive portrait of the history, culture, and modern-day legacy of each Native American group."

Online Resources:


* This is the official website for the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians. The site contains a diverse array of information about the Tuolumne people, from links to current tribal and reservation resources in particular to the history and culture of the Sierra Miwok in general. 



*This link contains an extensive Miwok bibliography (compiled by Howard E. Hobbs, Ph.D.)



*From the homepage for the Ione Band of Miwok Indians: "For thousands of years, the Miwok people lived peacefully throughout large portions of Northern and Central California. They were originally composed of three main groups – the Sierra Miwok, the Lake Miwok and the Coast Miwok. The Miwok lived in more than 100 villages along the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, and from the region north of San Francisco Bay eastward to the foothills of the Sierra Nevada mountains.

The traditional territory of the Sierra Miwok, ancestors of the Ione Band of Miwok Indians, includes the Sierra Nevada foothills of Central California. These groups have been identified as speaking the Nisenan, Northern Miwok and Plains Miwok languages that have been grouped as part of the Penutian language family."



*"The United Auburn Indian Community is comprised of both Miwok and Maidu Indians.

The Historic Auburn Rancheria is located in the picturesque Sierra Nevada foothills in Auburn, California.

We are currently planning many exciting projects for our tribal members and the surrounding community, so please take some time to browse our site and learn more about the United Auburn Indian Community, our current projects, and our hopes for the future."



*"The "Sheep Ranch Tribe" is a federally recognized, California Indian tribe that was established in 1915 by a land acquisition act of the U.S. government for homeless Indians. Of the original 12 individuals who were identified as members, Peter Hodge was listed as "the leading member of this little band ....".

Over the decades, various Indians (individuals and families) came and went to and from the "Rancheria" reservation, with the Hodge family being the primary residents through Mable Hodge Dixie and her son, Yakima Kenneth Dixie. Also, in 1936, Jeff Davis is recorded as having voted for the Indian Reorganization Act, and it is documented that in the 1950's the Carsoner family (Velma, Iva, Antone, Tom, Barbara, Cecelia, Linda, and Andrew) were raised on the reservation. For a more detailed history of the reservation, see early history.

In 1996, Mable Hodge Dixie was identified by the government as the sole authority for the Tribe. By Miwok tradition, upon her death in 1971, the Chieftainship passed to her eldest son, Richard Dixie, and upon his death in 1975, the Chieftainship passed to the second eldest son, Yakima Dixie, who continues in that position today."



*This link provides basic information about Miwok Indians, including a list of Miwok bands and reservations. There is also another extensive bibliography containing more internet sources (the bibliography from the Yosemite News/above link contains more scholarly, print sources.



*This a link to another bibliography (compiled by the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in 2005). This bibliography is less extensive than those from the two previous links, however, this bibliography contains useful subheadings as well as a list of important publishers and Bay Area archives.



*This is a link to the Native Languages website. This page contains links to language resources, as well as a brief description of how Miwok languages are classified and identified according to seven different dialects.

--Emily Thomas, 2013