Miwok 2

Production Date: 
1976 Festival Of American Folklife 23
Craig Bates (unnamed)
Run Time: 

Note: This film could be listed under "Pomo," or "Paiute" categories because there is so much information about Pomo and Paiute basket designs and subsistence practices throughout. Yosemite Indians identify and have been identified as both Miwok and Paiute.

Establishing shot:
Named locations:
Clear Lake, Northern Coast above San Francisco (i.e. Marin), Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, Mariposa, Nevada, Museum of Natural History (Chicago), Taos (New Mexico), Yosemite Valley, Yosemite National Park, Chewack River (Washington State), Alaska.
Major themes covered: 
Subsistence (mostly with regard to Miwok, Pomo, and Paiute Indians); basket-making; basket repair; gathering (berries, acorns, roots, etc.); contemporary Indian artwork and artists; the interconnectivity of cultural and subsistence practices between and among California Indians; Miwok cultural practices; Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians (Northern Miwok).
Native activities shown: 
Individuals Named: Jennifer (Bates) NOTE: Jennifer Bates learned the art of basket-making under the guidance of Mabel Mckay, a Kashaya Pomo basket weaver and dreamer (see "Pomo Shaman" for more on the Kashaya Pomo), Dorothy Stanley (never mentioned by name, but she is Jennifer Bates' mother and Craig Bates' "mother-in-law"), Maria Lebrado, R.C. Gorman (Navajo), Craig Bates' nephew (name is mentioned but it is indecipherable), Carl P. Russell.

Other notes:

"Miwok (also spelled Miwuk, Mi-Wuk, or Me-Wuk) can refer to any one of four linguistically related groups of Native Americans, native to Northern California, who spoke one of the Miwokan languages in the Utian family. The word Miwok means people in their native language. In 2008, ancient artifacts related to Miwok ancestors were unearthed in Calaveras County, some as many as 5000 years old. Many of the artifacts will be reburied with a special ceremony. The Miwok believe the artifacts belong to the land. Subgroups Anthropologists commonly divide the Miwok into four geographically and culturally diverse ethnic subgroups. These distinctions were unknown among the Miwok before European contact. Plains and Sierra Miwok: from the western slope and foothills of the Sierra Nevada, the Sacramento Valley, San Joaquin Valley and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Coast Miwok: from present day location of Marin County and southern Sonoma County. (This includes the Bodega Bay Miwok and Marin Miwok). Lake Miwok: from Clear Lake basin of Lake County. Bay Miwok: from present-day location of Contra Costa County." [retrieved from: http://nativeamericanencyclopedia.com/miwok-indian-tribe-of-california/]

From the Tuolumne Band of Me-Wuk Indians' official website:

"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. The governing body of the tribe is the Community Council composed of 87 members. The officers of the Community Council are Chairperson, Vice-Chair, Secretary and Treasurer. Recommendations are made by Tribal Committees and are brought to the Council for approval. These committees are Business and Finance, Constitution and By-Laws, Planning and Development, Social Services Advisory, Personnel, Health Board, Enrollment, Housing Authority, Education, Cultural and Historic Preservation and Tribal Law Enforcement.

The first known contact on record of Native perspective of the Spanish Explorers was the Moraga Second Expedition to Central California through Tuolumne County in 1806. However Me-Wuk peoples have a very long and rich history dating back for thousands of years. The Me-Wuk have always been knowledgeable about the resources of the land, and hunted and gathered what they needed. If the resources were not readily available on their land, Me-Wuk would migrate in order to trade with others. The primary food staples were fish, acorns, and deer meat. The diet was also supplemented with various wild berries, seeds and nuts. 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 and should be respected as would any place of worship. The roundhouse was used for a variety of purposes by different groups. It is typically 30 to 40 feet in diameter and is covered by earth, bark, or shingles. Dances are still held in the roundhouse as a way of giving thanks and respect for all that the Earth Mother gave to the people.

Other traditional activities practiced by the Me-Wuk were acorn processing and basketry. There are many stages involved with making acorns suitable for consumption including gathering, sorting, storing, cracking, pounding, leaching and cooking. 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 was the most widespread material utilized for basketry. Women were responsible for creating and maintaining the family’s baskets. Men had separate responsibilities, including hunting.

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. Prior to outside contact, the Sierra Miwok population was somewhere around 10,000. This number fell drastically to 679 during the 1910 census."

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

Print Resources:

Barrett, S.A. and E.W. Gifford. Miwok Material Culture: Indian Life of the Yosemite Region. Yosemite National Park, CA: Yosemite Association, 1933. Print.

       *This is the first in-depth, anthropological study on the Miwok Indians. Although this source does differ in tone and purpose from more contemporary scholarship regarding Miwok culture and practices, this study is still very important for those interested in finding out more about the Miwok.

Bates, Craig D. Coiled Basketry of the Sierra Miwok: A Study of Regional Variation.

---. Tradition and Innovation: A Basket History of the Indians of the Yosemite-Mono Lake Area.

---, et al. Yosemite Miwok/Paiute Basketry: a study in cultural change. Berkeley: California Indian Library Collections, 1992. Print.

---, et al. The Miwok in Yosemite: Southern Miwok Life, History, and Language. El Portal, CA: The Yosemite Association, 1996. Print.

Bibby, Brian. Precious Cargo: California Indian Cradle Baskets and Childbirth Traditions. Novato, CA: Marin Museum of the American Indian, 2004. Print.

Frank, L. and Kim Hogeland. First Families: A Photographic History of California Indians. Berkeley: Heyday Books, 2007. Print.

Sarris, Greg. Mabel McKay: Weaving the Dream. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1994. Print.

Shanks, Ralph and Lisa, et al. Indian baskets of central California: Art, Culture, and History : Native American Basketry from San Francisco Bay and Monterey Bay North to Mendocino and East to the Sierras. Novato, CA: Costaño Books, 2006. Print.

The Navajo School of Indian Basketry. Indian Basket Weaving. New York: Dover, 1971. Print.

*A hands-on instruction manual for basketmaking, written and compiled by students and educators at the Navajo School of Indian Basketry.

Online Resources:


*This is a link to a cultural history of the Miwok from the perspective of the Tuolumne Me-Wuk. (quoted extensively above)



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



* This a link to a bibliography compiled by the Museum of the San Ramon Valley in 2005. 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 an article by Carl P. Russell that appeared in the California Historical Society Quarterly in 1926. Although this article is outdated in the context of more contemporary anthropological research, it provides a sense of early perspectives on Yosemite and the Miwok/Paiute Indians who were the region's original inhabitants. The article also provides excerpts from earlier historical writings, photographs, and maps.



*These chapters on Miwok, Mono, and Paiute Indians were written by A. L. Kroeber for Handbook of Indians of California (1919). Again, Kroeber's work is outdated but nevertheless he made an important contribution to anthropological research with regard to American Indians.



*This link provides a brief account of the Indians who lived in the Yosemite Valley. There are many different theories as to the tribal origins of the original Yosemite inhabitants, but it is certain that Miwok, Paiute, and Mono people all inhabited the region at one point or another (whether or not they formed some kind of a mixed group is up for debate). There is also a list of sources on this webpage that lead to more information about Yosemite, the tribes who inhabited the region, and the "white man's discovery" of Yosemite.



*Maria Lebrado is mentioned by Craig Bates in "Miwok 2." NOTE: This text is also somewhat outdated. The term "survivor" is inaccurate, as the Miwok, Mono, and Paiute cultures have all been preserved in the Yosemite Valley region. From the "Preface" to The Last Survivor, by H. J. Taylor (1932):"The story of To-tu-ya (Foaming Water) is one of interrupted childhood, unfulfilled longing, and silent suffering. She was born in Yosemite in the early eighteen forties. Ahwahnee was her playground, tumultuous Chorlock she loved, graceful, enchanging Pohono she feared. The monoliths— Tu-tock-ah-nu-la, Tis-sa-ack, To-ko-ya, Loya—given life in story by the Yosemite Indians, stood as protecting sentinels over her and her tribe. But scarcely a dozen years had passed when family and tribe were scattered by war and defeat at the hands of oncoming American miners.

While yet in her teens, she married a full-blooded Yosemite, a fellow refugee. Only the eldest of the five children she bore him survives. The untimely death of her husband brought added hardships. She married a Mexican miner, Lebrado Yerdies, whom she bore four daughters.

Life was nearing its close when To-tu-ya returned from exile to live a few days in her home of earliest memories. Souvenir-loving tourists came to look at her as she sat shelling a pile of acorns, one of them offered a nickle for an acorn from her hands. With deep feeling and resentment she pushed the coin aside and cried, “No! Not five dollars one acorn, no! White men drive my people out—my Yosemite.”

In her heart To-tu-ya treasured her Indian name, though the world called her Maria Lebrado. To-tu-ya —Foaming Water—will be heard as long as the melting snows pour in torrents over the granite walls of her childhood Yosemite."


*This is a link to the program for the 32nd Annual Traditional Indian Health Gathering in 2012. Jennifer Bates (featured in the film) is listed on the program as having led an acorn preparation demonstration with Kimberley Bates. Thus, the Bates family is still thriving within the context of contemporary Miwok culture, tradition, and practices.



*This is an article by Craig Bates discussing the importance and validity of anthropological and archaeological finds with regard to Miwok Indians during the first quarter of the 20th century.



*This is a link to a PDF of "The California Indian Basketweavers Association: Advocates for the Use of Museum Collections by Contemporary Weavers" (2009), by Elizabeth Kallenbach. The following is the abstract for the article: "Indigenous California basketweavers have collaborated with universities, museums, and government land agencies in recent years through participation in the decision-making processes regarding the management of natural and cultural resources. The California Indian Basketweavers Association (CIBA) has been at the forefront of these efforts, particularly as they relate to native plants used in basketry. Through grassroots efforts, they have also furthered relationships with museums, as basket collections serve as an important cultural resource for contemporary artists. The history of CIBA is first presented here, including weavers’ involvement with basket documentation, followed by an examination of the nature of CIBA’s relationship with museums, specifically regarding how collections are used. Suggestions for successful museum visits by museum staff and for weavers are offered in conclusion."



*A link to a photograph of Miwok Indians in front of Umacha teepee, Yosemite National Park, 1925.



*"California Indian Basketweavers Association basket weaving is the most prolific and best known traditional Indian art in California. Starting in the late 19th century and continuing throughout the 20th century, collectors sought baskets woven by California Indians. Prices for particularly fine or large baskets soared to the thousands of dollars.

Meanwhile, in the daily lives of California Indians baskets had been replaced by metal and plastic tools, and, by the late 1980s, the art of weaving appeared to be at risk of dying out. “There were tribes that no longer had practicing basketweavers, and many others that only had one or two, or a small handful,” said Sara Greensfelder, one of the original founders of the California Indian Basketweavers Association. Few younger weavers were learning to weave, and the mostly older women who continued to weave were finding it increasingly difficult to carry on their work. The demands of family life and the struggle to make a living, together with the destruction of plant habitats, pesticide contamination of gathering areas, and difficulty of obtaining access to gathering sites, were reducing the time and opportunity for plant tending, gathering, and basket weaving.

Following a statewide gathering of weavers, museums, public land agencies, ethno botanists, and funders, a council formed in 1991 with the goal of supporting weavers and addressing the problems of access to materials. The following year this council formed the nonprofit California Indian Basketweavers Association (CIBA). Based in Woodland, CIBA’s goal is to preserve, promote, and perpetuate California Indian basket weaving traditions while providing a healthy physical, social, spiritual, and economic environment for basketweavers.

Membership is open to weavers and non weavers alike, as well as to non-Indian supporters of California Indian basket weaving. The organization publishes a quarterly newsletter and sponsors an annual Gathering where weavers demonstrate and sell their work, share techniques and stories, buy materials, and generally support each other. With each gathering, the network of weavers and their supporters grows, enabling the continuation of the art and its passage to the next generation.

CIBA also works with local, state, and federal agencies and lawmakers to increase access to gathering areas, reintroduce traditional resources to particular sites, limit the use of harmful pesticides, and raise awareness for weavers and Native California cultures. Since the formation of CIBA the number of California Indian basket weavers has substantially increased, including the number of basket weavers earning income from selling baskets, teaching, or demonstrating their art. In part due to CIBA's efforts, California basketry traditions are on a more secure footing and will continue into the foreseeable future."


*A link to the largest collection of works by R. C. Gorman (the famous Navajo artist mentioned by Craig Bates in the film). This collection is housed at the Navajo Gallery in Taos, NM.

--Emily Thomas, 2013