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Next: 40. The Paiute, Mono, and KosoContents

Handbook of Indians of California (1919), by A. L. Kroeber (1919)

Chapter 30.


Geography, 442; culture, 445; material arts, 447; the Kuksu religion, 449; other ceremonies and beliefs, 451; social practices, 452; totemic moieties, 453; marriage of relatives, 457.


The Miwok comprised three territorially discrete groups: the Coast Miwok, the Lake Miwok, and the Interior Miwok. The first two have already been described. The Interior Miwok constituted by far the largest portion of the stock. With the Maidu on their right hand, the Yokuts on the left, Washo and Mono behind them, they lived on the long westward slope of the great Sierra, looking out over the lower San Joaquin Valley. A few, the Plains Miwok. were in the valley itself, where this is intersected by the winding arms of the deltas of the San Joaquin and the Sacramento. The bulk of the group were a true foothill people, without claims to the floor of the valley, and moving into the higher Sierra only for summer residence or hunting.

A primary cleavage of speech separates the Plains from the Sierra Miwok, exactly as among the Yokuts. The Plains speech is a little the nearest that of the Coast and Lake divisions in its forms as well as in location. The dwellers in the foothills followed three principal dialects, which in default of native names have come to be known as northern, central, and southern. The latter stands somewhat apart; the two former are similar to each other and evince some approach to the Plains dialect. There are some subdialects within several or all of these four idioms; but they are rather insignificant and may be disregarded.

The Sierra territory of the Miwok extended from the Cosumnes River on the north to the Fresno on the south. Roughly, the northern division held the drainage of the Mokelumne and Calaveras; the central, that of the Stanislaus and Tuolumne; the southern, that of the Merced and adjacent smaller streams. But there was some transgressing of these natural limits, as appears from Plate 37.

The exact boundaries of the Miwok are still a matter of controversy at many points, especially as between the Plains division and the adjacent Yokuts, Wintun, and Maidu of the delta, all of whom are practically extinct.

Thus the entire tongue of land between the lower Cosumnes and Sacramento, as well as Grand, Andrews, Tyler, Staten, and Brannan Islands between the easternmost and westernmost channels of the Sacramento, have sometimes been assigned to the Maidu. Sherman Island and a tract to the southeast seem to have been Miwok, but there is some conflict of evidence as to the location of the line separating the Plains Miwok and the most northerly Yokuts in this vicinity.

The region from Michigan Bar to Plymouth has been variously claimed as Maidu, Plains Miwok, and northern Miwok. The whole northern boundary of the Miwok, in fact, is obscure, the North, Middle. and South Forks of the Cosumnes, as well as various compromises between these, being cited by different authorities. The Middle Fork has been followed in Plates 1 and 37.

On the eastern front discrepancies are even wider, but simmer down substantially to technical differences. The Miwok lived permanently as far up into the Sierra its the heavy winter snows permitted; in summer they moved higher; and no other people held residence between them and the crest. The Washo had admitted hunting and therefore camping rights almost down to Big Trees in Calaveras County. They may have enjoyed similar but unrecorded claims elsewhere; and the same may possibly be true of the Mono. Very likely there were tracts that were jointly visited on friendly terms by the Miwok and their trans-Sierra neighbors. The “boundary” may therefore well have been shifting as amity or hostility prevailed. in this connection it may be noted that In the region of the headwaters of the middle and south Stanislaus the Miwok find Mono were on bad terms in recent times, while along the Mereed they were more at ease with each other.

On the south it is reasonably certain that Fresno River itself separated the Miwok from the Yokuts, except for a small tract below Fresno Flats where the Miwok held the southern bank of a northward bend of the stream. The exact location of the village of Hapasau is in doubt. The name is Yokuts; the location may have been on the Miwok side of the river.

As for the West, it has sometimes been assumed that the Miwok ranged as rightful owners over the whole eastern and more fertile side of the lower San Joaquin Valley, but the evidence is nearly positive that this tract was Yokuts, and that the precise commencement of the first foothills marked the boundary between the two stocks. This is the line that has been followed in Plate 37.

Like Wintun, Maidu, and Yokuts, “Miwok” is not originally a distinctive tribal or group name, but the native word for people, plural of miwü, “person.” The northernmost Miwok respond to the designation Koni, which is their Maidu name; and those of the extreme south are often known as Pohonichi, which appellation seems to be of Yokuts origin; whether connected with Pohono Falls in Yosemite is less certain.

Chauchila appears to be the name of both a Yokuts tribe on the plains and of a Miwok village in the canyon of Chowchilla River, whose designation haa been applied also to a larger Miwok group or division. It is scarcely probable that the same name was in use by both stocks in aboriginal times. The American is likely to have been responsible for its spread. Before the conflict can be solved we shall have to be in a position to distinguish between ancient native usage and more modern terminology adopted by the Indians in their relations with the whites.

Moquelumnan is an artificially derived synonym of Miwok that has attained some book usage. An earlier term of similar nature that is now happily obsolete is Mutsun, based on the name of a Costanoan village taken as a designation of the conjoined Costanoan and Miwok groups.

Among themselves the Miwok are content to refer to one another by village, or employ an endless succession of “northerners” and similar directional names that never crystallize into specific designations. The same people that are northerners to their neighbors on one side are southerners to those on the other, and so on ad infinitum, even beyond the boundaries of the stock, as far as knowledge extends. A group of people as a unit possessing an existence and therefore a name of its own is a concept that has not dawned on the Miwok. Humanity must appear to them like a uniform sheet spread over an endless earth, differentiable only with reference to one’s own location in the whole. A national sense is weak enough among most of the California Indians; but there are usually a few generic names for outside groups of foreigners. If the Miwok have such, they have not become known; except Koyuwe-k, “salt people,” for the Mono. Mono-k seems to be a recent term. Even the Washo are only “easterners” or “uplanders.” Lisnayu-k denotes either the Yokuts or the Costanoans of the vicinity of Pacheco Pass.

Their four standard terms are Tamuleko, Tamulek, or Tumitok, northerners; Chumetoko, Chumetok. or Chumteya, southerners; Hisotoko, Hisatok, or Hittoya, easterners; Olowitoko, Olowitok, Olokok, or Olwiya, westerners; or other close dialectic variants.

Among the Plains Miwok names in -mni are frequent which suggest the tribal appellations of the Yokuts: Mokelumni, Mokoslumni, Ochehamni, Lelamni, Hulpumni, Umuchamni or Omochumne, Sakayaktimni. As with the Maidu, the words probably denote a political community named after its principal or permanent settlement.

The same appears to hold of names ending in -chi.

Something over a hundred Miwok villages are shown on Plate 37. The total number of those whose names have been recorded is considerably larger; but some are in doubtful or conflicting records, others are vaguely located, and in general the condition of knowledge concerning the settlements of the group—even those included in the map—is far from satisfactory. We are in total ignorance, for instance, to what extent near villages were, truly independent or only outlying settlements that recognized their political and social unity with a central larger town.

The villages that can be both named and approximately located are, as shown on Plate 37.

Plains Miwok: 1, Hulpu-mni; 2, *Yumhul; 3, *Yomit; 4, *Lulimal; 5, *Sukididi; 6, *Mayeman; 7, *Chuyumkatat; 8, Umucha; 9, Supu; 10, Tukul; 11, Mokos-umni; 12, Ocheh-ak; 13, Mokel(-umni) ; 14, Lel-amni; 15, Sakayak-ümni. (Starred names are in the southern Maidu language.)

Northern Miwok: 16, Yule; 17, Omo; 18, Noma; 19, Chakane-sü; 20, Yuloni; 21, Seweu-su; 22, Upüsüni (Fig. 40); 23, Tukupe-sü; 24; Pola-sü; 25, Tumuti; 26, Sopochi; 27, Ketina; 28, Mona-sü; 29, Apautawilü; 30, Heina; 31, Künüsü; 32, Penken-sü; 33, Kaitimü; 34, Hechenü; 35, Huta-sü.

Central Miwok: 36, Sasamu; 37, Shulaputi; 38, Katuka; 39, Humata; 40, Akutanuka; 41, Kosoimuno-nu; 42, Newichu; 43, Yungakatok; 44, Alakani; 45, Tuyiwü-nu; 46, Kewe-no; 47, Tulana-chi; 48, Oloikoto; 49, Wüyü; 50, Tipotoya; 51, Loyowisa; 52, Kawinucha; 53, Takema; 54, Tulsuna; 55, Hangwite; 56, Wokachet; 57, Sutamasina; 58, Singawü-nu; 59, Akankau-nchi (cf. 67) ; 60, Akawila; 61, Kapanina; 62, Chakachi-no; 63, Suchumumu; 64, Waka-che; 65, Kotoplana; 66, Pokto-no; 67, Akankau-nchi (cf. 59) ; 68, Kuluti; 69, Pota; 70, Wolanga-su; 71, Tel'ula; 72, Tunuk-chi; 73, Kesa; 74, Hochhochmeti; 75, Siksike-no; 76, Sopka-su; 77, Pasi-nu; 78, Pangasema-nu; 79, Sukanola; 80, Sukwela; 81, Teles-eno; 82, Hunga; 83, Olawiye; 84, Kulamu; 85, Hechhechi; 86, Pigliku (Miwok pronunciation of “Big Creek") ; 87, Sala.

Southern Miwok: 88, Sayangasi; 89, Alaula-chi; 90, Kuyuka-chi; 91, Angisa-wepa; 92, Hikena; 93, Owelinhatihü; 94, Wilito; 95, Kakahula-chi; 96, Awal; 97, Yawoka-chi; 98, Kitiwina; 99, Siso-chi; 100, Sope-nchi; 101, Sotpok; 102, Awani; 103, Palachan; 104, Kasumati; 105, Nochu-chi; 106, Nowach; 107, Olwia; 108, Wasema; 109, Wehilto.

In 1817 Father Duran, voyaging from the Golden Gate up San Francisco Bay, through the delta, and some hundred miles up the Sacramento, encountered or reported Chupcanes, Ompines, Quenemsias or Quenemisas, Chucumnes, Ilamnes, Chuppumne, Ochejamnes, Guaypems, Passasimas, Nototemnes, Tauquimnes, Yatchicomnes, Muquelemnes, and Julpunes. The first of these groups were Costanoan; the next probably Maidu or perhaps in part Wintun; from the Ochejamnes on, the list refers to Plains Miwok and the northernmost Yokuts. It seems, therefore, that all five of the great Penutian divisions were represented among the natives of whom this little expedition makes mention.

Nine thousand seems a liberal estimate for the number of interior Miwok in ancient times. This allows more than 2,000 to each of the four divisions. But all specific data are wanting. The 1910 census counted 670, only one-half of them full blood. The Miwok have thus failed to preserve as large a fraction of their numbers as the Maidu, but have done better than the Yokuts. The Plains division came pretty thoroughly under mission control and shows very few survivors. The three foothill groups escaped this well-meant but nearly fatal influence.


The civilization of the Miwok is imperfectly known, and is the more difficult to reconstruct in that the culture of all their immediate neighbors, except in some degree that of the Yokuts, is also unrecorded in detail.

Even in a larger sense, comparison with the stocks to the east and west is mostly invalidated by the profound difference of habitat. As between the adjacent Sierra dwellers on the north and south, the Maidu and the Yokuts, Miwok affiliations incline somewhat more to the former; but perhaps this fact is at bottom to be ascribed to environmental adaptations, the Maidu being in the main Sierra dwellers like the Miwok, whereas the Yokuts, although in part situated in the foothills, were so much more extensively a plains people that their civilization as a whole has no doubt been intensively colored by this circumstance.

The strongest link with the Maidu is the presence of the Kuksu cult of the Sacramento Valley, with its long variety of rituals, impersonation of spirits, distinctive costumes, and the accompaniment of the large semisubterranean dance house. The complement is the absence among the Miwok of the Yokuts jimsonweed cult.

Another important link in the same direction is the apparent lack of the more definite tribal organization of the Yokuts.

So far as Miwok mythology is known, on the other hand, it is rather of Yokuts type. This fact is surprising, since an anthropomorphic

Fig. 38.—Yokuts loop stirrer and Miwok paddle.

Fig. 38.—Yokuts loop stirrer and Miwok paddle. (Compare
Pls. 17, 44.)

creator tends to appear in the beliefs of the tribes addicted to the Kuksu religion. It is true the Costanoan and Salinan stocks, who participate in the Kuksu cult and live in the same transverse belt of California as the Miwok, seem also to lean in their mythology toward the Yokuts more than to the Sacramento Valley tribes. A less specialized type of cosmogony is therefore indicated for the southern Kuksu-dancing groups.1 [1If, as seems probable, the southerly Kuksu tribes (the Miwok, Costanoans, Esselen, and northernmost Yokuts) had no real society in connection with their Kuksu ceremonies, the distinctness of their mythology appears less surprising.]

The organization of society on the plan of two totemically contrasted halves, which was first discovered in California among the Miwok, extends south from them to the Yokuts and western Mono. It has not, been reported from the north.

In material arts the balance again inclines northward. Coiled baskets, for instance, are made on a foundation of rods, as by the Maidu, whereas the Yokuts use grass. The Yokuts cap and constricted-neck vessel are also wanting. So is Yokuts pottery. Games, on the other hand, are rather of Yokuts type, so far as can be judged. Perhaps this is due to an association with the social organization. (Fig. 41.)

In some minor points the Miwok follow varying practices according to the habits of their neighbors. Thus the southernmost Miwok often employ the grass foundation of the Yokuts and approximate the shape of their “bottle neck” baskets. South of the Tuolumne, too, the Yokuts looped-stick mush stirrer and the Yokuts type of basketry cradle are used. North of the Stanislaus the mush stirrer is a small, plain paddle (Fig. 38), as among the Achomawi and Pomo; and the cradle takes on the peculiar form of being built on two rods whose upper ends are bent forward as a hood support. (Pls. 39, 40.) Also, it is chiefly north of the Stanislaus that one-rod basket foundations are found alongside of the more usual three-rod coil. Here influence of contact with the adjacent Washo is likely.

Plate 37: Territory and Villages of the Maidu and Miwok (map)

Plate 38: Miwok Acorn Granary

Plate 39: Cradles

Plate 40: Cradles


Fig. 39.—Miwok dance or assembly house.

Fig. 39.—Miwok dance or assembly
house. Diameter, 25 feet. Construction:
1, tole, posts, forked or notched
on top. 2, chawik, main rafters, extending
east and west. 3, lolapa, cross-beams
on rafters. 4, shuchapa, brush
on beams, radiating from center. On
this brush was a layer of grass, and
then of earth. Parts of house: A,
wole; BB, oni; C, hawana; D, door or
tunnel—always toward east; E, smoke
hole, 3 feet square; perhaps the entrance
in ancient times; F, fireplace.
(Cf. Figures 19, 35.)

The distribution of house types in the Miwok region is still far from clear. The semisubterranean dance house or hangi was known to the whole group. It rested on a square of four center posts, or on two rows of posts, whereas the Yuki, Pomo, Wintun, and Maidu employed a single large post, or two set in line with the door. The diameter was as great as farther north, up to 20 yards; the door regularly faced eastward; the general construction presented few noteworthy peculiarities. (Fig. 39.)

The sweat house was much smaller than the dance house, but built on the same plan.

The Miwok living house, kocha or uchu, appears to have been often of the earth-covered type, although smaller and ruder than the dance house. It is not certain how far south the range of this extended. It may have been rare in the higher foothills, and was probably not lived in more than half the year. A lean-to of bark was used in the mountains in summer; it may have been the permanent house of some sections.

The cache or granary used by the Miwok for the storage of acorns is an outdoor affair, a yard or so in diameter, a foot or two above the ground, and thatched over, beyond reach of a standing person, after it was filled. Plate 38 shows the type. The natural branches of a tree sometimes were used in place of posts. There was no true basket construction in the cache; the sides were sticks and brush lined with grass, the whole stuck together and fied where necessary. No door was necessary: the twigs were readily pushed aside almost anywhere, and with a little start acorns rolled out in a stream. Even the squirrels had little difficulty in helping themselves at will.

An outdoor cache coincides rather closely with the distribution of coiled basketry. None of the tribes that twine make use of any granary. This is no accident. A large storage basket is readily twined. Mere there is a feeling that the proper way to make a basket intended to be preserved is by coiling, the laboriousness of this technique would incline toward the manufacture by other processes of vessels holding several bushels.

The Miwok pound acorns with pestles in holes in granite exposures: on flat slabs laid on or sunk into the ground without basketry

Fig. 40.—The Miwok village of Upüsüni.

Fig. 40.—The Miwok village of
Upüsüni. Lines are hill contours.
Dotted line (X), old village site.
YY, modern houses. A, pit of oldest
dance house, diameter 50 feet.
B, dance-house pit, diameter 65
feet. C, standing dance house
(plan shown in Fig. 39), diameter
25 feet. S, spring Upüsüni, whence
the name of the village.

hopper; and grind them by crushing and rubbing on similar slabs. The conical and cylindrical mortars found in their habitat are prehistoric. Occasionally a small one is in use; but if so, it is employed by some toothless crone to crack bones, or to beat an occasional gift of a gopher or squirrel into a soft, edible pulp. Such a mortar may contain a pit or two for cracking acorns, and perhaps a groove in which bone awls have been whetted for a lifetime. In default of anything more practical the owner’s husband may now and then grind his tobacco in the same utensils. Ancient stone implements that have been put to secondary uses are rather common in California, and can still be seen in service now and then. That an object is already in use is if anything an added reason why it should be employed for another purpose. A neat people would feel differently; but a glance into almost any California Indian home suffices to reveal that these people are actuated by but little sense of order as compared with the Plains or Pueblo Indians.

Clamshell disk currency was less precious than in the north, though that may have been one of the directions from which it reached the Miwok. Its value in American terms is said to have averaged $5 a yard, only a fraction of the figure at which the southern Maidu rated it. Whole strung olivella shells went at $1 a yard among both groups. The cylinders made from magnesite by the southeastern Pomo reached the hill Miwok, but were scarce and valuable. Possibly clamshell money traveled to them from the Chumash via the Yokuts, as well as from the Pomo; whence its abundance and comparative depreciation.


The Miwok follow the Kuksu ritual organization. It happens that we possess considerable knowledge of their individual dances and none at all of the society underlying these;2 [2It seems quite doubtful whether there was a society; there is certainly no trace of a communal one.] but, the names and character of several of the ceremonies, their large number, the type of feather dress worn, the stamping of the foot drum, and the holding of the performances in the earth-covered assembly chamber, all make the adhesion of the Miwok to the Sacramento Valley scheme of rites clear, even though the precise form which the system takes among them remains undetermined.

The distinction between ceremony and dance and between ceremony and impersonation, as it has been described among the Wintun,

Fig. 41.—Acorn tops.

Fig. 41.—Acorn tops.
a, Pomo; b, Miwok.

evidently recurs among the Miwok. Thus there is the Kuksuyu, an exceptionally sacred performance, seemingly occupying the same primary position that the Hesi holds among the Patwin and Maidu, and the Guksu impersonator among the Pomo. In this Kuksuyu appear at least three personages: Kuksuyu himself; Osa-be, or “woman"; and Mochilo, who is perhaps the Miwok representative of the Sacramento Valley Moki, and whose impersonator is known as mochil-be. In addition, there is the Mochilasi dance, held without the drum, in which the Mochilo appears impersonated by a sotokbe, and accompanied by the 0sa-be. At some point in the Mochilasi, as in most. Miwok dances, women participate; but they do not appear in the Kuksuyu.

Besides the Miwok rituals mentioned in Table 1 in the chapter on the Wintun, they practice the following dances:

The Lileusi and Uchupelu are of a type with the Patwin Akantoto or creeper dance, the Maidu Tsamyempi, and the Pomo Dama, in that in all of them there are acrobatic demonstrations. In the Akantoto the performer descends the center post of the dance house head first, clapsing it with his legs. The Uchupelu is similar, but less spectacular. In the Lileusi, in which the drum is not used, the dancer is believed to fly about the darkened house. The songs tell of one, no doubt the impersonated spirit, who thus came to the Miwok country from Mount Diablo, the name of which reflects, the native belief in its habitation by spirits.

The Kalea is a frequent and perhaps an important dance, which has survived until more recently than the majority. In it are worn a back cape of feathers similar to the Maidu sikli and the corresponding garments of the Patwin, Pomo, and Yuki; a large tuft; and two smaller ones, skewered into the net-gathered hair.

The Tamula may be the “north,” dance: tamal-in is the ordinary word designating this direction.

In the Temayasu, a personage of the same name, who is followed by seven seyapbe, showers coals on the spectators, who may not laugh, evidently for fear of provoking his anger. The Temayasu thus evinces something of the nature of the Polno “ash ghosts.” The Patwin Temeyu bears a similar name.

A ritual called Sule tumum laksü, “ghost from drum emerging,” also has close Pomo parallels. The performer, painted with horizontal black and white stripes, emerges from a tunnel under the drum and then dances upon it. It is likely that he is taken for a real ghost by the uninitiated.

To the Sulesko, said to be named after a kind of spirit in some way associated with the sule or ghost of dead people, is ascribed a recent origin. It was performed to cure people made ill by such spirits. Four dancers wear something like face coverings of skin. This is a nearer approach to what are ordinarily considered masks than anything yet reported from California; but on the other hand, there is less reference by the Miwok to veiling of the face by feathers or grass in other dances than among the Maidu and Patwin. The Miwok Kuksuyu, indeed, has his features hidden by feathers; but the only other personage known to be disguised, other than perhaps by crude paint, occurs in the Helekasi, in which a piece of buckskin, with eyeholes cut in it, is worn around the head.

The clowns, or Wo'ochi, who shout woo, appear in a number of ceremonies In an Interlude named after them. They are painted white and evidently represent coyotes. The gluttonous, greedy, tricky, but also insensate nature which the California Indian attributes to this animal is the character which is portrayed in the actions also of the Maidu clown; but no avowed symbolic reference to the contemned canine has been reported from the latter people.

The Uzumati or grizzly bear ceremony came to the central Miwok from the west or northwest, they say; that is, probably, the northernmost Yokuts such as the Chulamni of Stockton, or the Plains Miwok. The performer, who was a dance impersonator and not a bear doctor or shaman, carried curved pieces of obsidian attached to his fingers in place of the bear’s claws. He imitated the animal in his dancing. This description accounts for the hitherto unexplained “Stockton curves,” as antiquarians have come to call the semilunar flaked objects of obsidian found in ancient burials in the San Joaquin delta.

Other dances or ceremonies were the Mamasu, Tula, Henepasi, Yahuha, Alina, Hekeke or “quail,” Wehena, and 0lochina. There is also a Helika, which may or may not be the some as the Helekasi in which masks are worn, and a less sacred Helikna.

A leading dancer called hoyuche, assisted by several echuto, appears in the Salute, Helika, Alina, and other dances. Whether the term indicates his leadership, a particular costume, or a spirit that he impersonates, is not known. A village chief is called echuto hayapo in distinction from the toko hayapo or head chief of a district.

Besides the Helikna, the Aleü, Ahana, Ulula, and Helkibüksu are mentioned as at least semiprofane. The drum is not used; the sobobbe or shouters who accompany the dancers in the major ceremonies are absent; and some, at least of these dances are held outdoors, away from the gloom of the assembly chamber. Women take part in all these dances, whose general character is probably analogous to that of the Maidu Loli and Toto. In or after the Aletü two black-painted clowns, called Humchilwe, may appear.

It is said that women were allowed to witness all dances, even the most sacred of those. held in the assembly chamber. This would indicate a status of the secret society in the community rather different from that which obtains among the tribes in the latitude of the Sacramento Valley. Miwok women seem to have participated in probably the majority of dances.

Nothing has been learned of the order or classificatory relations of the various major and minor dances so far enumerated. Yet it may be suspected that, like the Maidu ceremonies, they came in some sort of an orderly sequence at specified seasons of the year rather than randomly.


Sule yuse, “ghost hair,” or Sule sikanui, “ghost scalp”—a single word to denote “ghost,” “dead person,” and “skeleton” seems to be customary in a number of the Californian languages—was the name of the dance of triumphant revenge held over a scalp. It was made in the dance house, as by the Yuki, and the drum was stamped.

The Pota was a ceremony in which several rude dummies of tules were put up on poles. It appears likely that songs of malevolence and perhaps other expressions of hatred were directed toward the figures. The images represented foes of the village: murderers, successful war leaders in past affrays, or shamans believed to have caused sickness and death. Care was taken to invite the towns to which these individuals belonged; but as no identification was given the image, and no names mentioned at the time, this method of revenge could contribute little but moral satisfaction to the preformers. The guests might suspect that it was their townsman who was meant, but as no insult was tendered, none could be resented; until later, when care would be taken that the visitors learned that it was their kinsman whom they had helped to revile. The whole procedure is characteristically Californian. By impulse, the native is thoroughly peaceable. A plan of spoliation or oppression rarely enters his mind. But suspicion is ever gnawing within him. Punctilious as he is not to commit a deliberate offense, he constantly conceives that others have wished him ill and worked the contemplated injury. And so he spends his life in half-concealed bad will, in non-intercourse, in plotting with more or less open magic, or occasionally in an open feud. He has always been wronged by some one, and is always planning a merited but dark punishment. Though they are rarely uttered expressly, he mutters his feelings about; with the consequence that those whom he hates soon have equal or greater cause for hating in return. There must be a subtle pleasure in publicly dishonoring and threatening a foe, who may suspect but can not know that he is meant. But the satisfaction thus obtainable is an equally extraordinary one, and obviously peculiar of a people more given to keeping grievances alive by cherishing them than to ending them by an open appeal to the nobler violence that springs from indignation.

The Kalea seems to be made in connection with this Pota ceremony.

The Aiyetme, named from aiye'a, the signs of a girl’s maturity, is an adolescence ceremony, as is also clear from the fact that the dancers are called kichaume, from kichau, “blood.” There are four of these, men, painted with red streaks down the face, but they wear no feathers or costume. At present the dance is a short performance on and about the drum in the assembly house, and evidently a part of larger ceremonies that have other purposes. Originally, however, it was made for the girl, and probably over her as she lay for four days in a trench dug in the floor of her home.

The Miwok are said to have held that there was no after life; but this is a white man’s superstition about them. One of their favorite traditions, which they share with the Yokuts, relates the visit of an aboriginal Orpheus to the western or northern country of the dead in pursuit of his wife.


Cremation of the dead was the usual but probably not universal practice of the Miwok.

Widows singed their hair off and pitched the face. In the southern districts the pitch was put on over smaller areas. The levirate was observed, but perhaps not invariably.

The annual mourning ceremony included dancing as well as wailing, culminated in a burning of property, and ended with a ritualistic washing of the mourners by people of the opposite totemic moiety. Rude lay figures were made and burned for people of rank.

Chieftainship was a well-defined and hereditary affair, as is shown by the passage of the title to women, in the male line. In the central division there were head chiefs, toko hayapo, whose authority was recognized over considerable districts; echuto hayapo, chiefs of villages; and euchi or liwape (liwa, “speak"), who were either the heads of subsidiary villages or speakers and messengers for the more important chiefs. A born chieftainess, and the wife of a chief, were both called mayenu. The husband of a born chieftainess was usually her speaker; the latter had authority after her husband’s death until the majority of her son.

It is evident that concepts of rank were fairly developed, and it is regrettable that more is not known of this interesting subject.


With the Miwok we encounter for the first time a social scheme that recurs among several of the groups to the south: a division of the people into balanced halves, or moieties, as they are called, which are totemic, and adhesion to which is hereditary. The descent is from the father, and among the Miwok the moieties were at least theoretically exogamic.

The totemic aspects of these moieties are refined to an extreme tenuousness, but are undeniable. Nature is divided into a water and a land or dry half, which are thought to correspond to the Kikua and Tunuka moieties among the people. Kikua is from kiku, water, but the etymology of Tunuka is not clear. Synonyms, though apparently only of a joking implication, are Lotasuna and Kosituna, “frog people” and “blue jay people"; or the contrast is between frog and deer, or coyote and blue jay. All these terms apply to the central and southern Miwok. The northern division uses a word formed from walli “land,” in place of Tunuka; and the animal equivalents are not clear. There is also some doubt as to the form which the scheme takes among the northerners, some accounts denying its existence, or that the individual’s adherence was determined by descent. It is apparent that the northern Miwok are institutionally as well as geographically on the border of the moiety system.

There are no subdivisions of any sort within the moieties. Associated with each, however, is a long list of animals, plants, and objects; in fact, the native concept is that everything in the world belongs to one or the other side. Each member of a moiety stands in relation to one of the objects characteristic of his moiety—a relation that must be considered totemic—in one way only: through his name. This name, given him in infancy by a grandfather or other relative, and retained through life, refers to one of the totem animals or objects characteristic of his moiety.

Nor is this all: in the great majority of cases the totem is not mentioned in the name, which is formed from some verbal or adjectival stem, and describes an action or condition that might apply equally well to other totems. Thus, on the verb hausu-s, are based the names Hausu and Haucku, which connote, respectively, the yawning of an awakening bear and the gaping of a salmon drawn out of the water. There is nothing in either name that indicates the animals in question—which even belong to opposite moieties. The old men who bestowed them no doubt announced the totemic reference of the names; the bearers, and their family, kin, and more intimate associates, knew the implication; but a Miwok from another district would have been uncertain whether a bear, a salmon, or one of a dozen other animals was meant. Just so, Akulu means “looking up”—at the sun. Hopoto is understood to refer to frog eggs hatching in the water; but its literal meaning is only “round.” Sewati connotes bear claws, but denotes “curved” and nothing more. Etumu is “to bask.” An individual so called happens to be named after the bear; but there is nothing to prevent the identical name referring to the lizard, if it were borne by some other man.

It is true that the Miwok seem to pay some attention to these implications of their names, since they are aware of the totemic reference of the names of practically all their acquaintance, as well as of kinsmen for some generations past. At the same time, it is certain that whatever totemic significance the majority of the names have is, not actually expressed but is extrinsically attached to them.

In fact, the totemic quality of the names is very probably a secondary and comparatively late reading in on the part of the Miwok, since names of exactly the same character, so far as structure and range of denotation go, are prevalent over the greater part of California without a trace of totemism attached to them. Even the adjacent totemic Yokuts, whose names, when intelligible, are similar to the Miwok ones, do not interpret them totemically.

It might be thought that the names are remnants of an older clan system; that what is now the land moiety was formerly an aggregation of bear, panther, dog, raven, and other clans; that for some reason the clans became merged in the two larger groups; that as their separate existence, as social units, became lost, it was preserved for some time longer in the names that originally belonged to the clans. But there is no evidence that such is the case. If a man and his sons and their sons all bore appellations referring to the bear—as among the Mohave all the women in a certain male line of descent. are called Hipa, which connotes “coyote”—we might justifiedly speak of the Miwok condition as a disguised clan system. But the supposition does not hold. In the majority of cases the child is not named after the same animal as its father; and in a line of male descent extending over several generations the proportion of instances, in which the same totemic reference is maintained throughout becomes very small.

By far the most commonly referred to animal in names of people in the land moiety is the bear. On the water side there is no such pronounced predominance, but the deer comes first. This fact is certainly of significance with reference to the bear and deer “totems” reported among the Salinan group across the Coast Range.

A number of animals or objects are referred to in names belonging to both moieties; such are the coyote, falcon, acorn, buckeye, seeds, and bow and arrow. This is an unexplained effacement of the otherwise sharp distinction between the moieties.

Moreover, some of the most important animals, such as the eagle, puma, and rattlesnake, are very rarely or not at all referred to in names, to judge by the available translations rendered by the natives, whereas objects of far less natural importance, such as nose shells, ear plugs, and ceremonial objects, are more common. A truer idea of the totemic classification of the world is therefore, obtainable from general statements made by the Miwok. From these the following partial alignment results:

Land side.Water side.Land side. Water side.
Raccoon.Beaver.Haliotis, and other
Tree squirrel.Otter.shells and bead
Jack rabbit.Sugar pine.Jimson weed.
Eagle.Black oak.White oak.
Condor.Buzzard.Pine nuts.Vetch.
Raven.Manzanita.Oak gall.
Magpie.Tobacco. Wild “cabbage."
Hawk.Falcon (probably).Tule.
Chicken hawk.Salmonberry.
Great owl.Burrowing owl.(And other(And other
Blue jay.Meadow lark.plants.)plants.)
Goldfinch.Kingbird.Sun, sunshine,
Dove.Stars.Water, lake.
Kingfisher, and no
doubt other water
Bow, arrows, quiver
Nose ornament of
Salamander.Ear plug.Feather apron.
Water snake.Feather headdress. Football
Turtle.Gambling bones.
Salmon, and various
other fishes.
Yellow jacket.Ant.

It is apparent that every water animal, and all phenomena associated with water, are on the appropriate side; but that the remainder of the world is divided quite arbitrarily, or perhaps according to some principle that is obscure to our minds.

The briefer list of totems which the Yokuts enumerate follows the same lines with but few exceptions: beaver and antelope, and hawks and owls, are transposed to the opposite moieties by these southerners.

The Miwok do not regard the totem animals as ancestors, except in an indirect and vague sort of way, to stress which would result in misconception of their attitude. According to their beliefs, as of those of all Indians, the bear, the coyote, and all the animals were once quasi human. The California belief is that they occupied the earth before there were true human beings. They are therefore predecessors of mankind. From that to ancestors is not a far leap; and it has perhaps been made now and then more or less randomly. But there is no definite theory or understanding to this effect. Least of all does a man with an eagle or deer name believe that he can trace his particular lineal descent back to the eagle or deer.

Nor is there any connection in the native mind between a man’s totem and the animal guardian spirit that may reveal itself to him. A bear-named man may acquire the bear for his protector; but he is just, as likely to be patronized by any other animal; and if he does secure a bear spirit, the fact seems a meaningless coincidence to him and his fellows. The interpretation of Miwok totemism, as a development out of the widespread guardian spirit concept, in other words out of shamanism, would therefore be without warrant. Among other nations this interpretation may here. and there have some support. In fact, the two sets of phenomena have enough in common to make it highly probable that the native mind would on occasion connect them secondarily and assimilate them further. And it is an obviously tenable idea that they may spring from a common root. But to derive an essentially social and classifying institution from a religious, inherently individual and therefore variable one, is, as a proposition of generic applicability, one of those explanations with which ethnological science is choked, but which would be more in need of being explained, if they were true, than the phenomena which they purport to elucidate.

The rule of moiety exogamy is definitely formulated by the Miwok, but has not been very rigidly enforced for several generations. It is therefore doubtful whether the sentiment in favor of exogamy was ever more than a marked predilection. The natives say that marriage within the moiety evoked protest but no attempt at actual interference. At present one marriage. out of four is endogamic in place of exogamic among the central Miwok. A numerical disproportion, which gives the land moiety an average excess of nearly 20 per cent over its rival, may help to account for these lapses, though marriages within the smaller water moiety also occur.

According to the limited statistical data available, the water moiety actually predominates in some of the higher villages, while nearer the plains it is much inferior in strength. As the Yokuts equivalent of the water moiety is called “upstream” and its antithesis “downstream,” it is possible that the greater strength of the former in the Miwok highlands is more than an accident of distribution.

The moieties compete with each other in games, and they assist each other at funerals, mourning anniversaries, adolescence observances, and the like. They do not appear to enter at all into the Kuksu religion.

Thus they possess social and semiceremonial functions besides those concerned with marriage and descent, but no strong ritualistic ones.

Many Miwok terms of relationship are applied by any given individual only to persons of one or the other moiety. But for many terms such a limitation is inevitable the moment there is any social grouping on hereditary lines accompanied by exogamy. The father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister, and other relatives must each be exclusively of one’s own moiety or of the opposite one. When it comes to relatives like our “uncle,” such a term, because it comprises the mother’s brother as well as the father’s brother, would in Miwok refer to persons of both moieties. As a matter of fact, like almost all Indians, they possess no word that means what our “uncle” does; but they have a considerable number of kinship terms—more than a fourth of the total—that designate, potentially at least, individuals of both moieties; or, after deduction of the above-mentioned terms denoting the closest relatives, nearly one-half. The system of relationship accordingly reflects the social grouping much less than might be anticipated—not nearly so well as among most Australians, for instance. From this the inference may be drawn that the moiety organization is either comparatively recent among the Miwok or that it has failed to impress their other institutions and their life as a whole very deeply.


There is another point which the terms of relationship clear up. The preferential marriage among the Miwok, the one considered most natural and correct, was with certain relatives of the opposite moiety. Now, it was long ago reported that the Miwok married their cousins, which is a practice horribly repugnant to the vast majority of American Indians. Investigation has confirmed and restricted the statement. The Miwok man did often marry his first cousin; but only his mother’s brother’s daughter; that is, one of the two kinds of cross cousins, as they are called. Even these marriages were considered too close in some districts and were frowned upon; a first cousin once removed, or second cousin, or some such distant relative was the proper mate.

It proves that all the female blood relatives that a man might marry come under the designation anisü, and all the kin that a woman could mate with are included in what she calls her angsi. Now angsi is also the word for “son” or “nephew” and anisü for mother’s younger sister or stepmother. It is inconceivable, f rom what we know of the Indian temper, that the Miwok ever married their aunts; and they indignantly deny such an imputation: it is only the cousin or second cousin called anisü, and not the aunt anisü, that one espouses.

Further, it is remarkable that not one of the 30 or more words by which the Miwok designate their various blood kindred or relatives by marriage is of such denotation that it in any way reflects or implies cross-cousin marriage as customary.

If to these circumstances is added the fact that a man may never espouse one of his two kinds of cross cousins—his father’s sister’s daughters—it is clear that the Miwok cross-cousin marriage is an isolated and anomalous institution; and the presumption is forced that it is neither basic nor original in their society.

The foundation of the practice can in fact be traced. It is the almost universal California Indian custom of marrying people who are already connected with one by marriage. To most civilized people such a custom seems quite shocking. But that is only because we introduce a false sentiment, or sentimentality, based in part on confusion of thought, in part on an oversensitiveness, and in part on a fanatical avoidance of everything that even seems to savor of polygamy, whether or not it is connected with that practice. All nations abhor the marriage of near blood kin, but the vast majority distinguish clearly between kindred in fact, such as a sister, and kindred in name, such as a sister-in-law; which of course is the only logical procedure if blood is to mean anything at all. We do not make this distinction with nearly the same force and clearness of perception that most other peoples do. English is one of the few languages in the world that has no independent words for affinities by marriage; “brother-in-law” is based on “brother"; and we show the weakness of vocabulary, and therefore of our thinking in these matters, by not possessing even a single, convenient, generic term for the clumsy “affinities” or “relatives by marriage.” Other European nations approach the Anglo-Saxon condition. In short, for better or for worse, we have lost the keenness of a sense that not only primitive people but the civilized ancients possessed. The idea of blood means but little to us. We are given to imagining that we have developed home and family ties far stronger and deeper than any other people; and we do not know half so well as a savage or a Mohammedan what “family” means. We think of association, when we believe we think of consanguinity. The very word “kin,” except as employed in ethnological literature, is nearly dead: it survives only in poetry and in the occasional mouths of the illiterate. There are people to whom the mere mention of marriage with a former brother’s wife or dead wife’s sister is abhorrent because the word “sister-in-law” reminds them of “sister.”

From this particular overrefinement the overwhelming mass of nations are exempt. They often have their own equivalent scruples, such as balking at marrying a “clan-sister.” But in the present point they think consistently, and it is we who are exceptionally irrational. Not only in aboriginal America, but all over the world people espouse what we miscall “relatives by marriage.” Thus, all through California a man is entitled to marry his brother’s widow; and among most tribes it is expected of him. So, too, if his wife dies he weds her sister or some other kin of hers. If he marries the sister while the wife is still living the objection can be only on the ground of the rule of monogamy being violated. If, finally, he adds to his mates his wife’s daughter by some other man, he is still adhering rigidly to his premises. We are revolted by a false impression of incestuousness as well as by the polygamy, when actually we might base a valid objection only on the ground of sexual delicacy. This particular delicacy the Indian of many tribes lacks; but he replaces it by another, in the total lack of which we are utter barbarians and brutes: he will not look his wife’s mother in the eye or give himself any opportunity to do so. He will marry his stepdaughter; but he will refuse ever to address a word to his mother-in-law.

That, then, is the condition of marriage that underlies the practices of the Miwok as of the other Californian tribes. There is only one point at which their possession of the dual organization specializes it. If a Miwok can marry a woman, he can marry her sister, because she is of the same eligible moiety; and for the same reason he can marry the woman that his brother was wed to. Both these practices are indeed followed. He can not, however, properly marry his wife’s daughter, as a Costanoan or Yurok is free to do. because the daughter is of the moiety of her father. which is also that of her stepfather. If no sister is available some other relative of the wife must therefore be substituted for her daughter as successor or cowife the moment the moiety system is operative. The nearest of these kin, of the same moiety as herself, is her brother’s daughter; if the husband is Land, his wife is Water, her brother must be Water. and his daughter Water also, and therefore eligible. Now. the Miwok actually marry their wives’ brothers’ daughters, and they proclaim such marriages as fitting and frequent.

One more step and we have cross-cousin marriage. Once this type of marriage is fairly frequent the husband is likely to he conceded some right to his wife’s niece, just as most nonmoiety tribes in California admit that he possesses at least some preferential priority to his wife’s sister. Such a claim once established, no matter how irregularly exercised, would descend to the man’s son, who is of the man’s own moiety. The father would only have to die before his wife’s niece was old enough to be wed; or he might reach an age in which he would voluntarily transfer his claim to his son, particularly if he had bound it by a payment. But the son in marrying his father’s wife’s brother’s daughter would be marrying his mother’s brother’s daughter; that is, exactly the type of cross cousin whom among the Miwok he can and does marry.

It seems rather likely that this is exactly the manner in which the curiously one-sided cousin marriage of the Miwok has come about: it is merely a secondary outgrowth of the more basic marriage to the wife’s niece, and this in turn a specialized form of the general practice of wedding a close relative of the wife. This deduction is confirmed by the fact that while there are no terms of relationship that reflect cross-cousin marriage as such, there are a dozen that suggest and agree with marriage to the wife’s niece.

Here, too, we have an explanation of the extraordinary fact that the cousins who marry call each other “stepmother” and “son.” If the father marries the girl, she becomes a second mother or stepmother to her cousin and he a sort of son to her. She therefore is his potential stepmother until the father vacates his right; when she becomes, or can become, the son’s wife instead of his stepmother.

This so exceptional marriage of a relative—quite abnormal from the generic American point of view—thus seems to rest upon the almost universal basis of marriage to an affinity by marriage, modified in detail but not in principle by the exogamic moiety scheme of the Miwok, and given its culmination by the simple transfer of a privilege from father to son. The real specialization of the Miwok lies in this last transfer. Natural as it may seem, it may have caused them a hard wrench; for after all, in spite of its plausibility, it transcended the fundamental principle that kin do not cohabit. What is legitimate for the father is not necessarily legitimate for the son, for after all one is not and the other is related by ties of blood to the woman in question. The problem presented by Miwok cousin marriage is therefore reduced rather than solved: we still do not know what caused the son’s right to prevail over the aversion to kin wedlock. If the Miwok were a people with a marked interest in property, as shown by numerous and refined regulations concerning ownership such as the Yurok have worked out, the case would be simple: but their institutions are not of this, cast. It is even doubtful whether purchase entered very seriously into their marriages. Nothing to this effect has ever been reported of them; and their neighbors on all sides did indeed give something for their wives, but quite clearly never thought of turning marriage into a wholehearted commercial transaction like the northwestern tribes. Another explanation must therefore be sought: and the only circumstance that appears is the moiety system itself. This, with its accentuation of one-sided in place of undifferentiated descent, may well have accentuated the idea of descent itself, and therefore of inheritance, and thus brought about the necessary reenforcement of the son’s claim. A dual organization lends itself particularly to such a development.

Under a multiple clan system a man’s nearer kin are overwhelmingly of only two social groups out of several or many, so that normally he would have few or no blood relatives, and those more or less remote, in whatever of the other groups he married into. With a dual organization. however, he must necessarily average as many actual kinsmen in the group into which he is bound to marry as in his own. Under clan organization, therefore, a distinction between kin groups and marriage groups tends to be kept alive; in any moiety scheme it is liable to effacement, at least in mental attitude. As long as a man must marry into a group in which he has many immediate relatives, the feeling that he may marry a relative can not be very remote; and now and then it is likely to crop out and be accepted. Such seems to be the case in Australia, where the dual scheme is very deeply impressed on society and where kin marriage is almost normal. In fact the Australian feeling seems to be as much that one should marry persons standing in a certain relationship to oneself as that one should not marry certain others; just as the Australian classes are now properly recognized as not being really exogamic; one is compelled to marry into a particular group, whereas under the clan system one is compelled to marry out of it. That the Miwok are dualistically organized, therefore, makes it the more likely that it is this very social scheme of theirs that gave the impetus to the final step that resulted in cross-cousin marriage.

If this argument is valid it reacts to strengthen the probability, already mentioned, that the Miwok moiety scheme is original and not a reduced survival of a former clan system.

No communication is held between a Miwok man and his brothers on the one hand and his mother-in-law and her sisters on the other; nor between a woman and her sisters, and her father-in-law and his brothers. A man also does not address his mother’s brother’s wife—his potential mother-in-law in that she is the mother of his eligible cross cousin.

It is said that when speech is urgent between such shame-faced relatives, and no go-between or third party to be addressed is present, they will communicate with each other in the plural number—“as though more than one person were there.” The feeling, perhaps, is that the individuality of the addressed is obscured by the plurality. The same custom is followed by the Pomo and Kato.

Next: 40. The Paiute, Mono, and KosoContents

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