California Cultures: Native Americans

Overview

At the time of Spanish colonization in the late 1700s, California was home to more than 300,000 native people in more than 200 tribes. Their centuries-old way of life was brought to an end relatively quickly: native Californians soon established regular trading relationships with the Spanish, increasing coastal groups' power and prestige, giving them greater leverage in dealings with inland groups.

By 1860, the state's native population had been reduced to 30,000, decimated by violence, disease, poverty, the influx of gold miners, assimilation, and other historical factors. Just 40 years later, in 1900, this population had plummeted to 20,000.

During the later part of the 20th century, tribes throughout the United States joined in a struggle for Indian rights. A controversial 1987 US Supreme Court decision affirming Native Americans' right to build casinos on reservation lands dramatically changed the economic, political, and social landscapes of California's native peoples.

This theme and its exhibitions were created as part of the California Cultures project.

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The list of tribes is not intended to be complete; it reflects what is available in the collection at this time. New items are always being added. As new items are added to the collection, this list will be updated.

About this theme:

"Native Americans" was created by the University of California in 2005 as part of the California Cultures project.

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The text of this theme is available under a Creative Commons CC-BY license. You are free to share and adapt it however you like, provided you provide attribution as follows:

California Cultures: Native Americans curated by University of California, available under a CC BY 4.0 license. © 2011, Regents of the University of California.

Please note that this license applies only to the descriptive copy and does not apply to any and all digital items that may appear.