Lands of the Yokuts and their Neighbors

Yokuts * Chumash * Kawaiisu * Tubatulabal

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Yokuts - Many different Yokuts tribes lived in the southern part of the Great Valley, from north of Fresno south to where Interstate 5 begins to climb out of the valley on the grapevine. The principle tribes in Kern County where the Yowlumne, who had a great many villages along the Kern River on the east side, the Tulumne and other small tribes living around Buena Vista Lake and along the tar pits on the west side of the Valley, and the Paleayani (Paelumne) who were closely aligned with the Yowlumne and lived north of them in the foothills along Poso Creek. Another tribe that deserves mention are the Yaudanchi who lived in the Porterville and Springville areas. Unlike most California Indians, who tended to live in loosely organized clans, the Yokuts had distinct tribes with chiefs and sub chiefs. The Yokuts are known in particular for their use of Tule Grass for clothing, boats, and dwellings.

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Tulumne Yokuts of the McKittrick Tarpits

Yowlumne Yokuts of Bakersfield

Chumash - The Chumash were the Indians of the Transverse Ranges and Central California Coast. Loosely organized bands of Chumash bordered the Yowlumne in the San Emigdio Range to the south and the Cuyama Valley and Caliente Range to the southwest and west. The Chumash are known in particular for the painted pictographs they left behind in many sandstone caves and groups of bouldersof in the Topatopa and Santa Ynez Mountains (Los Padres National Forest).

The Chumash believed that their ancestors originated in the Channel Islands and crossed over to the mainland long ago on a bridge of rainbows. Some Chumash were unable to make the journey and fell into the waters of the Santa Barbara Channel, where they were transformed into Dolphins.

for more info please see
Chumash Indians of California


Kawaiisu - The Kawaiisu were actually several bands, not an organized tribe, that lived in the Tehachapi area and spoke a common language that linguists place in the Shoshone language group. The Kawaiisu and other Shoshone-speaking peoples on the east side of the Sierra Nevadas are often called Paiutes or Monos. However, these different groups lived and traveled separate from one another, and often spoke languages unintelligible to each other. Kawaiisu is actually the name the Yokuts of the Great Valley gave these people, as the Kawaiisu never had a name of their own. Sometimes they are referred to as the Tehachapi indians, but again Tehachapi is a Yokut word that, according to Frank Latta, describes where the Kawaiisu lived as the "oak flat near a spring". When asked to name themselves, a group of elderly Kawaiisu reportedly came up with "Nu-oo-ah", which translates as "people".

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Kawaiisu Indians of Tomo-Kahni State Park
Kawaiisu Indians of Tehachapi

Tubatulabal - Another collection of Paiute or Mono bands that lived in the Kern River Valley around Kernville and Johsondale. Although the Kawaiisu and Tubatulabal both spoke Shoshone languages, the speech of the Tubatulabal was very different from that of most Paiutes, and most Kawaiisu and Tubatulabal probably could not understand each other. The Yokuts referred to the Tubatulabal as the "Pitanisha", whereas the Tubatulabal, like most Paiute groups, identified themselves by the food they ate. For example, the Monos of Mono Lake were the "fly eaters". In this context, Tubatulabal loosely translates as "pine-nut eaters", tubat being their word for piñon nuts.

for more info please see
Tubatulabal Indians of Johnsondale

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Barras, Judy, 1984, Their places shall know them no more (Judy and Bud Barras: Tehachapi), 91 p.

Latta, Frank F., 1977, Handbook of Yokuts Indians, 2nd Edition, Brewer's Historical Press and Coyote Press, 765 p.

Schiffman, Robert A. and Alan P. Garfinkel, 1981, Prehistory of Kern County, an overview, Bakersfield College Publications in Archaeology, Number 1.


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