Mariposan Indians

Mariposan Family, Mariposan Tribes, Mariposan Stock, Yokuts Tribe, Yokuts Indians (adapted from Span. mariposa, ‘butterfly,’ the name of a county in California). The name applied by Powell to a linguistic stock of Indians, generally known as Yokuts, in San Joaquin valley, Cal. Their territory extended from the lower Sierra Nevada to the Coast range, and from mounts Pinos and Tehachapi to Fresno and Chowchilla Rivers. A separate body dwelt in the north, in a narrow strip of territory along the San Joaquin, between Tuolumne and Calaveras Rivers, about the site of Stockton. These were the Cholovone. The Coconoon, said to have been Mariposas, occupied an area within the limits of Moquelumnan territory.

Physically the southern members of this family, from Kaweah and Tule Rivers and from Tejon, are very similar to the Yuman tribes of southern California. They are fairly tall (169 cm.) and rather short-headed (cephalic index 82 to 83). Their superficial appearance is rather similar to that of the tribes of central California. They are not infrequently fat 1 . Their houses, especially those in the plains, were generally made of tules, and were often erected in rows, a village of the tribes about Tulare lake consisting of a row of such houses united into one. These long communal houses had an entrance and a fireplace for each family. Earth covered sweat-houses were also built. Their implements and utensils were generally rude; the working of wood seems to have been confined to a few objects, such as bows and pipes, true wood carving not being practiced. Their bows were of two types, one used for war and one for the hunt. Some of the tribes made a very crude and undecorated pottery similar to that of their Shoshonean neighbors of the mountains, which is the only occurrence of pottery in central California, and the art is probably a recent acquisition. The women were proficient basket makers, their product being predominantly of the coiled type. Shapes with a flat top and restricted opening are characteristic of this region and of the Shoshoneans immediately to the east.

The social organization of the tribes was very simple, with no trace of totemism or of any gentile system. Prohibition of marriage extended only to actually known blood relationships, entirely irrespective of groups. Chieftainship tended to be hereditary in the male line. The groups, or tribes, had more solidarity than elsewhere in California, as is shown by the occurrence of well recognized names for the tribes. Hostilities were occasionally carried on between groups or with Shoshonean tribes, but in general the tribes were peaceful and friendly, even with their neighbors speaking alien languages. An initiation ceremony for young men consisted of it period of preparation followed by an intoxication produced by a decoction of jimson weed. A puberty ceremony for girls was not practiced. The tabus and restrictions applied chiefly to childbirth anal death. Death was followed by singing, dancing, and wailing. The body was buried or burned, the practice varying with the different tribes; the property of the deceased was destroyed, his house burned, and his name tabued. There was an elaborate annual mourning ceremony for the dead of the year, which took place about a large fire in which much property was consumed. This ceremony, which has been described as the Dance of the Dead, was followed by dancing of a festive character.

The Mariposan Indians were encountered by the Spaniards soon after their settlement in California, and with the other tribes of San Joaquin valley were generally known as Tulareños, etc., from the name of the lakes and of San Joaquin River, which during the Mission period bore the name Rio de los Tulares. No very considerable portion of the group seems to have come under the control of the Franciscan missionaries, but there was some intercourse and trade between the converted Indians of the coast regions and the Mariposan tribes of the interior. The Cholovone, Chukchansi, Tachi, Telamni, and other tribes were, however, at least in part, settled at San Antonio, San Juan Bautista, and other missions.

On the sudden overrunning of their country by the whites after the discovery of gold in California, the Indians of this family were either friendly or unable to make an effectual resistance. The Kaweah river tribes were seen to have been the most hostile to the Americans, but no general Indian war took place in their territory, and treaties were made with all the tribes in 1851, by which they ceded the greater part of their territory 2 . Many of the northern tribes were soon gathered on the Fresno River Reservation, near Madera, and the southern tribes at Tejon; but the former was abandoned in 1859 and the latter in 1864. The Indians at Tejon were removed to Tule River, where, after another removal, the present Tule River Reservation was set apart for them in 1873 and occupied in 1876. The Indians of this reservation, mostly from Tejon and from Tule and Kaweah Rivers., numbered 154 in 1905. North of Tule River the remaining Indians of this stock now live in and near their old homes; their numbers have greatly decreased and are not accurately known, while the Cholovone seem to be extinct.

About 40 tribes, each of about the numerical size of a village community, but possessing a distinct dialect, constituted the Yokuts or Mariposan family. About half of these are now extinct. These tribes, according to information furnished by Dr A. L. Kroeber, were the Cholovone, or, more correctly, Chulamni, about Stockton; the Chaushila, Chukchausi, Talinchi (properly Dalinchi), Heuchi, Toltichi, Pitkachi, Hoyima, Tumna (Dumna), and Kechayi, on San Joaquin River and north to Chowchilla River; the Kassovo (Gashowu), on Dry Creek; the Choinituni, Michahai, Chukaimina, Iticha (Aiticha), Toikhichi, Weacikhit, Nutunutu, Wimilchi, Apiachi, and perhaps the Kochiyali, on Kings River; the Tachi, Chunut, and Wowol, on Tulare lake, and the Tulamni and a tribe remembered only as Khomtinin (‘southerners’) on the smaller lakes to the south; the Kawia (Gawia), Yokol or Yokod, Wikchamni, Wowolasi, Telamni, and Choinok, on Kaweah River; and the Yaudanchi, Bokninuwad, Kumachisi, Koveti, Paleuyami, Truhohayi, and Yauelmani, on the streams from Tule River to Kern River.

Names given as if of Yokuts tribes, but which may be place names or may refer to Shoshonean or other groups, are Carise, Caruana, Chebontes, Cheticnewash, Holeclame, Holmiuk, Lenahuon, Montotos, Nonous, Sohonut, and Tatagua; also, entirely unidentifiable, Amonce, Kowsis, Nelcelchumnee, Noketotra or Nutrecho or Pohonatri, Nopthrinthres, Oponoche, and Ptolme.Citations:

  1. Boas in Proc. A. A. A. S., xi, iv, 261-9,1896[]
  2. Royce in 18th Pep. B. A. E., 782, 1900[]


Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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