Far Western Indians

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Far Western Indians were those tribes living west of the Sierra Nevada Mountain range before European incursion. This group is also called the California Indians. It included the Pomo, Hoopa (or Hupa), and Serrano tribes. These Indians lived in an area that stretched from the southern part of Oregon and extended south to northern reaches of Mexico's Baja Peninsula. At least five language groups were represented in this region. The tribes hunted deer, elk, bighorn sheep, and rabbits. They also fished for salmon and collected clams and other shellfish, and they gathered acorns (which were pounded to make flour for bread), pine nuts, grass seeds, fruits, and berries. The Pomo were known for their watertight baskets. In the north, people lived in wooden plank houses. To the south, the Pomo lived in cone-shaped shelters constructed of rush mats, brush, and bark covering pole frames. Some lived in pit houses (semi-subterranean, circular shelters).

The Spaniards, arriving in the 1500s, were the first Europeans in the region. By the 1700s they had established missions. In addition to converting many Indians to Christianity (these people became known as Mission Indians), the Spaniards also taught them to farm and raise livestock. Diseases devastated the Indian population, and U.S. settlers arriving in the early 1840s pushed Indians off their lands. The California gold rush (1848) caused further displacement.

See also: Gold Rush of 1849