California History:  The First Americans

American Indians were already in the New World when Christopher Columbus (1451-1506) discovered it by mistake (he never discovered America per se, reaching only the Caribbean and the coast of South America).  Believing he had reached the East, Columbus mistakenly thought the natives were “Indians.”  It turns out he was half right:  the ancestors of American Indians migrated from present-day Asia thousands of years ago.

When the Spanish built the first mission in Alta California in 1769, the lives of California Indians would never be the same.  The Gold Rush and California’s annexation 80 years later sealed their fate.  The population of California Indians had declined from 310,000 to 100,000 during the Spanish/Mexican period.  After statehood, American Indians were treated as indentured servants—or worse—in California until the 14th Amendment.  Although all residents in Mexican territories were guaranteed citizenship in 1824, it wasn’t until 1917 when the California Supreme Court decided all California Indians were American citizens.  Seven years later, the U.S. Congress granted citizenship to all American Indians.  More than 10,000 American Indians fought in World War I—just one example of non-citizens serving this country, a tradition that continues today.

American Indian History (pre-1900) (U.S. Department of the Interior:  National Park Service—Links to the Past…select Cultural Groups under A Cultural Resource Subject, then click on Five Views:  An Ethnic Historic Site Survey for California) (Smithsonian Institution:  National Museum of the American Indian) (500 Nations) (California Indian Basketweavers Association) (California Department of Parks & Recreation:  Office of Historic Preservation)


Name (by county and city) Location in Northern California
California Indian Library Collections in Stephens Hall at University of California ( Berkeley, Alameda Co.*
Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology in Kroeber Hall at University of California (; Native Californian Cultures exhibits Berkeley, Alameda Co.*
Indian shell mound (CHL 335, [search for September 2002 article]), site of 4600 block of Shell Mound St. Emeryville, Alameda Co.*
Visitor Center in Coyote Hills Regional Park (; Possum’s Pocket Nature Store and Ohlone Indian shell mound sites Fremont, Alameda Co.*
C.E. Smith Museum of Anthropology in Meiklejohn Hall at California State University ( Hayward, Alameda Co.*
Merritt Museum of Anthropology at Merritt College ( Oakland, Alameda Co.*
Oakland Museum of California (; Cowell Hall of California History and History Department’s North American Indian Ethnographic Collections Oakland, Alameda Co.*
Amador-Livermore Valley Museum Pleasanton, Alameda Co.*
Amador County Museum (; Native American collection Jackson, Amador Co.
Chaw’se Regional Indian Museum in Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park (; Miwok village replica and regional Indian collection; ceremonial roundhouse (CHL 1001) Pine Grove, Amador Co.
Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park ( Volcano, Amador Co.
Mechoopda Indian Village (1850s-1964) near Mechoopda Indian Tribal Cemetery (, Chico, Butte Co.
Museum of Anthropology in Langdon Hall at California State University ( Chico, Butte Co.
Cherokee Museum ( Oroville, Butte Co.
Discovery Site of the Last Yahi Indian or Ishi’s Hiding Place (1911, CHL 809); Ishi probably not the last purely Yahi Indian Oroville, Butte Co.
Diablo Valley College Museum (; Native American collection (museum closed?) Pleasant Hill, Contra Costa Co.*
Tolowa Indian Village (CHL 649), site at Pebble Beach Dr. and Pacific Ave. Crescent City, Del Norte Co.
End of the Trail Museum at Trees of Mystery ( in the center of Redwood National and State Parks ( Klamath, Del Norte Co.
Indian “Family House” (c1830,, site of Yurok Indian Village Requa, Del Norte Co.
Lake Tahoe Historical Society & Museum South Lake Tahoe, El Dorado Co.
Clarke Historical Museum ( Eureka, Humboldt Co.
Hoopa Tribal Museum ( Hoopa, Humboldt Co.
The Old Arrow Tree (CHL 164) Korbel, Humboldt Co.
Patrick’s Point State Park (; Yurok Indian village replica Trinidad, Humboldt Co.
Owens Valley Paiute-Shoshone Indian Cultural Center Bishop, Inyo Co.
Eastern California Museum (; Indian basketry Independence, Inyo Co.
Lake County Pioneer and Indian Museum (web?) in former Lake County Courthouse (1871-1968), birthplace of citizenship rights for all California Indians Lakeport, Lake Co.
The Battle of “Bloody Island” (Clear Lake Massacre of 1850) (CHL 427) Upper Lake, Lake Co.
Madera County Museum Madera, Madera Co.
Sierra Mono Indian Museum (, North Fork, Madera Co.
Wassama Roundhouse State Historic Park (CHL 1001,, Oakhurst, Madera Co.
Marin Museum of the American Indian ( in Miwok Park ( Novato, Marin Co.*
Olompali State Historic Park (; Coast Miwok village replica Novato, Marin Co.*
Kule Loklo ( at Point Reyes National Seashore (; Coast Miwok Indian village replica Point Reyes National Seashore, Marin Co.*
Mariposa Museum and History Center (; Indian village replica Mariposa, Mariposa Co.
Round Valley Flour Mill (1880s-19xx) (Web?); provided work for relocated Indians Covelo, Mendocino Co.
Grace Hudson Museum and Sun House (1911, CHL 926,; Pomo Indian artifacts and Hudson paintings of Pomo Indians Ukiah, Mendocino Co.
Lake Mendocino Visitor Center Ukiah, Mendocino Co.
Mendocino County Museum (; Pomo and Yuki Indian baskets Willits, Mendocino Co.
Modoc County Historical Museum (; Native American collection Alturas, Modoc Co.
Lava Beds National Monument (; Tule Lake petroglyphs; site of Modoc War of 1872-1873, the last armed resistance by California Indians Tulelake, Modoc Co.
Mission San Carlos Borromeo (El Carmelo) (1770, Carmel, Monterey Co.
Mission San Antonio de Padua (1771, in Fort Hunter Liggett ( Jolon, Monterey Co.
Santa Lucia Peak or Junipero Serra Peak in Santa Lucia Mountains (Web?), sacred Indian site with pictographs and at least 30 cupules or grinding rocks King City (?), Monterey Co.
Monterey State Historic Park ( Monterey, Monterey Co.
Napa Valley Museum (; The Land and People of the Napa Valley exhibit St. Helena, Napa Co.*
Nevada County Historical Society/Firehouse No. 1 Museum Nevada City, Nevada Co.
Placer County Museum & Courthouse ( Auburn, Placer Co.
Maidu Interpretive Center ( in Maidu Regional Park Roseville, Placer Co.
North Lake Tahoe Historical Society/Gatekeeper’s Museum & Marion Steinbach Indian Basket Museum in William B. Layton Park (; 800 baskets from 85 tribes, plus 100 dolls Tahoe City, Placer Co.
Mankins Ranch or Janesville Bear Dance site (Web?), sacred Maidu Indian site Janesville, Plumas Co.
Plumas County Museum (; Maidu Indian baskets and artifacts Quincy, Plumas Co.
Effie Yeaw Nature Center (; Maidu Indian village replica Carmichael, Sacramento Co.
Nisipowinan Village (CHL 900); Maidu tribe; now site of Discovery Park () Sacramento, Sacramento Co.
State Indian Museum in Sutter’s Fort State Historic Park ( Sacramento, Sacramento Co.
Mission San Juan Bautista (1797) San Juan Bautista, San Benito Co.
California Academy of Sciences ( in Golden Gate Park San Francisco, San Francisco Co.*
The Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco/M.H. de Young Memorial Museum ( in Golden Gate Park (, San Francisco, San Francisco Co.*
Adan E. Treganza Anthropology Museum at San Francisco State University ( San Francisco, San Francisco Co.*
The Haggin Museum ( in Victory Park; American Indian Gallery; Indian baskets Stockton, San Joaquin Co.
Indian Village (CHL 375, [click on History, then The Earliest Pacificans]) on Tunitas Creek at Tunitas Beach Half Moon Bay, San Mateo Co.*
San Mateo County History Museum ( Redwood City, San Mateo Co.*
Gilroy Historical Museum ( Gilroy, Santa Clara Co.*
Palo Alto Junior Museum & Zoo (; Native American artifacts collection Palo Alto, Santa Clara Co.*
De Saisset Museum at Santa Clara University ( Santa Clara, Santa Clara Co.*
The Museum of Art and History ( Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co.
Santa Cruz City Museum of Natural History (; Ohlone exhibits Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz Co.
Fort Crook Museum Fall River Mills, Shasta Co.
Turtle Bay Exploration Park ( Redding, Shasta Co.
Shasta State Historic Park ( Shasta, Shasta Co.
Downieville Museum Downieville, Sierra Co.
Fort Jones Museum in Fort Jones ( Fort Jones, Siskiyou Co.
Captain Jack’s Stronghold (1872-1873, CHL 9); marker near NE entrance to Lava Beds National Monument ?, Siskiyou Co.
Siskiyou County Museum (; Native American Gallery Yreka, Siskiyou Co.
Lake Sonoma Visitor Center (Web?); Pomo Indian baskets (Warm Springs/Lake Sonoma Project inundated many prehistoric and historic Pomo Indian sites in the Dry Creek Valley Area) Geyserville, Sonoma Co.*
California Indian Museum and Cultural Center ( Santa Rosa, Sonoma Co.*
Jesse Peter Museum in Bussman Hall at Santa Rosa Junior College (; Pomo, Navajo, and Hopi artifacts Santa Rosa, Sonoma Co.*
Community Memorial Museum ( Yuba City, Sutter Co.
Nomi Lackee Indian Reservation (1854-1866, Flournoy, Tehama Co.
Kelly-Griggs House Museum (; Isensee exhibit Red Bluff, Tehama Co.
J.J. “Jake” Jackson Memorial Museum Weaverville, Trinity Co.
Porterville Historical Museum (; Yokuts Indian baskets Porterville, Tulare Co.
Tule River Indian Reservation (1857, CHL 388), original location now site of a school Porterville, Tulare Co.
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks ( Three Rivers, Tulare Co.
Tulare County Museum ( Visalia, Tulare Co.
Yosemite Museum in Yosemite National Park (; Miwok and Paiute history; reconstructed Indian Village of Ahwahnee Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Co. (?)


An asterisk indicates San Francisco Bay Area destination; CHL means California Historical Landmark.

Cool Web Surfers Don't Cut and Paste

Would you like to share this Web page with friends?  Don't cut and paste.  Provide a Web link to this page or refer to its Web address.  We invite all content providers to join our "Don't Cut and Paste" campaign.


Copyright © 2002-2024 Calba Media LLC.  All rights reserved.