FOUR DIRECTIONS INSTITUTE

California Indian Cultures

CENTRAL CALIFORNIA
COLORADO RIVER
GREAT BASIN
NORTHWESTERN CALIFORNIA
SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA
HOME California Indians Main Page California Languages Main Page
 

     Cultures, particularly in California, tended to be entirely a geographical phenomenon.  For example, all of the macro-cultures of California were comprised of more than one language.  The macro-cultural borders were, in every case in California, mountain ranges or deserts.  Transitional cultures existed in on or about those frontiers where ethnies had first hand contact on a regular basis with more than one culture.  As one would expect, the transition cultures tended to have relatively sparse populations.  

     Of the five macro-cultures of California, three (Southern California, Central California, Northwest California) were remarkably distinctly Californian. These macro-cultures occupied almost the entire Pacific slope of the state.  The remaining two macro-cultures of California (Colorado River, Great Basin), east of the Sierra and Mojave Desert, shared traits with ethnies to their east and, therefore, were not distinctly Californian.
     There was a body of specific cultural elements that were universal to the three distinctly Californian macro-cultures that distinguished them from all other North American Indians:
1.  Property boundaries
2.  Acorns prominent in the diet
3.  Relatively peaceful in nature
4.  Absence of drums and use of clapper sticks, whistles, and flutes for music (A few drums in the Northwest culture).
5.  Semi-sedentary hunter/gatherers