Before the Europeans came to California, the Coast Miwok people were the inhabitants of what we now call Marin and southern Sonoma Counties. They knew and blended with this bountiful land for thousands of years, developing a rich economy based on gathering, fishing and hunting. Village communities of 75 to several hundred people developed in sheltered places near fresh water and plentiful food. "Kule Loklo" (meaning "Valley of the Bear") is a recreated interpretive village and home to the annual Big Time Festival. The current structures are built and maintained by tribal and non-tribal volunteers and include a roundhouse, sweathouse, and several traditional dwellings.
Coast Miwok life was intricately woven into the changing seasons. In the late spring, young greens of Indian lettuce, nettle and clover were gathered and fire-hardened digging sticks were used to reach deep-set roots and bulbs. In the summer, sun ripened grasses and flower seeds were gathered by hitting the ripened seed with a beater basket and letting them fall directly into a collecting basket. Fall was the season for collecting a variety of nuts, including acorns (stored in a granary for year-round consumption), buckeye, hazel and bay, all of which were important sources of food come winter. Tule was cut and dried for kotcas (houses), boats and mats and gray willow for baskets and traps. The ocean provided food year-round, including crab, clams, mussels, abalone, limpets and oysters. Cleaned of meat, the shells were also fully utilized. Abalone shells were made into beautiful ornaments. The Washington clam was one of the most important shells; these were ground into circular, flat disk beads with a hole drilled in the middle. Strings of these beads were the main trade item (money) and were used extensively through Northern California.
By the early 1800s many natives were being displaced, killed or died from any number of new dieases passed on by Europeans. By 1958, the federal government "terminated" the recognition of Coast Miwok people as well as many other tribes. It took nearly 40 years for the Coast Miwok to once again become a federally recognized tribe. Legislation was signed in December 2000 by President Clinton granting the Federated Indians of Graton Rancheria, formerly known as the Federated Coast Miwok, full rights and privileges afforded federally recognized tribes. Currently there are almost 500 members registered with the tribe.
- The National Park Service offers a free 90- minute guided walking tour (0.8 miles) that meets at the Bear Valley Visitor Center at 10:30 am every Sunday.
- Point Reyes National Seashore offers a free, curriculum-based, ranger-led program for third and fourth graders focusing on Kule Loklo and the Coast Miwok.
- Visitors can also participate in the annual Big Time Festival, held Kule Loklo in July. Traditionally this event would celebrate trade, births, deaths and even marriages amongst tribes. Today, vendors sell their native wares and share information about their tribes and customs, including dance and shell bead making. See event page for upcoming events.
- Or you can purchase, "The Coast Miwok Indians of the Point Reyes Area," book by Sylvia Thalman at our bookstores located in park visitor centers.