Explore California's 21 Missions

A Glimpse into California Native American Indian Daily Life
Making arrowheads Many Types of Arrowheads Making an arrow
California indians used obsidian for making arrowheads. Obsidian is a very hard rock. It is like black glass. It is found where volcanoes used to be. Often the indians had to walk many miles to find obsidian. This photo above shows a man shaping small pieces of obsidian into arrowheads using smooth rounded stones.
A hunter used many types of arrowheads. In this photo a hunter shows a range of arrowheads made of shaped obsidian rock (lower right), used for hunting small birds squirrels and large game animals.
This photo shows an arrowhead being fastened to a short wooden shaft. A string made of deer sinew (animal tenon, a strong cord like portion of the muscle), softened by chewing was used to fasten the arrowhead to the arrow shaft.

Hunting Sweat House Indian Dwelling
Indians had to be very skillful hunters of many types animals both small and large, in order to help feed their families.
This photo shows two indians building a fire in a sweat house. When the house was sufficiently heated the men would rub their bodies with the edge of a split deer rib to make them sweat even more. When they could no longer stand the heat they would run from the sweat house and jump into a nearby river to cool down.
Dwellings were used mostly storage and sleeping. This woman is making a bed. First, she filled a shallow hole she dug for the bed with tules. She spreads a rabbit skin blanket over the tules, providing a soft insulated bed. Baskets hanging from the dwelling frame are used to store food, string and other essentials.

Preparing the Acorns Grinding Acorns Heating Water
The photo shows a woman shelling acorns to remove the kernel from the shell. Preparing acorns before grinding took many hours.
Acorns were ground into a flour-like meal using two stones one to hold the acorns and a rounded stone to pound the acorns. After countless uses a hollowed out depression in the rock was created by the grinding of the acorns.
This indian woman is warming water that she will use for leaching acorn meal. The water is heated by using hot stones are placed into water filled baskets and moved and stirred constantly with a looped stick to prevent burning the grass baskets.

Leaching the Acorn Flour Making acorn mush Making Acorn Cakes
This photo shows a woman preparing to leach acorn meal by spreading the acorn flour over a bed of leaves and pouring hot water (grass basket filled with hot water shown in photo) over the acorn meal to remove the bitter taste of the acorn meal.
An acorn mush is cooked in a woven basket heated by hot stones stirred by a looped stick(shown in photo). The looped stick is used to remove the hot stones (shown in photo) to be reheated as needed to cook the mush. Sometimes dried berries or different kinds of seeds were added to the mush.
Acorn cakes were made by forming small patties of acorn mush and cooked on hot rocks placed close to a fire. A woven basket filled with water sits beside the woman in the photo above.

Making a Basket
The indians of northern California made all of their baskets by twining. Small willow shoots were used for the ribs of the basket. Strips of root from pine, redwood, or spruce trees were used for twining.
Dark fern stems were used for black parts of the design of this basket shown above. White grass was used for white parts of the design. The design showed only on the outside of the basket. The root twining material under the design made the basket strong. Baskets slowly turned brown as the basket aged.

Twigs were used and bent up to form the sides of the basket. Willow twigs were used because they bent easily. More twigs were added to make the basket larger.

The strips of twining root were soaked in water. Soaking made the twining strips soft and easy to use.

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