diversity of Native American ethnic and language groups in California. The Native Americans settled California during the past 12,000 years, inhabiting the most environmentally productive coastal environments first and then settling in progressively less productive ecosystems farther inland. The legend on the right shows the major language groups, each of which was spoken by multiple tribes. This map is based on decades of linguistic, genetic and archaeological research and should not be misinterpreted as representing precise tribal boundaries.
Credit: Brian Codding, University of Utah
Research published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences attempts to explain why California is home to so many different Native language groups.
The authors of the study contend that the first Native groups to arrive in California settled on the coastal areas around 12,000 years ago. They mainly spoke Chumash and Yukian languages and took advantage of the lush habitat, according to researches.
A second wave settled in the Central Valley and the Sierra Nevada around 8,000 years ago. They spoke Hokan, Yok-Utian, Takic and Wintuan-Maiduan languages and lived in less hospitable areas, the study said.
Finally, a third group moved to the desert areas around 4,000 years ago because more desirable areas were already occupied, the study said. They spoke Numic languages.
But researchers said another wave came about 1,000 years ago, bringing speakers of Algic and Athabaskan languages to the state. They settled in the coastal areas and, in some cases, displaced existing groups, according to the study.
Get the Story:
Language diversity in California linked to ecological diversity
(The Los Angeles Times 8/20)
Understanding How Migration Patterns Shaped Native Ethnicity, Language
(Red Orbit 8/20)
Native Californians followed the greenery
(e! Science News 8/19)