Human activity in the Sierra dates back almost 10,000 years, where rolling foothills gave way to thick green forests, and higher, alpine meadows were surrounded by majestic mountains. Game, fish, seeds, berries, and acorns were plentiful.
Before the 1700s, more than 300,000 people lived in what we now call California, in more than 60 separate territories.
The Northern Sierra Miwok settled here thousands of years ago. They established villages alongside the rivers and streams of the Sierra Nevada, from the Consumnes River on the north to the Calaveras River on the south.
Other Miwok groups lived to the west and south in California's central valley, as far west as Mount Diablo, and south as far as Yosemite National Park.
A number of other Native Californian groups lived nearby. These groups spoke different languages, had different customs, and maintained separate identities, yet they all shared extensive trading networks.
The Miwok who lived near what is now Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park ground acorns into meal using the chaw'se, a large flat marbleized limestone outcropping in the meadow filled with mortar holes. They also caught fish, and hunted deer and other game with slings and arrows throughout these hills. They lived in u'macha (bark houses).
Plant foods were collected and processed by women, while men trapped, fished and hunted. All resources were used with care. Little or nothing was wasted.
Europeans and the Gold Rush
Europeans began arriving in the 1700s, and, beginning in 1849, the Gold Rush brought thousands of miners and others who displaced the Miwok and ravaged their land, forcing the Miwok and other Native Californians from their homes. The newcomers exposed them to deadly diseases, treated them brutally, massacred many, and transformed Native living areas into farms and ranches. Native Californian life was altered forever.
In the late 1800s, as a result of the invasion of the Gold Rush and the displacement of Native Californians, the Federal Government set aside small group home sites called rancherias. Today, Miwok people live in rancherias and communities near Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park and maintain cultural traditions.
Miwok and Indian Grinding Rock SHP Today
Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park is a living Miwok sacred site, as well as an important archaeological link to the Miwok people's past way of life.
Local Miwok bands play an important role at Indian Grinding Rock State Historic Park. Recently, the roundhouse was rebuilt and other park facilities were updated by local Miwok working with the State.
Every year, local Miwok and other Native Californians use the roundhouse and park grounds for important cultural and spiritual ceremonies, most notably in the May Chaw'se Day Celebration and the September Big Time celebration.
Miwok people also still use the park for gathering traditional foods and plants for traditional medicines and basket weaving.