The Coast Miwok

Click an image to view all as a slideshow with captions.

Before the European explorers, before the pioneers, the shoreline region of what is now Marin and Sonoma counties was home to the Coast Miwok people. This land — its colors and fragrances, plant and animal life, temperate summers and wet winter storms — shaped the lives and culture of these first people, who lived in scattered tribes that were relatively independent of each other.

The “Christianization” imposed by Spanish missionaries at San Rafael (1817) was the beginning of the end of the Miwok's traditional tribal life. The arrival of the settlers, soon backed by treaties depriving California tribes of their ancestral lands, dealt the final blows. While landless Miwok dispersed or worked on area farms, at least one Coast Miwok family, the Smiths of Bodega Bay, managed to adapt and thrive.

Our exhibit includes local Coast Miwok artifacts, most collected by settlers and those who came after; photographs of native plants the Miwok people relied on; and the story of Bodega Miwok William Smith and his family, who established Bodega Bay's fishing industry in the early 20th century.

Laura Trippi