The original inhabitants of the San Joaquin Valley were the Yokut-speaking tribes- about 50 dialect groups occupying the territory along the rivers and creeks flowing from the Sierras and around the Tulare Lake. Their descendants today on the Tule River Indian Reservation continue to have the goal of self-government and self-sufficiency on the land.
When gold was discovered in 1848, California was under American military occupation in the war against Mexico. Thousands of American prospectors poured into the territory. California statehood followed in 1850 and everything changed for the native people of the Great Central Valley. Although Spain, and later Mexico, had sent forays into the interior of California for a century and a half, the Indians of the foothills of the Sierras were relatively well protected. There were the safest of any California Indians from military expeditions, capture, and forced conversion at the missions. With the Gold Rush and California statehood, disease decimated the population. The ravages of disease were compounded by injustice and starvation. In 1860 the Indian population in California was only 20% of what it had been ten years earlier.
All information in these History pages was provided by Gelya Frank.
The Unratified Treaties of 1851
Tejon Reservation 1853
Tule River Indian War of 1856
Indian Service employee gets deed to Tule River Indian permanent home
Growing population of Porterville demands removal of reservation into foothills
Tule River’s Giant Sequoias: Loss of the disputed northeast corner
Right to self-rule returned
Today’s tribal mandate: Self-suffiency and a better life