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Mojave Desert Indians - Historic Desert Indian Territories Map:
The Kawaiisu Culture

Social Organization

The name Kawaiisu is taken from the language of the Yokuts, a Native American tribe of the San Joaquin Valley. They referred to themselves as the Nuooah (new-wa) or The People.

Occupying a definable territory and spending their winters in a particular village, the Kawaiisu were an autonomous political and ritual group. As an entity, they were bound together by family, language, trade and ceremonial practices. Beyond the family group(s), social structure was minimal. Related families usually lived in close proximity to each other and worked together in food quests and other expeditions.

Spring was a time for the young men and women of other tribes or families to meet and marry. Marriage was monogamous and might have been formalized only by a suitor's delivery of gifts to the parents of his intended. Convenience rather than convention governed where the couple lived. Little more than separation was required for divorce, although some details depended on whether the husband or wife initiated the separation.

Childbirth was a happy occasion and was a time for tribes and families to gather. Feasting and dancing might last several days.

There was a concept of “chieftainship”, however several leaders might have been recognized and accepted locally. A “chief” might simply be the one with the most knowledge of the people around him. Because the chief was expected to sponsor celebrations and his reputation was enhanced by lavish food and festivities, wealth and generosity were important qualifications. Like most of the Great Basin and California Native Americans, the Kawaiisu were a peaceful people, so the chief had little occasion to serve as a war leader. Inter-tribal altercations usually turned out to be between individuals.

The Kawaiisu Culture
Language & Homeland
Contact with Others
Social Organization
Food Preparation
Tools and Implements
Clothing and Adornments
Stories and Myths
Rock Art

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