The Achomawi (also Achumawi, Ajumawi and Ahjumawi) were one of several bands of the Pit River tribe of Native Americans who lived in northern California, USA. They lived in the Fall River valley, Tule Lake and Pit River area near Montgomery Creek in Shasta County to Goose Lake on the Oregon state line. They were closely related to the Atsugewi. The Achomawi spoke a Palaihnihan language.

Pit River Tribe

The Pit River Tribe, a Tribe of eleven (11) autonomous bands of Indians that adopted a formal written Constitution on August 16, 1964, for the purpose of securing our Rights and Powers inherent in our Sovereign status as reinforced by the laws of the United States, developing and protecting Pit River (Achomawi - Atsugewi) ancestral lands and all other resources, preserving peace and order in our community, promoting the general welfare of our people and our descendants, protecting the rights of the Tribe and of our members, and preserving our land base, culture and identity.


The Tribe is comprised of eleven (11) autonomous bands: Ajumawi, Atsugewi, Atwamsini, Illmawi, Astarawi, Hammawi, Hewisedawi, Itsatawi, Aporige, Kosealekte, and Madesi, that since time immemorial have resided in the area known as the 100-mile square, located in parts of Shasta, Siskiyou, Modoc, and Lassen Counties in the State of California, as referred to in the Pit River Docket No. 347, (7 ICC 815 at 844), Indian Claims Commission.


Like other Northern Californians, the Achomawi lived by hunting, gathering and fishing.Their main foods are grasshoppers, plants, small animals and fish.

One method of catching fish was the building of fish traps near the shore composed of lava stone walls, with an outer wall and inner walls that concentrate the issuing spring water to attract the sucker and trout The openings are then closed using a keystone, canoe prow or log. The inner walls trap the fish in the shallow gravel area directly in front of the spring's mouth where they are taken by spear or basket. The shallow gravel enclosure was also the spawning grounds for the sucker fish, which the Achomawi were careful to maintain for a successful spawn by opening the walls to release the fish. The fish were cleaned, and then sun-dried or smoked on wooden frames for either later consumption or trade with other groups. The harvest was done in the evening using torches for light to show the fish, which could number in the hundreds.

Several fish traps can be seen along the shores of Ahjumawi Lava Springs State Park. Fish hooks and fish spears were made from deer bone, the fish spear being a two pronged bone that had a socket for the fitting of a wooden shaft.
Nets were another method employed to snare trout, pike and sucker and the Achomawi made five different types , three of which were bag-shaped dipnets , a seine and a gill net. Of the three dipnets, the Lipake was the smallest, a round bag with an oval hoop sewn at the mouth that was used to scoop the sucker fish into while diving underwater.

Hunting techniques differed from other California Native Americans. A deep pit would be dug along a deer trail, covered with brush, the trail restored including adding deer tracks using a hoof, and all dirt and human evidence taken away. The settlers' cattle would also fall in these pits, so much so that the settlers convinced the people to stop this practice. The pits were most numerous near the river because the deer came down to drink and so the river is named for these trapping pits.
Acorns, pine nuts, seeds of wild oats and other grasses, manzanita berries and other berries were prepared for either consumption, winter storage or for trade. The plant commonly called camas (Camassia Quamash) was (and still is) an important food source of many Native American groups and was widely traded. Used as a sweetener and food enhancer, the bulbs were pit-cooked for more than a day traditionally.


Achomawi basketry was of the twined type. Cooking vessels had broad openings, slightly rounded bottom and sides with willow rods for upright structure. Other types of baskets were the burdenbasket, cradle, serving-tray and the open- mesh beater basket for harvesting seeds. Achomawi made use of bear grass for an overlay of wheat-colored strands with black stems of maidenhair fern for background color.


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. (See Population of Native California.) Alfred L. Kroeber (1925:883) estimated the combined 1770 population of the Achomawi and Atsugewi as 3,000. A more detailed analysis by Fred B. Kniffen (1928) arrived at the same figure. T. R. Garth (1978:237) estimated the Atsugewi population at a maximum of 850, which would leave at least 2,150 for the Achomawi.

Kroeber estimated the combined population of the Achomawi and Astugewi in 1910 as 1,100. The population was given as about 500 in 1936.

Community & Economic Development

The Tribe has a Housing Authority that through Government Grants have developed community housing projects, tribal housing for low income families and elders. The Tribe operates a Tribal Day Care, and environmental program. The Pit River Tribe currently operates Pit River Casino a Class III gaming facility located on 79 Acres in Burney, California.


See also

External links


  • Garth, T. R. 1978. "Atsugewi". In California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 236-243. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 8. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Kniffen, Fred B. 1928. "Achomawi Geography". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 23:297-332.
  • Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.

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