[win-too, win-too]
The Wintu (also Northern Wintun) are Native Americans who live in what is now Northern California. They are part of a group of associated groups known collectively as Wintun (or Wintuan). The Wintu are viewed as part of the Penutian language family.

Historically, the Wintu lived primarily on the western side of the northern part of the Sacramento Valley, from the Sacramento River to the Coast Range. The range of the Wintu also included the southern portions of the Upper Sacramento River (south of the Salt Creek drainage), the southern portion of the McCloud River, and the upper Trinity River. They also lived in the vicinity of Chico, on the west side of the river to the Coast Range.

In early times, the Wintu lived by fishing, hunting and gathering.


Historically, the Wintu lived in small groups without centralized political authority. These groups are often referred to as triblets, rather than tribes because of the lack of a central authority. Lapena identifies nine main Wintu groups (listed in the Wintu language along with an English translation):

  • Nomitipom   (in-the-west-ground)
  • Wenemem   (middle water)
  • Dawpon   (front-ground)
  • ʔelpom   (in-ground)
  • λ’abalpom   (good ground)
  • Nomsuus   (those being west)
  • Dawnom   (front-west)
  • Norelmaq   (south-uphill people)
  • Waymaq   (north people)

The Nomitipom lived in the upper Sacramento valley; the Wenemem (also spelled Winnemem) near McCloud; the Dawpon near Stillwater; the ʔelpom near Keswick; the λ’abalpom near French Gulch; the Nomsuus (a.k.a. Trinity River Wintu) in the Upper Trinity valley; the Dawnom near the Bald Hills; the Norelmaq near Hayfork; and the Waymaq in the upper region of the McCloud River valley.


The first recorded encounter between Wintu and Euro-Americans dates from the 1826 expedition of Jedediah Smith, followed by an 1827 expedition led by Peter Skene Ogden. Between 1830 and 1833, many Wintus died from malaria in an epidemic that killed off around 75% of the indigenous population of the upper and central Sacramento Valley. In following years the weakened Wintu fell victim to the abuses of incoming settlers, which included the destruction of the Wintu food supply by sheep and cattle invasions and river pollution caused by American gold miners. The Wintu were forced to work as laborers in gold mining operations. In 1846 John C. Frémont and Kit Carson killed 175 Wintu and Yana. Further efforts tried to control Wintu land and relocate them to west of Clear Creek. In a "friendship feast" of poisoned food served by whites in 1850, 100 Nomsuus and 45 Wenemem Wintus were massacre. This was followed by another massacre and destruction of Wintu land in 1851.


The Wintu language is one of the Wintuan languages, which is also called Wintu.

The religious stories and legends of the Trinity River Wintu were retold by Grant Towendolly to Marcelle Masson, who published them in A Bag of Bones (1966).


Alfred L. Kroeber estimated the combined 1770 population of the Wintu, Nomlaki, and Patwin as 12,000. Sherburne F. Cook initially put the population of the Wintu proper as 2,950, but later he nearly doubled his estimate to 5,300.The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1970, p.19 Frank R. LaPena greatly increased this to 14,250.

Kroeber estimated the population of the Wintu, Nomlaki, and Patwin in 1910 as about 1,000.

See also



  • Christopher Chase-Dunn, Christopher K., and Kelly M. Mann. 1998. The Wintu and Their Neighbors: A Very Small World-system in Northern California. University of Arizona Press, Tucson. ISBN 0-8165-1800-9.
  • Cook, Sherburne F. 1976. The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Cook, Sherburne F. 1976. The Population of the California Indians, 1769-1970. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Demetracopoulou, Dorothy. 1935. "Wintu Songs". Anthropos 30:483-494.
  • Du Bois, Cora A. 1935. "Wintu Ethnography". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 36:1-148.
  • Du Bois, Cora A., and Dorothy Demetracopoulou. 1931. "Wintu Myths". University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology 28:279-403.
  • Hogue, Helen S., and Margaret Guilford-Kardell. 1977. Wintu Trails. Revised edition; originally published in 1948. Shasta Historical Society, Reading, California.
  • Hoveman, Alice R. 2002. Journey to Justice: The Wintu People and the Salmon. Turtle Bay Exploration Park, Redding, California. ISBN 1-931827-00-1.
  • Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.
  • LaPena, Frank R. 1978. "Wintu". In California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 324-340. Handbook of North American Indians, William C. Sturtevant, general editor, vol. 8. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • LaPena, Frank R. 1987. The world is a Gift. Limestone Press, San Francisco.
  • LaPena, Frank R. 2004. Dream Songs and Ceremony: Reflections on Traditional California Indian Dance. Great Valley Books, Berkeley, California. ISBN 1-890771-79-1.
  • McLeod, Christopher. 2001. In the Light of Reverence. Videocassette. Bullfrog Films, Oley, Pennsylvania. ISBN 1-56029-890-1.
  • McKibbin, Grace, and Alice Shepherd. 1997. In My Own Words: Stories, Songs, and Memories of Grace McKibbin, Wintu. Heyday Books, Berkeley, California. ISBN 0-930588-85-1.
  • Towendolly, Grant. 1966. A Bag of Bones: The Wintu Myths of a Trinity River Indian. Edited by Marcelle Masson. Naturegraph, Oakland, California. ISBN 0-911010-26-2; ISBN 0-911010-27-0.

External links

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