Before the Europeans came to California, the Coast Miwok people were the inhabitants of what we now call Marin and southern Sonoma Counties. They knew and blended with this bountiful land for thousands of years, developing a rich economy based on gathering, fishing and hunting. Village communities of 75 to several hundred people developed in sheltered places near fresh water and plentiful food. "Kule Loklo" (meaning "Bear Valley") is a recreated village. It stands where no village ever was, but where one might have stood.
Coast Miwok life was intricately woven into the changing seasons. In the late spring, fresh new greens of Indian lettuce, young nettle leaves and clover were gathered. Fire-hardened digging sticks were used by the women to reach deep-set roots and bulbs. The ocean provided kelp in large amounts, some to be eaten fresh, the rest dried and stored for the winter. Tule was gathered in the fall for skirts and tule baskets. The summer sun ripened grasses and flower seeds, gathered by hitting the ripened seed with a beater basket and letting them fall directly into a collecting basket.
Fall was the season for collecting a variety of nuts: acorns (stored in a granary for year-round consumption), buckeye, hazel and bay. Tule was cut and dried for kotcas (houses), boats and mats. Gray willow for baskets and traps was abundant. Winter and early spring were times of shortage when stored acorns, seeds and kelp became important food sources.
The ocean provided food year-round. Crab, clams, mussels, abalone, limpets and oysters were some of the seafood gathered by the women in the tidal zones. Cleaned of meat, the shells were also fully utilized. Abalone shells were made into beautiful ornaments. The Washington clam was one of the most important shells; these were ground into circular, flat disk beads with a hole drilled in the middle. Strings of these beads were the main trade item (money) and were used extensively through Northern California.