The word Miwok means “people” in their native language (a branch of the Penutian language family). Like the Wappo and the Pomo they lived in small bands, without a centralized political authority. They were hunter-gatherers and fishers, eating meals according to appetite and enjoying a leisurely life.
The Miwok enjoyed organized athletic games, had domestic dogs as pets, and cultivated tobacco. These were the people that met with Sir Francis Drake for several days in 1579, when he claimed California for England. Chaplain Fletcher, who was with that expedition, wrote: “They are of a free and loving nature, without guile or treachery.”