About the Cahto Tribe
A Brief History
The name Cahto (Kato) means loosely “People of the Lake” or “Lake People,” and refers to an ancient lake shore where parts of the Cahto people once lived, although we, the inhabitants of the six villages of the Long Valley, called ourselves the Tlokyáhan, or “Grass People.” Historically, the principal language of the Cahto was Wailakian. Unfortunately, this particular Athapascan language has been mostly lost through the intervention of the white man and his culture over the years.
Our homeland is comprised of mountains and hills covered with fir, pine, oak and redwoods and is veined with streams, most of which are almost dry during the summers, but are drenched with torrential flooding during the rainy winters. A nearby 4,213 foot high mountain summit is named Cahto Peak in our honor.
Bear Print Quail Tracks
Two important totem symbols for the Cahto are the bear and quail.
Like other California tribes, our ancestors were hunters and gatherers.
Besides gathering the plentiful nuts, seeds, berries, roots, bulbs, and tubers, we hunted for deer, rabbits, quail, and fish to provide additional food for our people. The dog was our only domesticated animal. Ours was a partially nomadic culture; we traveled within our traditional homeland to where the food was plentiful, taking yearly treks to the Mendocino coast, for instance, to harvest seaweed and fish. Today, once a year the Cahto retrace the yearly migration to the coast using “sacred” trails in remembrance of the ancient tradition.
Tule House – Lake Pomo Tribe ©1924*
The traditional Cahto house was circular, built over a circular excavation about two feet deep similar to this Tule shelter. The space between the supporting posts was stuffed with slabs of wood and bark. An opening in the roof served to carry off smoke, and the doorway was a narrow opening in front. A whole family would live in one of these little houses, and for summer camps, brush lean-tos were set up.
Cahto Mortar and Pestle found in Laytonville
We manufactured our tools out of stone, bone, horn, wood and tanned skin. Our clothing, for both men and women, was a tanned deer-skin, wrapped about the waist, and a close-fitting knitted cap, which kept in place the knot of hair at the back of the head. Another Cahto garment included a shirt made of two deer-skins, laced down the front and reaching to the knees. Both men and women generally had tattoos on their faces and the chest designs consisted largely of upright lines, both broken and straight.
Cahto Basket – Autry National Center of the American West
We also made peaceful trade expeditions to Blue Rock, about twenty miles northward, where we exchanged baskets, arrows, and clothing for similar articles of the Wailaki; and to the coast, where we obtained shell-fish and seaweed. Our best friends were the northern Pomo and Coast Yuki to the south.