Bay Miwok women gathered acorns and used a mortar and pestle to grind them into flour

Lesson 3: Gathering

Lesson 1
The Land
Lesson 2
Lesson 3
Lesson 4
Hunting &

Lesson 5
Clothing & Appearance
Lesson 6
Ceremonies & Beliefs
Lesson 7
Leadership & Trading
Lesson 8
Final Project

Student Guide


Read the information about Gathering

Look at all pictures on this page.
Be sure to click on any links or words that are underlined.

Find the answers to the following research questions.
Write your answers on
Student Worksheet 3

1. Whose job was it to gather food?

2. What foods did the tribelet gather?

3. When and where did the tribelet gather acorns?

4. Where were the acorns stored?

5. What foods were made from the acorns?


Extend your thinking! Click on
the activity below:
Making Acorn Mush




The women of the Bay Miwok tribe spent much of their time gathering, preparing food, making baskets and mats, and taking care of the

Basket making was an important part of a woman's life. It was a fine art that took a lot of patience and skill. It took months and even years to complete a basket, but taken care of, a basket could last a life time.

Bay Miwok women gathered most of the plant food for their families. They gathered food in baskets that the women carefully wove. They were careful to take only what they could use. Most of their food came from the nuts, roots, bulbs, berries, greens (leaves), and mushrooms gathered from the land.

Acorns were the tribes most important food. Entire villages would travel up into the hills of Mount Diablo in late September or early October to harvest acorns from the oak trees. The women and children collected the acorns in large "burden baskets" that they carried on their backs. After two or three weeks of gathering, a family would have as much as 1,000 - 2,000 pounds of acorns... enough to last them an entire year! After carrying the acorns home they would set them in the sun to dry. Once dried, the acorns were stored in a granary (chuck-ah) for the winter.

Acorns needed a lot of preparation before they could be eaten, they were never eaten raw because they tasted too
bitter. Instead, they liked acorns ground up and baked into bread or cooked into a hot cereal called mush.
Making acorn mush was hard work. The whole process took two to three hours. Every time the women made acorn mush they had to repeat the same steps over and over again.

Steps for Making Acorn Mush

1. First, a woman would get some acorns from the granary. Then, she would crack the acorn shell with a stone and remove the kernel from inside. After she had enough kernels, she put them in a rock bowl called a mortar. She sat on the ground with her legs stretched out in front of her. Then, she placed the bowl between her legs and began hitting and grinding the acorn kernals with a stone hammer called a pestle. Over and over she pounded the acorns until they were ground into flour.

2. Next, the acorn flour was then put into a shallow basket and rinsed many times with water. She did this to wash away the bitter taste of the acorns. This could take an hour or more.

3. Once the flour was made, it was mixed with water in a basked that was woven so tight the water could not leak out. Next, she heated small stones in a fire. Once the stones became red-hot, she lifted them from the fire with two sticks and dropped them in the basket with the acorn flour and water. She used a stick to stir the mixture until it started to boil and thicken. Finally, she removed the stones and the acorn mush was ready to eat. If she wanted to make bread, she would form a patty with the mush and bake it on a hot rock in the fire. The Bay Miwok ate either acorn mush or acorn bread with every meal.



Stephen Powers, Univ. of California Press
Women and children collected acorns in large burden baskets that they carried on their backs.
This is bedrock mortar. Acorns were put in the holes and ground into flour using a tool called a pestle.
Acorns were stored above the ground in granaries. The granaries protected the acorns from animals and flooding.

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