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Cahto Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Cahto tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Cahto website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Cahto pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Cahto Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Cahto"? What does it mean?
Cahto is pronounced just the way it looks, "cah-toh." That means "lake people" in the language of their allies the Pomo. In their own language they called themselves Djilbi or Tozilbi, but today, most of the people refer to themselves as Cahtos. The name "Cahto" can often be seen spelled as "Kato" or "Cato" instead. Like most Native American languages, the Cahto language was traditionally unwritten, so spellings of Cahto words in English sometimes vary a lot.

Where do the Cahtos live?
The Cahtos are original people of Northern California. Most Cahto people still live there today.

How is the Cahto Indian nation organized?
Most Cahto people live on a rancheria in California, which belongs to the Cahto tribe and is under their control. The Cahto tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. Other Cahtos live on the Round Valley Reservation together with Wiyot, Hupa, Tolowa, and Maidu Indians.

In the past, each Cahto village had its own chief or headman. There was no centralized Cahto government, only a loose coalition among the village chiefs. Today, the Cahto tribe is governed by a tribal council elected by the residents.

What language do the Cahtos speak?
The Cahtos speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Cahto language. Some Cahto elders still remember words from this language, and there are younger people who are interested in learning to speak their traditional language again. Here is a Cahto picture glossary you can look at.

What was Cahto culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Cahto Tribe's homepage. On their site you can find information about the Cahto people in the past and today.

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How do Cahto Indian children live? What games and toys do the Cahtos have?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Cahto children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games, and some Cahto families kept birds or rabbits as pets. One popular Cahto sport was shinny, which is an athletic ball game similar to lacrosse and rugby. Both men and women played forms of shinny. Cahto girls often played with dolls. Like many California Indians, Cahto mothers traditionally carried their babies in wicker baby baskets.

What were Cahto homes like in the past?
The Cahtos lived in pit houses. Usually these houses were made from a cone-shaped frame of wooden poles placed over a basement-like hole dug into the ground. Then the frame would be covered with bark and tule reeds. Because they were partially underground, Cahto houses appeared smaller than they really were. Here are some pictures of different types of Indian buildings. Today, most Cahtos live in modern houses and apartments, just like you.

What was Cahto clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Cahto men wore short wraparound kilts made of deerskin. Cahto women wore longer deerskin skirts decorated with grasses, shells and beads. Shirts were not necessary in the Cahto culture, but both men and women wore long tunic-like shirts in cool or rainy weather. The Cahtos also wore deerskin moccasins on their feet. Here are some photos and links about Native American costume in general.

The Cahtos didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Cahto women wore woven basket hats. The Cahtos painted their faces for dances and other special occasions. They also wore tattoo designs on their faces and chests. The Cahtos often wore strands of beaded necklaces around their necks. Cahto men wore shell jewelry in their pierced noses, as well.

Today, some Cahto people still wear moccasins or shell jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of kilts or grass skirts.

What was Cahto transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No-- the Cahto are inland people and never traveled much by boat. Sometimes they built log rafts to travel downstream, but usually when they had to go someplace, Cahto people would just walk.

What was Cahto food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Cahtos were hunting people. Cahto men hunted deer, quail, and small game, and sometimes fished in the lakes and rivers. Cahto women ground acorns into meal to make flat bread, as well as gathering seeds, berries and roots. Here is a website with more information about Indian recipes.

What were Cahto weapons and tools like in the past?
Cahto hunters used bows and arrows. Cahto fishermen used spears, nets, and wooden fish traps. The Cahto didn't go to war very often, but when they did, Cahto men usually fired arrows or threw spears rather than fighting hand-to-hand. Here is a website of pictures and information about American Indian weapons.

What are Cahto arts and crafts like?
Cahto artists are known for their fine Indian baskets. Here is a picture of a Cahto basket.

What other Native Americans did the Cahto tribe interact with?
The Cahtos engaged in trade with most of the other tribes of Northern California. Their closest allies were the Pomo, Yuki, and Wailaki tribes. Sometimes these tribes fought battles with each other over territory or resources, but they usually resolved these fights quickly and returned to being trading partners.

What kinds of stories do the Cahtos tell?
There are lots of traditional Cahto legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Cahto Indian culture. Here is a story about the creation of the earth. Here's a website where you can read more about Cahto legends.

What about Cahto religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Cahto life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Cahto people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Cahto religious traditions or this site about Indian religion in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
We do not know of any good books specifically about the Cahto tribe. Two good books for kids on California Indians in general are California Native Peoples and Native Ways; a more in-depth book for older readers is Tribes of California. You can also browse through our recommendations of books about Indians in general. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Cahto Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Cahto Tribe

Cahto Indian Tribe
An overview of the Cahto tribe, their language and history.

Cahto Language Resources
Cahto Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Cahto Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Cahto Native Americans past and present.

Cahto Words
Cahto Indian vocabulary lists.

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