Painting by Louis Choris of local native inhabitants when the Spanish arrived. 1807
Before the coming of the Spaniards, Central California had the densest Indian population anywhere north of Mexico. Over 10,000 people lived in the coastal area between Point Sur and the San Francisco Bay. These Natives belonged to about forty different groups, each with its own territory and its own chief. Among them they spoke eight to twelve different languages--languages that were closely related but still so distinct that oftentimes people living twenty miles apart could hardly understand each other. The average size of a group (or tribelet, as it is often called) was only about 250 people. Each language had an average of no more than 1,000 speakers.
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