The Patwin (also Patween, Southern Wintu) are a band of Wintun people native to the area of Northern California. The Patwin comprise the southern branch of the Wintun group, native inhabitants of California since approximately 500 AD.
The Patwin were bordered by the Yuki in the northwest; the Nomlaki (Wintun) in the north; the Konkow (Maiduan) in northeast; the Nisenan (Maiduan) and Plains Miwok in the east; the Bay Miwok to the south; the Coast Miwok in the southwest; and the Wappo, Lake Miwok, and Pomo in the west.
The "Southern Patwins" lived between what is now Suisun, Vacaville, and Putah Creek. By 1800 they had been forced by Spanish and other European invaders into small tribal units: Ululatos (Vacaville), Labaytos (Putah Creek), Malacas (Lagoon Valley), Tolenas (Upper Suisun Valley), and Suisunes (Suisun Marsh and Plain).
Patwin Indian remains were discovered at the Mondavi Center construction site beginning in 1999, and consequently the University of California, Davis built a Native American Contemplative Garden within the Arboretum, a project honoring the Patwin.
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber put the 1770 population of the Wintun, including the Patwin, Nomlaki, and Wintu proper, at 12,000. Sherburne F. Cook (1976a:180-181) estimated the combined population of the Patwin and Nomlaki at 11,300, of which 3,300 represented the southern Patwin. He subsequently raised his figure for the southern Patwin to 5,000.
Kroeber estimated the population of the combined Wintun groups in 1910 as 1,000. By the 1920s, no Patwin remained along Putah Creek and few were left in the area. Today, Wintun descendants of the three groups (i.e. the Patwin, Nomlaki, and Wintu proper) total about 2,500 people. Only three federally recognized Patwin (Wintun) rancherías remain.
The plan to honor Indians' connection with the UC Davis land grew out of the discovery of Indian remains at the Mondavi Center construction site in 1999. All of the remains have since been reburied under the direction of a Patwin representative, [campus environmental planner Sid England] said.
When Spanish explorers and Russian fur traders came to California, things quickly changed. New diseases such as smallpox and malaria were fatal to many Native Americans, and an epidemic in 1833 emptied the village of Putah-toi. The Spaniards forced many of the remaining Patwin onto the Solano mission. There, disease and deprivation took a heavy toll. When the missions were secularized in the 1830s, the number of remaining Indians was less than one-third that of the Indians who had been pushed there. By the 1920s, no Patwin remained along the creek and few were left in the area. Native American ecological knowledge was lost and continues to be lost, along with the tending that fostered the growth of many California plants. However, efforts are being made to bring Native Americans and their understanding back into the management of California land. Despite obstacles, Patwin descendants still know the plants of this area and still tend them.
The Wintun Indian people have three divisions: the Wintu (northern), Nomlaki (central), and Patwin (southern). Their traditional territories are located in the greater Sacramento Valley, with the Sacramento River a major feature of all the regions. Their lands vary from the Wintu mountain rivers in the north, through the Nomlaki plains, to the marshes, valleys, and hills of the Patwin. Their languages are of the Penutian family. Their diet came from the semiannual runs of king salmon up major rivers, to acorns and other vegetable foods, to game. In the early 1800s, there were approximately 12,000-15,000 members of the Wintun Tribe. Spanish settlers arrived in Wintun territory by 1808, and the Hudson Bay Company trappers arrived sometime before 1832. Tribal unity was destroyed by the taking of land and the destruction of traditional food and material-gathering areas. Along with the introduction of cattle, hogs, and sheep, the construction of dams, and the Copper processing plants in the 1880s and early 1900s, the Wintun suffered a heavy toll on their health and survival. Today there are over 2,500 people of Wintun descent. Many live on the Round Valley Reservation, and on the Colusa, Cortina, Grindstone Creek, Redding, and Rumsey rancherias.
Today, only three federally recognized Patwin (Wintun) Indian rancherias remain.