The Salinan Native Americans are a Native American tribe whose ancestral territory is in the southern Salinas Valley and the Santa Lucia range in the Central Coast of California, in the Salinas Valley. At least two Salinan tribal governments are now working toward federal recognition tribal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
There were two major divisions, the Miguelino in the south, on the upper course of the Salinas River (which flows south to north), and the Antoniano in the north, in the lower part of the Salinas Basin, corresponding to the two missions in the Salinas Valley (Mission San Antonio de Padua and Mission San Miguel Arcángel). There were also a Playano group on the Pacific Coast in the vicinity of what is now San Simeon and Lucia. Before European contact, Salinans lived by hunting and gathering and, like most other California tribes, were organized in small groups with little centralized political structure.
The Salinan people were named after the Salinas River by Robert Latham (needs documentation)(1856) and John Powell (1891). The people's own name for themselves is the "Te'po'ta'ahl" or "People of the Oaks," according to current tribal leadership. C. Hart Merriam called these people the En-'ne-sen on advice from one informant; En-'ne-sen was the native word for the Salinan headquarters.
The Salinan language, spoken until the 1950s is a language isolate. It may be a part of the Hokan language family. Sapir included it in a subfamily of Hokan, along with Chumash and Seri; this classification has found its way into more recent encyclopedias and presentations of language families, but serious supporting evidence has never been presented.
Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. Alfred L. Kroeber put the 1770 population of the Salinan as 3,000. Sherburne F. Cook similarly estimated that there were at least 700 Salinans.