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a group of linguistically related North American Indian tribes that include the Shasta, Achomawi, Karok, Pomo, and Yuma (see). In the early 17th century the Hokan inhabited the periphery of modern California. It has been suggested that they were the descendants of the area’s most ancient inhabitants, who had been supplanted by Indians of other language groups. All the Hokan were at the early tribal stage, engaging primarily in the gathering of wild grasses, roots, and acorns. Fishing and hunting were secondary occupations.
Many Hokan tribes were exterminated or died out as a result of the colonization of California, first by the Spanish and later by the USA; the attrition was particularly heavy during the California gold rush of 1849–51. According to the 1970 census, there are approximately 6,000 Hokan. The Hokan live in rural areas together with other Indians and in the cities of California; they subsist primarily by working as hired laborers.