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Historical Fresno River Farm Reservation

Native American Heritage Site
Photograph (use approved with attribution): Mono Home (The North American Indian; v.15) Northwestern University Library, Edward S. Curtis\' \'The North American Indian\': the Photographic Images, 2001. – Edward S. Curtis

The North Fork Rancheria of Mono Indians Tribe is comprised primarily of Northfork Mono, a label given them by an ethnographer in the 1910s to describe people then living along and north of the San Joaquin River. By the early 20th Century, non-Native acquisition of lands in the San Joaquin Valley, both on the flat plain and the surrounding foothills, had resulted in Tribal citizens concentrating around the town of North Fork near the Sierra National Forest. This is how the Tribe became know as the North Fork Band or North Fork Mono. However, ancestors of the Tribe also include members of Yokut and Miwok linguisitic groups. Further, the town of North Fork is only one place among many of significance to the Tribe, as their use and occupancy of lands in the San Joaquin Valley, and around the City of Madera in particular, is extensive.

Within the first years of its existence, the Fresno River Reservation, created as a result of the 1851 treaties, operated as a series of small “Indian farms”, including the Fresno River Farm, which was located in the immediate vicinity of the present-day City of Madera and which soon became the headquarters for the entire reservation.

Many Northfork Mono and other local tribes consequently relinquished their traditional lands and nomadic ways and moved to the Fresno River Farm/Reservation. Eventually, the Mono outnumbered those from any other tribal designation on the reservation, where they sought protection and assistance and participated in farming. The new reservation near the current City of Madera was plagued from the start. These ‘first farmers of the San Joaquin Valley’ faced multiple obstacles to successful cultivation, including harsh farming conditions, neglectful and corrupt administrators, and encroaching settlers who impinged upon the official reservation lands. To survive, they supplemented meager reservation yields with traditional subsistence activities in the familiar environs of the surrounding foothills and rivers. By 1860, after barely a decade, the Federal Government abandoned the reservation and farms and ancestors of the Tribe, who a decade earlier had rights to millions of acres, were now landless.

Time Period Represented




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