Thriving in a Challenging Environment

Native American Nations

“Everything was water except a very small piece of ground…”
(Beginning of a Yokut’s creation story)
Rough and Ready Island is in the traditional territory of the Yokuts people and may also have been used or settled by Plains Miwok and Wintun peoples. Yokuts communities were organized into more than 40 Tribes who were united by a common language. They lived throughout the San Joaquin Valley  from the river’s mouth to Tehachapi Pass and in the surrounding foothills, and relied on the region’s rich fishing and hunting resources. Tribes met the challenge of a constantly shifting Delta environment by developing deep expertise in navigation and canoe-making, basketry, fishing, storytelling, and healing. Tribes also faced tragedy after Euroamerican contact, including bounties on killing Native Americans. Nonetheless, Yokuts communities have endured and continue to practice their traditional culture.


  • Indian Myths of South Central California, by A.L. Kroeber, 1907 (University of California Berkeley Press.).
  • California Prehistory: Colonization, Culture, and Complexity, edited by T.L. Jones and K.A. Klar, 2007. (Alta Mira Press).
  • Handbook of the Indians of California, by A.L. Kroeber, 1925 (Dover Publications). 
  • Short History of California Indians by Raymond Jeff, 2021 

Audio File of Tache Yokuts Song
Source: Tulare County Library

Yokut Tribe’s Page

Yokut Indian women basket maker and two children in front of a shake house, circa 1900.
Source: University of Southern California. Libraries and the California Historical Society, C.C. Pierce Photography Collection, CHS-3797.

Euroamerican Exploration

“The river San Joaquin being narrow and crooked…”
(1870s visitor to Stockton)

Drawn by the Delta’s plenty, the Spanish established missions and pueblos in the late 1500s. French-speaking trappers from the Hudson’s Bay Company also settled in the area that would become Stockton in the early 1800s, founding what is still known as French Camp. The new Mexican government took control of California in 1822 and began to distribute lands to private owners. The Delta at the time was wild and lawless, and “border ruffians escaping from San Francisco to the mining camps made murder, robbery, and banditry a common occurrence.” 


Euroamerican Exploration

Stockton with houses, streets, Native canoes
View of El Dorado Street and Levee Street in Stockton in the 1850s.
Source: Library of Congress, HABS CAL,39-STOCK,29—2.

Rough and Ready Biographies

Charles Weber

“He saw with piercing eye obscure signs that California would eventually become one of the United States… and he therefore knew which way to cast his anchor.”
(An Illustrated History of San Joaquin County, California, 1890, Pages 441-444 (Lewis Publishing Company))

He was a German immigrant in 1836, a soldier with Sam Houston in Texas, a California gold prospector, a naturalized Mexican citizen, a store owner, and a real estate speculator: Captain Charles Weber is also widely recognized as the founder of Stockton. He passed through the area on his way to Gold Rush territory in 1842, and after establishing a profitable mining company, he returned and established a store in 1847. His success relied partly on his partnership with local Yokuts tribal members. The settlement was known as Sloughtown, Mudburg, or Tuleburg (evidence of the wet surroundings) but Weber renamed it after Commodore Robert F. Stockton in an attempt to win favor for the new town among the Washington DC elite. Weber died in 1881, having realized his vision of making Stockton into a prosperous, if rough-around-the-edges, community.


Charles Weber house built 1847
Captain Charles M. Weber’s house in Stockton.
Source: Library of Congress, HABS CA-1641

Charles Weber’s Portrait
Charles Weber in 1890 in Stockton.

Source: University of California Berkeley, Bancroft Library, California Faces Collection.