California’s state history dates back to more than 11,000 years ago when people first started living there. Many Native Americans lived across the wide expanse of the state. The Tipai-Ipai people lived in Southern California and northern Baja California. Some of these natives lived in caves while others lived in dome-shaped homes made from poles covered with palm leaves. They ate whatever they could catch or gather in the forest including cactus, acorns, and berries. Another group of Native Americans who inhabited Southern California were the Cahuilla who lived in the San Bernardino Mountains. They lived in shelters made of brush or in rectangular thatched houses. They gathered food from the forest like the Tipai-Ipai, but they also ate squash, beans, and caught fish in the lakes and streams. The Karok natives lived in the northwestern part of the state near the Klamath River. Their houses were made of plants and built over pits.
The state was named by Spanish explorers who named it after California, a mythical island paradise in a 16th century book called Sergas de Esplandian. Juan Rodriquez Cabrillo explored California’s San Diego Bay in 1542. Thirty-seven years later, in 1579, Francis Drake claimed California for England. The Spanish continued to colonize the state, and many missions were established. The first mission was established by Junipero Serra in San Diego in 1769. Later, in 1821, California became part of Mexico. However, in 1841, the first group of U.S. settlers reached California and settled there. With the discovery of gold at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, the population of California boomed. On September 9, 1850, it became the thirty-first state to join the Union.