Before European Contact with the New World, nearly a third of all Indians in North America north of Mexico lived in California. Because there are two parallel mountain chains running north and south, desert areas in the south and east, and an ocean on the west, the populations of California were isolated from indigenous groups elsewhere.
The basic living arrangements was the village, outside of which there were small satellite camps where a single family lived. The village was comprised of twenty-five to a hundred people. The creeks, food gathering, and hunting areas were communally owned, though a system of personal property applied to utensils, tools, mortars and metates.

There was a wide variety of cultural groups, with over 300 different languages or dialects spoken in California. The California tribes were self-sufficient and independent of one another.

The Serrrano were a friendly, gentle people of a pleasant disposition. Having lived in relative peace with one another, the people were not experienced fighters and were slow to rise to defend themselves. They were warlike only under great provocation. They fought with the Mohave people but were defeated by them.

The Serrano were divided into two basic subdivisions, or moities. The Tukum or Wildcats and the Wahii'yam, or Coyotes. These designations served as marriage guides. A Wildcat could marry a Coyote but not another Wildcat, and so with the Coyotes. All families traced their descent through the male line.
The leader of the village was called kika and was determined by heredity. He had an assistant called Paha who was in charge of ceremonies. Among the officials was also the chaka', or singer, charged with knowing the myths of creation and the clan songs.