rancheria ränchā´rēä [key], type of communal settlement formerly characteristic of the Yaqui Indians of Sonora, Mexico, and of various small Native American groups of the SW United States, especially in California. These clusters of dwellings were less permanent than the pueblos (see Pueblo) but more so than the camps of the migratory Native Americans. Rancherias were small sedentary farming villages located on the flood plain; their location was frequently shifted due to flooding and changes in the river course. Houses were usually flat-roofed structures with woven cane or wattle and daub walls. House clusters shared ramadas, or unwalled, roofed patios that provided a ventilated and shaded space for food preparation, lounging, and sleeping.

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