Remarkably similar to the moko of the women of New Zealand, chin tattooing was widely practiced among women in virtually all parts of Native California (as well as the Inuits in the Arctic region and the Ainu of Japan).
It really doesn’t take much to make a tattoo, you can even poke yourself with a lead pencil and give yourself a permanent mark. In Native California, there are some variations on the standard theme.
Among the Maidu, east of Sacramento, an obsidian splinter was used to scored the skin and a charcoal made from burned wild nutmeg was rubbed in.
Among the Juaneno, near modern day San Diego, girls were tattooed as part of their adolescent training shortly before puberty; agave charcoal was rubbed into punctures made with a cactus spine.
Among the Shasta, we know that an old woman was typically the tattooist.
Among the Yurok of Northern California there was a saying that an untattooed woman looked like a man when she grows old.
But among the Mohave, where both men and women were tattooed, the saying was that an untattooed person goes into a rat’s hole at death instead of the proper place for spirits.
And just one more specific example from California:
On the left, in a photo taken in 1901, Mr. McCann, a Hupa man from Northern California, is shown measuring dentalium shell money against tattoo marks on his forearm. That’s right–a tattoo being used as a ruler.