Tribelet is considered pejorative to the Californian natives. Per Leventhal, (1994:299-300), "this term, almost universally accepted by anthropologists, historians, educators, and cultural resource management (CRM) archaeologists, is considered demeaning by Ohlone, Esselen and other California Indian people. Tribelet has been employed by many influential anthropologists and authors who have followed Kroeber (Heizier 1974, 1978; Levy 1978, Margolin 1978, Milliken 1983, 1990) maintaining an impression of extremely small and provincial cultures that lacked forms of large-scale organization."
Milliken (1995:13n) has suggested the word is not used outside of California for comparable people groups and may fall out of favor in academic circles: "Most California anthropologists refer to the contact-period political groups of west Central Coast California as 'tribelets', following Kroeber (1932). Yet 'tribelet' has not taken hold as a term to describe similar multifamily landholding groups in other hunter-gathering and agricultural societies."
Coined by anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber to refer to many groups of Native Americans in Central California. The word stems from the word tribe, and suffix -let. It has been in use since at least 1925. Kroeber maintained he had identified over 500 tribelets in California. The term has been employed by many anthropologists since to denote California groups of native people.