Yurok Indian - IntroductionThe Native American tribe who has called Northern California home for centuries are called the Yurok Indians. When translated, the name means "downriver" in their native Yurok language. In 1849, Northern California quickly became a place where gold seekers rushed to find their fortunes. When non-Indians began invading their land, it devastated the Yurok population. Two main reasons why they lost what amounts to three-fourths of their population are because of disease from outsiders and brutal attacks on their tribe. Interesting information about the Yurok Indians has been broken down into a list of facts below.
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Yurok Tribe Historical Facts
- A successful trapping expedition led by Jedediah Smith in 1828 took him right through Yurok villages and was the catalyst for an influx of settlers and trappers to the immediate area.
- The Red Cap Indians were a group made up of several local tribes who were unhappy about the non-Indian settlements. In 1855 they revolted against the settlers and were successful in stopping new settlements for a short period of time. Eventually the U.S. government stepped in and regained control of the area.
- Historically the villages, which numbered over fifty, were led by the wealthiest man in the tribe.
Yurok Tribe Interesting Facts
- With close to 5,000 members, the Yurok tribe is the largest tribe living in California. Most live on a large reservation the size of some cities which is governed by their people.
- Most Yurok speak English today. With so few children learning the native Yurok language it has become an endangered language, like many other Native American languages.
- Traditional ceremonies involving dance were plentiful among the Yurok. They held a Boat Dance, Deerskin Dance, Kick Dance, Flower Dance, Doctor Dance, Jump Dance, and Brush Dance. Some dances, in which only the men could dance, lasted as long as ten days.
- The art that the Yurok are most associated with are woodcarving and basket weaving. They made storage baskets, work baskets and the women commonly wore basket hats.
- Yurok men are known for being talented canoe makers, which was a very important mode of transportation for them. It facilitated trading, hunting and fishing as they used them to travel back and forth down the Klamath River and the California coast.
- Like the Wappo men, the Yurok men often wore no clothes at all, with the exception of an occasional kilt. Decorated grass skirts were standard attire for the women. In cooler months, ponchos were worn by both men and women for added warmth.
- The Yurok men were fishermen. They caught fish, such as salmon in the spring and fall which was dried in the sun and saved for future use. They also caught mollusks and sometimes seas lions in addition to hunting both small and large game like deer and elk. Women and children collected mainly berries, nuts and acorns to supplement their diets.
- Redwood was not only used for canoes, but for shelter as well. Homes were built from split redwood planks. They were rectangular structures with a chimney and a pitched roof and were large enough to house an extended family.