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Cultural History and Resources

CulturalHistory 512

Archaeological research in northwest California shows a record of Native American occupation spanning at least 8,000 years that is subdivided into three time periods marked by different adaptive patterns, environmental regimes, and geographical distributions.
 
The Borax Lake Pattern is the oldest period dating from approximately 6000 B.C. to 800 B.C. The Borax Pattern involved generalized hunting and gathering by small, highly mobile family groups who moved among a series of temporary camps.
 
The Willits Pattern dating from approximately 800 B.C. to 900 A.D. sees the establishment of riverine villages near productive fisheries and acorn crops. Two common site types include “village sites,” located near interior rivers and “special purpose sites” located in a variety of interior settings. The Willits Pattern is marked by a greater diversity of projectile point forms and a greater reliance on use of mortars and pestles over milling slabs and handstones. 
 
The Gunther Pattern dates from about A.D. 900 to EuroAmerican settlement in 1850s. Settlement focused on the coast; particularly bays, estuaries and sloughs. The Gunther Pattern is characterized by a well-developed woodworking technology, riverine fishing specialization, and distinctive artifact types such as large obsidian ceremonial blades, antler spoons, steatite pipes and bowls, bone and antler harpoon points, and small Gunther Barbed stone projectile points. Archaeological investigations demonstrate that most prehistoric sites found along Humboldt Bay NWR Complex correspond to the Gunther Pattern. Archaeologically, Gunther Pattern occupation sites are commonly marked by dark-stained midden soils containing shellfish and other dietary remains, firecracked rock and cooking stones, chert toolmaking debris, a variety of flaked and groundstone tools and occasionally, preserved housepit depressions. Cemeteries are often associated with major villages. 
 
Archaeologists, historians and the Wiyot people have identified and recorded hundreds of prehistoric and historic archaeological sites, ethnographic Wiyot places, historic buildings and structures, and plant and animal resources important to on-going Wiyot identity and heritage in the Humboldt Bay region. In 1913, Llewellyn Loud conducted the first formal archaeological and ethnographic fieldwork in the Humboldt Bay area. His interviews of early EuroAmerican settlers and Wiyot people formed the basis for a detailed presentation of Wiyot archaeology, settlement, and culture . Loud described and mapped 115 archaeological sites, plus 57 “modern village and camp sites,” for a total of 172 Wiyot sites in the Humboldt Bay area . Since then there have been dozens of other archaeological investigations in the region. 
 
There are approximately 45 formally recorded cultural resource sites on the Humboldt Bay NWR. An exact count is impossible to ascertain at this time because many of the recorded sites have not been field checked since the creation of the refuge in 1985 so their location with respect to the boundary of the refuge is not well understood. Furthermore, only a small fraction of the over 3,000-acre refuge has been specifically inspected for cultural resources. The cultural resource surveys that have been conducted on refuge land have been in response to specific refuge development and habitat restoration projects. The Service’s Region 1 archaeologists suspect that the 45 sites represent a small fraction of the total number of cultural sites that would be documented if the refuge was subjected to a comprehensive archaeological and ethnographic inventory. 
 
Wiyot towns, villages, fishing camps and resource collecting zones compose the majority of the formally recorded archaeological sites in and adjacent to the Humboldt Bay NWR. Among these some important locations deserve mention including the village of Mole’l on Mad River Slough, Wiyot villages and surf fishing camps on South Spit and among the Lanphere and Ma-le’l dunes coastal dunes, the historic and modern settlements near Indianola, Table Bluff, Fields Landing, and Tuluwat and EtpidoL wotperoL on Indian (Gunther) Island.
 
Indian (Gunther) Island, which is located within the Humboldt Bay NWR boundary but is not owned or actively managed by the FWS, is one of the most important places of the Wiyot. Contemporary Wiyot people identify Indian Island as the traditional center of the Wiyot world. Located in the middle of Humboldt Bay, Indian Island hosts two large archaeological village sites (Tuluwat and EtpidoL wotperoL), provides access to a diverse array of plant and animal resources, supports a traditionally significant bird rookery, is the location of several important Wiyot myths and stories, contains a dance and ceremonial site for the Wiyot world renewal ceremony, and was targeted during the infamous Wiyot massacre by EuroAmerican settlers in 1860 .
 
Tuluwat  on Indian Island contains the remains of a large Wiyot village. It was continuously occupied from at least A.D. 900 to 1860. Loud’s 1913 field investigation there contributed to establishing the cultural chronology for North Coastal California (i.e., Gunther Pattern), archaeological deposits include the remains of houses, cooking features and dumps, fishing gear and facilities, over 350 graves, and thousands of artifacts . The account of the February 25, 1860 massacre at Tuluwat during the World Renewal Ceremony is well known. The Tuluwat site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and designated a National Historic Landmark by the Department of the Interior.
 
EtpidoL wotperoL  contains an extensive shell midden associated with a large precontact and historic Wiyot village. The site figures prominently in Wiyot mythology, had a level flat used for dancing, and its geographic position at the center of the island makes this site highly significant . Among the mythological events at EtpidoL wotperoL is the story of a “medicine-man …who was the first man of one of the nations,” and who sought power from the pelicans flying overhead and obtained strong fishing luck. This attracted many people to live at EtpidoL wotperL. The historic period at the site includes the archaeological remains of the house and agricultural operation of Freidrick Robert Gunther, a German immigrant who purchased the property in 1860 from Captain John T. Moore, the first American to claim Indian Island in 1858. EtpidoL wotperoL is eligible to the National Register of Historic Places. Many other cultural sites in and near the refuge are eligible National Register of Historic Places for their potential to yield information important to Wiyot archaeology and for their association with events and persons important in Wiyot culture and history. In addition, many Wiyot sites contain unmarked burials and other culturally sensitive materials that are very important to contemporary Wiyots. It is clear that the Humboldt Bay NWR contains many cultural places that are important archaeologically, historically, and as traditional cultural places important to the contemporary Wiyot.
 
 
Last Updated: Mar 06, 2013
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