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Wiyot Tribe


The Wiyot Tribe has lived on the shores of Humboldt Bay (known to them as Wigi) and surrounding areas for thousands of years. Their population is estimated to have been between 1,000 and 3,000 at the time of European-American settlement. The center of the Wiyot universe was Indian Island, the place of their creation, which continues to be the center of their culture. Wiyots subsisted on a variety of plant and animal resources including mollusks, sea lions, stranded whales, deer and elk, and the rich berry harvest of the coastal forests. The anadromous fish runs of the Mad and Eel Rivers were an important source of salmon that were smoked and stored to last through winter. Village sites were primarily located on the bay, sloughs, and rivers, but the tribe used the dunes extensively for implement-making sites, gathering, and surf-fishing. 
 
European-American contact at the time of the California Gold Rush changed the character of northwestern California forever, leading to the decimation and displacement of the Wiyot in only 15 years. From 1850 to 1865, Wiyot territory became the center for the largest concentration of people in California north of San Francisco. Diseases and violence, culminating in the 1860 Indian Island massacre, decimated the Wiyots, with the few survivors driven to distant reservations or marginal lands in the Humboldt Bay region. 
 
Today, there are over 450 members of the Wiyot Tribe, approximately 25 percent of whom live at the Table Bluff Reservation overlooking Humboldt Bay. They continue to work towards the perpetuation of their culture, and in 2004 had 40 acres of Indian Island restored to them by the City of Eureka.
Last Updated: Mar 06, 2013
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