|Leona Seidner Wilkinson,
Wiyot weaver and teacher,
began this basket (See
Wiyot People story)
Blue Lake Rancheria
NOTE: This box was prepared using info from the U.S. Economic Development Administration report (1996). This has a lot about Blue Lake, a mention of Rohnerville with their phone/FAX, and how to get there, and Table Bluff is shown on th CA rezmap as right near Rohnerville, but there is no report on its economic development opportunities, plans, etc. So the box info (other than Cheryl's email) isd just put in here as an example of what should be the Table Bluff info, if I had any.
Blue Lake Rancheria is a federally recognized Indian reservation shared by Wiyot, and a few Yurok and Hupa people. Located in northern California, 12 miles north of Eureka and 5 miles east of Arcata, it currently has only 31 acres. During the period (1959-83) when it was terminated, the BIA deeded 2 parcels of its land to the non-Indian town of Blue Lake which is not yet recovered. Other separate parcels of Wiyot land are at Rohnerville (Bear River Band -- 60 acres, federally recognized status) and Table Bluff. Expansion of the land base at Blue Lake, both by return of the deeded-over parcels and by further land acquisitions, is a top tribal priority, since there is insufficient land for members.
Blue Lake Rancheria is governed by a General Council, -- all resident tribal members over 18 -- with an elected 5-member Business Council. A Charter Development Corporation (formed in 1988) manages the tribe's economic activities. The tribe operates under an IRA constitution.
Blue Lake Business Council P.O. Box 428 Blue Lake, CA, 95525 (707) 668-5101 FAX: 668-4272Above info should be given for Table Bluff
email Cheryl Seidner, Wiyot Tribal Chairperson:
Map shows pre-contact California tribal territories, north of San Francisco Bay. Wiyot reservation lands -- Blue Lake, Table Bluff and Rohnerville -- are still located within their traditional homeland, shown in light yellow, near the Oregon border.
Wiyot and Yurok just north of them in present-day Humboldt County, are the farthest-southwest people whose language has Algonquian roots -- like that of the large,Great Lakes and northern Plains Ojibwe people. Their traditional homeland ranged from Mad River through Humboldt Bay (including the present cities of Eureka and Arcata) to the lower Eel river basin. Inland, their territory was heavily forested in ancient redwood. Their stretch of shoreland was mostly sandy, dunes and tidal marsh, not rocky cliffs, such as begin a bit further south.
Duluwat Island -- it is now called "Indian Island" -- just offshore of what is now the city of Eureka in Humboldt Bay, was a major ceremonial center for some 20 small Wiyot communities, located on streams or shoreland bays, They ate mostly clams and acorns and made long carved log canoes. Healers and ceremonial leaders were mostly women, who got their powers on mountain tops at night.
The Wiyot homeland starts at Little River and continues southward down the coast to Bear River, then inland to the first set of mountains. (Actual name of Range? By the map I make it South Fork Mountains, seems too far East.) Towns that are within the traditional Wiyot territory include McKinleyville, Blue Lake, Arcata, Eureka, Kneeland, Loleta, Fortuna, Ferndale, and Rohnerville. Rivers within this territory include Mad River (Batwat), Elk River, Eel River and the Van Duzen River. (PG Note: Could reproduce the detail map from Kroeber, from which the description here was also drawn.)
The tribe had been comparatively little affected by the Spanish, whose string of mission-prison camps extended only as far north as San Francisco Bay. The Russian fur traders, whose 18th-century invasion in search of the sea otter devastated the Pomo, were unintersted in their sandy shorelands, not a sea-otter habitat. Destruction came to them mainly with the invasion of Americans following their victory in the Mexican war. Miners, farmers, ranchers poured into California, and many settled at what's now Eureka.
Indian Island was and is the center of Wiyot world. On the island a ceremonial dance was held to start the new year. The ceremony was called the World Renewal ceremony. All people were welcomed, no one was turned away. The ceremony lasted seven to ten days. It was held at the village site of Tutulwat on the northern part of the island. Traditionally the men would leave the island and return the next day with the day's supplies. The elders, women and children were left to rest on the island along with a few men.
On February 25, 1860, the Wiyot experienced a tragic massacre which not only devastated their numbers, but has remained a pervasive part of their cultural heritage and identity. World Renewal ceremonies were being held at the village of Tutulwat, on "Indian Island" about a mile and a half offshore from Eureka in Humboldt Bay. The leader of the Humboldt Bay Wiyots was Captain Jim. He organized and led the ceremony to start a new year.
On February 26, 1860, a group of Eureka men came stealthily to the island in the early morning after the ceremony was completed for the evening. They were armed with hatchets, clubs and knives. They left their guns behind so the noise of the slaughter would be only screams -- which don't carry far -- rather than gunshots. This was not the only massacre that took place that night. Two other village sites were raided, on the Eel River and on the South Spit. More than one hundred people were slain that night. A child, Jerry James (Captain Jim's son), survived. This is a family photo, taken when Jerry James, the massacre survivor, was a young man. (See Wiyot People page for interview with Irving James, Jerry's son.) The massacre is thus not ancient history to the Wiyot, but is recalled in family stories from grandparents' days -- though most of the grandparents actually died there.
Eureka newspapers of the time exulted at the night massacres conducted by the "good citizens of the area". Good haul of Diggers and Tribe Exterminated! were 2 headlines from the Humboldt Times. Those who thought diffrently about it were shut up by force. Newspaper publisher and short story writer Bret Harte called it "cowardly butchery of sleeping women and children" -- then had to flee ahead of a lynch mob that smashed his printing presses.
Though this event doesn't make it into general Native histories, in recent Native literature, Cherokee writer Thomas King has made this massacre -- seen through modern Indian eyes -- a symbol of U.S. establishment reprocessing of history as a product for their own benefit. A biting tale, whose surface humor points up the underlying horrors, "Joe the Painter and the Deer Island Massacre" in One Good Story, That One, 1993 HarperCollins. The Indian narrator opens by saying no one in the (all white) California town likes Joe, but he does. Joe -- who is prsentd as pompous and insensitive to an extrme -- writes a history pageant to compete for town fathers' grant sponsorship in a tourist show for the town's centennial celebration. "A pageant about how the town was founded," Joe says. He prvails on th narrator to find 30 Indians to play parts in it.
The narrator recruits his Indian family from elswhere to play all the parts. The town sponsors wigs and costumes for them, and they camp at the modern tourist marina on the island. They also play white parts -- using packets of film special effects blood -- as they massacre the sleeping Indians. "There's their camp, men. Spread out and let none escape. It's God's work. Who goes with me to bring the light of civilization to this dark land?" In a minute of screams and blood, the Indians are all dead. "When the clapping started, we were all supposed to get up and take a bow. But it didn't start. Everyone just sat there. The mayor was looking red and snapped around to whisper something to his wife." The town fathers, embarassed by this recap of reality, pick a dull pageant where some businessmen re-enact founding the first city council. The story ends: "Everyone in town knew Joe. And all the people who knew Joe as well as I knew Joe didn't like him. Except me. I like Joe." The real history:
Sleeping men, women and children were butchered by Eureka men, wielding axes, knives, and bludgeons, to make their slaughter silent,, in the early morning hours, as Wiyot ceremony particpants lay asleep.
The Wiyot people were decimated. They were corralled at Fort Humboldt. This was another California case of the Army protecting Indians from their own violent and barbaric citizens. Survivors were herded mostly to Round Valley, establishd as an Indian concentration camp ("reservation") within California.They kept escaping and returning to their homeland.
B 1850, there were about 2000 Wiyot and Karok people living within this area. After 1860 there was an estimated 200 people left. By 1910 there were less than 100 full blood Wiyot people living within Wiyot territory. This rapid decline in population was due to disease, slavery, target practice, protection, being herded from place to place (survivors' descendants describe this as "death marches") , and massacres.
1996 MEMORIAL VIGIL
Left to right: Leona Seidner Wilkinson, Marian L. Seidner, Loretta Brown, Cheryl A. Seidner Feb 24, 1996
The Indian Island Candlelight Vigil is a memorial for the hundreds who were killed at the Indian Island Massacre on February 26, 1860. The memorial is also intendd as a healing cermony, to help heal the rift in the society locally and around the country. The first vigil was held on the last Saturday of February in 1992. A vigil has been held each year since. Each year, the number of participants has grown. The first year there were 75. In 1996, more than 300 participated. It is the intention of the Wiyot to hold the vigil on Indian Island, which is currently inaccessible. [PG Note: All I can find out about that is that the city of Eurka is planning dredging to create a deep-watr port there.]
The Vigil may be the first memorial for the lives lost where the Wiyot, other Indian nations, and non-Indian community have come together. This process helps heal the whole community. A fire is lit. A Wiyot elder lights their candle from the fire and from that candle all candles are lighted. A moment of silence is observed, a prayer is given remembering all who have gone before us, songs are sung, poems are read, and one leaves with a feeling of accomplishment.
Food & Plants
Wiyot site hosted by Costanoan-Ohlone Indian Canyon Resource
Page design: Paula Giese--
Text and graphics copyright 1996, Wiyot Blue Lake Tribal Business Council
Last Updated: Wednesday, November 13, 1996 - 4:58:43 AM