Wiyot - Orientation



Identification. The Wiyot are an American Indian group located in northern California. "Wíyat" is the name for Eel River delta, south of Humboldt Bay. Other synonyms listed above are variants of "Wiyot," of the name of the language itself, or of one of the three main tribal regional subdivisions.

Location. Centered around Humboldt Bay, the Wiyot occupied a strip of northern California coast about fifty-one miles long by fifteen miles wide between 40° and 41° N and 124° and 125° W. Wiyot territory was almost entirely in the moist redwood forest belt extending from the coast ranges to the coast itself. Fog and clouds are common throughout the year with the annual rainfall varying from thirty to one hundred inches.

Demography. The most reliable estimate for the aboriginal population is about 3,300. The population decreased markedly in the nineteenth century largely because they held land deemed highly valuable by White settlers. The process is exemplified by the well-documented massacre of Indians concentrated on Gunther Island in Humboldt Bay in 1860. The most recent population estimate (ca. 1968) shows about 190 persons of certainly mixed Wiyot ancestry living on small Reservations reported to have been terminated by the federal government in 1958.

Linguistic Affiliation. Along with its northern neighbor, Yurok, Wiyot is classified in the Algonkian language family. The two languages are only distantly related, suggesting a long presence in the region with a degree of isolation from each other.


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