Yurok - Orientation



Identification. The name "Yu-rok" is said to be derived from the language of their neighbors, the Karok, who referred to these people as "Yuruk," meaning "downriver." Later ethnologists referred to Yurok language as Weitspekan. It appears that the Yurok had no name for themselves, but rather used the names of their towns when matters of affiliation were concerned.

Location. The ancestral home of the Yurok was on the northwest California Pacific coast, on the lower forty-five miles of the Klamath River. The remaining contemporary Yurok share the Hoopa Valley reservations in Humboldt and Klamath counties on this same part of the California coast with the Hupa. Persons of Yurok ancestry live throughout California, as well as in their ancestral territory.

Demography. As of 1970, it was reported that full-blood Yuroks were very few, though persons of direct ancestry numbered between three thousand and forty-five hundred. This is larger, it appears, than native, pre-1850 population figures, placed at about fifteen hundred; Kroeber felt that it had Certainly not been any higher than twenty-five hundred.

Linguistic Affiliation. Early twentieth-century linguists classified Yurok as an Algonkian language, but some scholars claim this affiliation cannot be confirmed. The Yuroks, as late as the 1970s, asserted that there were minor variations in dialect between men and women, between families (especially rich versus poor), and among Yurok villages. In 1917, when Yurok was still commonly spoken, Kroeber recognized three separate regionally specific dialects within Yurok territory.


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