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Impearls: HIC 1.6: Organization of towns

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Organization of towns   by A. L. Kroeber

Fig. 2: Yurok town of Weitspus and associated settlements.

Figure 2 – Yurok town of Weitspus and associated settlements. 2
 

Yurok houses, or their sites, had names descriptive of their position, topography, size, frontage, or ceremonial function.  Many of these designations reappear in village after village.  The names of abandoned houses were remembered for at least a lifetime, perhaps nearly as long as the pit remained visible.  If a family grew and a son or married-in son-in-law erected a new dwelling adjacent to the old, the original name applied to both houses.  Sweat houses were usually but not always called by the same name as the house to whose master they belonged, and seem normally to have been built close by.

The habit of naming house sites appears to have been restricted to northwestern California.  It is but one instance of many of the intensive localization of life in this region, of its deep rooting in the soil.  The origin of the custom is scarcely discernible, but the Yurok made frequent use of it to designate persons without naming them.  A person referred to as “the old man of Trail Descends” would be absolutely defined to his village mates, and even in distant villages might be better known by that description than by his personal appellation.

The following are the houses of Weitspus, as shown in Figure 2.

houses

1. (With 2). 13. Otsepor (“steep”)
2. Wonitl or Wonoyertl (“up”). 14. Kome'r (“last”)
3. (With 4). 15. Ple'l (“large”)
4. Ra'ak (“in the creek”). 16. (With 17).
5. Sohtsu (“on top”). 17. Nikerwerk (“close to dance”).
6. Ketsketl. 18. Erkigeri (“tie hair” for dance).
7. 19. Wogwu (“in middle”).
8. 20. Opyuweg (“dance”).
9. Oslokw (“trail descends”). 21. Ta'amo (“elderberries”).
10. (With 11). 22. Higwop (“in the water”).
11. Tsekwetl (“flat”). 23. Petsku (“upstream”).
12.

sweat houses
(Named after houses which they adjoin and to which they belong.)

A with 2. D with 11.
B with 6. E with 19.
C with 9. F with 22.

These are the houses of Rekwoi: Oregok (“where rolls down,” a game), Oslokw, Layekw (“trail”) or Erkigerl (where they prepared for dancing), Ple'l (“large,” in which the Jumping dance was begun), Hokome'r (“end”), Knau, Ma'a, Te'wira, Ma'a-wono (“up-hill from Ma'a”), Sepora (“open place, flat”), Perkweri (“behind the door”), Kekomeroi (“end, last”), Kiwogi (“in middle”), Ernerkw (“narrow”), Kinekau (“on the brink”), Tewolek-repau (“facing the ocean”), Howeyiro'i, Olige'l Ma'a-hito (“this side of Ma'a”), Nekerai.  Of these, Ketsketl, Oslokw, Layekw, Knau, Ma'a, Te'wira, Sepora, Kiwogi and Howiyero'i had sweat houses at one time or another; besides which there were sweat houses known as Tetl, Tsa'at'orka'i, and Ki'mo'le'n (“ugly, old”), the last being the sweat house used in the Jumping dance.

Pekwan contained Ereu, Tekor, Ketsketl, Opyuweg (“dance,” in which the Jumping dance was made), an unnamed house adjacent to the last and probably belonging to the same family, Etlkero, Wogi, Erkigeri-tserwo (in which the dance was prepared for), Hiwon (“uphill”), Lekusa (“sweat house exit”), Tetl wo'lometl (“the tetl live in it,” they being the men who during the Jumping dance frequent the sacred sweat house), Hetlkak, Tso'oleu (“down hill”), Olohkwetolp, Ta'amo (“elderberries”), Hitsao, Ska'awelotl (“buckeye hangs”).  The sweat houses were Ereu, Ketsketl, Wogi, Lekusa, Hesier, and Opegoiole, the last used in the Jumping dance.  The cemetery filled the center of the village, from Ketsketl to Lekusa, and between Wogi and Erkigeri on the upper side and Ktlkero and Hitsao on the other.  [Footnote:  Waterman, Yurok Geography, 1920 (see Bibliography), lists the houses of Rekwoi and Pekwan with slight variations from the above, adds town pl[o]ts, and gives detailed maps of Yurok settlements and habitat generally.]



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