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Impearls: HIC 1.9: Population

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

Population   by A. L. Kroeber

Yurok population can be more accurately determined than the strength of most other Californian groups, so that a detailed analysis seems worth while.

The most valuable source of information is a census made in 1852 by a trader who spent the most of his life at Klamath.  It covers the towns from the mouth of the river to the salmon dam at Kepel.  Only 17 are enumerated, but some of the smaller ones may have been counted as suburbs of the more important settlements.  Thus Wetlkwau was perhaps reckoned as part of Rekwoi, or perhaps overlooked.  The figures are:

Houses Inhabitants Houses Inhabitants
Rekwoi 22 116 Yohter 3 13
Ho'pau 6 72 Sregon 7 66
Wohkel 2 15 Meta 6 39
Sa'aitl 2 34 Nohtsku'm 4 15
Turip 14 94 Murekw 14 105
Serper 4 52 Sa'a 3 13
Wohkero 3 51 Kepel 3 10
Wohtek 4 55 _____ ______
Ko'otep 24 165 141 1,052
Pekwan 20 137

The total of 1,052 comprises 354 men, 381 women, 160 boys, 157 girls.  The 7 per cent deficiency in adult males is about what might be expected as a consequence of feuds.

The house averages per village fluctuate from 3 to 17.  This seems excessive; but there is no reason to doubt the grand average of nearly 7½ souls per dwelling.  The five largest towns yield 617 persons in 94 houses, or somewhat over 6½.

In the stretch of river covered by the 17 towns of the list, Figure 1 1 shows 20 standard settlements and 6 others that were inhabited discontinuously or are otherwise doubtful.  According as the 141 houses and 1,052 souls are attributed respectively to 17, 20, or 26 settlements, the house average per village is 813, 7, and 512, the population 62, 53, or 40.  The most likely averages for settlements of all sizes and kinds would seem to be:

Persons per house, 7½.
Houses per town, 6.
Persons per town, 45.

Outside of the Kepel-Rekwoi stretch, Figure 1 1 designates 21 standard and 7 more doubtful towns.  These allow of calculations of the whole Yurok population being undertaken:

1,052  (= 26 × 40)  + 1,133  (= 28 × 40)  = 2,185.
1,052  (= 20 × 53)  + 1,105  (= 21 × 53)  = 2,155.
1,052  (= 17 × 62)  + 1,300  (= 21 × 62)  = 2,352.

The conclusion is that the aggregate Yurok population can not have been much below and was certainly not above 2,500.

This figure is precisely the estimate arrived at from acquaintance with the settlements and sites of recent years, their house pits, and discussion with the older Indians of the number of inhabited houses they remember from their youth.

A count of the upper Yurok villages, also made about 1852 by an early resident on the river, is less itemized than the preceding, but yields 544 persons in 68 houses from Wahsekw to Otsepor, and an average house population of eight.  The map has only six villages in this reach.

Five hundred and forty-four added to 1,052 makes 1,596.  There is a gap of nearly 10 miles, which the first authority estimates to have had 310 inhabitants.  This seems a high figure, since there were only five settlements, and two of these not admitted as old or permanent by the modern Yurok.  Perhaps Kepel and Wahsekw have been counted twice.  A reduction to 200 still leaves the total for the the River Yurok at 1,800 in 37 settlements.  Seventeen coast villages, exclusive of Rekwoi and Wetlkwau, would have 800 inhabitants at the same ratio.  But as the coast towns make the impression of having been somewhat smaller than those on the river, and not more than one or two were distinctly populous, this figure can be reduced to 600 or 700; which, added to the 1,800 on the river, brings us again to barely 2,500.  This number seems almost certain to be true within not to exceed 100 or 200 at the time of first American contact.

These data, so far as they relate to house and village population, probably hold with little change for all the specifically northwestern groups; that is, the Karok, Hupa, Tolowa, Yurok, and with some reduction for the Chilula.  The populousness per riparian mile fluctuated according to local conditions, as is set forth in connection with the Wiyot; while any computation based on area of land held would be worthless.  Prohibitive caution would also have to be exercised in applying any of these figures to other parts of California.  Not only the topography and natural resources but customs vary enormously.

The Government expedition sent through the Klamath region in 1851 to negotiate with the Indians did not follow the river below Wahsekw, but 32 Yurok villages were mentioned by the Indians as lying between Bluff Creek and the mouth.  This tallies closely with the present map.  At the ratio then estimated of 10 persons to the house and 9 houses per village, the population on the river would have been nearly 3,000; but this figure seeming excessive it was cut in half by the recorder as still liberal.  Recent counts of houses and house pits recollected as inhabited, total over 170 for the Rekwoi-Kepel stretch.

Modern
memories.
     1852
count.
Modern
memories.
     1852
count.
Rekwoi-Wetlkwau 23 + 22 Sregon 6 7
Ho'peu 9 6 Meta 7 6
Wohkel 2 2 Nohtsku'm 4 4
Sa'aitl 5 2 Murekw-Himetl 21 14
Turip 8 + 14 Sa'a-Kepel 14 6
Serper 3 4 _____ _____
Wohkero-Wohtek 13 7 154 + 141
Ko'otep 18 24 Other settlements 19
Pekwan 17 + 20 _____
Yohter 4 3 173 + *

[*Footnote:  Waterman, Yurok Geography, 1920, p. 206, gives a somewhat different distribution of the number of houses in the towns between Rekwoi and Kepel, but an almost identical total of 171 plus a few in small settlements.  For the Yurok as a whole he tabulates 324 houses in 47 recognized towns, besides which there were 16 minor settlements in which there remained only house pits during native memory or for which recollection failed.  The total of 324 multiplied by 7½ yields 2,430 as the Yurok population.  Unoccupied houses in the larger towns would probably more than make up for inhabited but uncounted houses in the smaller settlements.  On page 209 he lists 107 different names borne by 219 different houses.  Of these, 23 names of 111 houses refer to position in the town, 17 names of 24 houses describe the structure, and 6 names of 12 houses have religious reference.]

The Yurok recognize that a village normally contained more named house sites than inhabited houses.  Families died out, consolidated, or moved away.  The pit of their dwelling remained and its name would also survive for a generation or two.  If allowance is made for parts of villages washed out by floods and possibly by mining, or dwellings already abandoned when the American came and totally forgotten 60 years later, the number of house sites on these 30 miles of river may be set at 200 or more in place of 173.  In other words, there were two houses to each three recognized house sites among the Yurok in native times.

A count of the same 17 villages on the lower Klamath in 1895 revealed a total of 151 houses, or 10 more than in 1852.  But instead of 1,052 Indians only 384 were living, and these partly of mixed blood.  There were 141 men, 136 women, 55 boys, and 52 girls, or only about 2½ souls per house — a third of the ratio in native times.

The majority of these 151 dwellings were built in American fashion.  It was customary, by this time, for a family to have two or three houses, or a native and an American house.  The principal change in relative size of villages was between Ko'otep and Wohtek-Wohkero.  The former was overwhelmed with mud in the great floods of 1861-62, and most of the inhabitants moved to the latter site.  In 1852 Ko'otep had 24 of the 31 houses in the group, in 1895 only 6 out of 37.  Turip also suffered from flood and declined from 14 houses to 5 in the interval, while Rekwoi, favored with a trading post like Wohtekw-Wohkero, rose from 22 to 30 in 1895.

On the basis of 382 people in these 17 settlements, the Yurok population in 1895 may be set at 900, or perhaps a little less on account of a more rapid decrease along the coast than on the river.

The Federal census of 1910 reported 668 Yurok.  This figure probably includes substantially all full and half bloods, and part of the quarter breeds.



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