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Impearls: HIC 6.2.1: The Wiyot: Habitat and affiliations

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

The Wiyot:  Habitat and affiliations   by A. L. Kroeber

Fig. 9: Wiyot and Yurok in relation to the Algonkin family.
 

The Wiyot, a small body of shore-dwelling people, join with the adjacent Yurok to constitute the Algonkins of California.  A certain resemblance between the two languages was noted on first acquaintance, and their ultimate affinity suspected.  Fuller data revealed a great difference.  When a beginning of analysis was finally possible, the structure of the two idioms was seen to be very similar; after which comparison showed a certain number of common stems.  They were then united as the single Ritwan stock; but renewed examination established this as but a member and distant outpost on the Pacific of the great Algonquian family of central and eastern North America (Fig. 9). 9

Wiyot territory fell into three natural divisions: lower Mad River, Humboldt Bay, and lower Eel River.  The natives had a name for each district: Batawat, Wiki, and Wiyot.  The people of each region were called by names formed from these words by the suffixion of the element -daredalil.  Wiyot, while thus properly only the name of a district, was used for the entire stock by most of the neighboring groups: the Yurok say Weyet or Weyot, the Karok Waiyat.  The Athabascan Sinkyone, up Eel River, are more correct in restricting the term to the country, and call the inhabitants Dilwishne, which they explain as an onomatopoetic word descriptive of the strange sound of Wiyot speech.  As the stock has no name for itself as a body, the designation Wiyot is perhaps as appropriate as can be found.  Wishosk, which for a time was in vogue in the books, is a misapplication of the Wiyot denotation of their Athabascan neighbors: Wishashk.  Their own language the Wiyot call Sulatelak.  The ending of this word is also found in Wishi-lak, Athabascan language.

The Mad River Wiyot associated considerably with the Coast Yurok and were tolerably acquainted with their language.  This fact has led to conflicting statements as to the northern boundary of Wiyot holdings.  As nearly as can be ascertained, this lay just south of Little River, at whose mouth stood the Yurok town of Metskwo.  The upper part of Little River was Chilula hunting ground.  On Mad River, Blue Lake, near the forks, was still Wiyot.  The main stream from here up was Whilkut, that is, Athabascan.  The North Fork was without villages and is in doubt.  The Wiyot owned at least the lower portion; and on Map 10 the whole of its drainage has been assigned to them.  From Mad River south to Eel River Wiyot territory extended to the first range inland.  Jacoby, Freshwater, and Salmon Creeks, Elk River, and Boynton Prairie were thus Wiyot; Kneeland Prairie and Lawrence Creek, Whilkut and Nongatl Athabascan.  On Eel River the boundary came at Eagle Prairie, near Riodell.  Southwest of Eel River, the Bear River mountains separated the Wiyot from another Athabascan division, the Mattole.  The spurs of this range reach the sea at Cape Fortunas, between Guthrie Creek and Oil Creek.

The greatest extension of Wiyot territory is only about 35 miles, the greatest breadth barely 15.  Their ocean frontage is low and sandy, as compared with the precipitous and rocky coast for long distances on both sides.  Three or four miles north of their boundary is Trinidad Head; 5 or 6 south, Cape Mendocino; both conspicuous headlands.  The greater part of Wiyot territory was heavy forest, mainly of redwood.  The balance was sand dunes, tidal marsh, or open prairie.  Every Wiyot settlement lay on a stream or bay; the majority on tidewater.



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