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Impearls: HIC 7.2.1: The Tolowa: Territory

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

The Tolowa:  Territory   by A. L. Kroeber

The Tolowa, whose speech constitutes the first and most northerly Athabascan dialect group in California, are the Indians of Del Norte County, in the northwestern corner of the State.  The lowest dozen miles of the Klamath River are, it is true, in the same county, according to one of the arbitrary delimitations to which the American is addicted, and there were and are nearly as many Yurok on this stretch of stream as the remainder of the county held Athabascans.  But the connections and outlook of these Yurok were up their river or southward along the coast, toward their more numerous kinsmen in what the white man calls Humboldt County.  Ethnologically, the Tolowa were the people of Smith River and the adjacent ocean frontage.

Tolowa, like so many California designations of a pseudo-tribal nature, is a name alien to the people to whom it applies.  It is of Yurok origin.  These people say ni-tolowo, “I speak Athabascan of the Tolowa variety,” but no-mimohsigo, “I speak Athabascan of the Hupa-Chilula-Whilkut variety.”  As the two groups are separated by the Algonkin Yurok, their distinction by these people is natural, and the considerable differentiation of the two forms of speech is easily intelligible.



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