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Impearls: HIC 8.3: The Whilkut

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Earthdate 2005-11-12

The Whilkut   by A. L. Kroeber

The Whilkut are the third division of the Athabascans speaking dialects of the Hupa type.  They held Redwood Creek, above the kindred Chilula, to its head; and Mad River, except in its lowest course, up to the vicinity of Iaqua Butte.  They also had a settlement or two on Grouse Creek, over the divide to the east in Trinity River drainage.  To the south they adjoined Athabascans of a quite different speech group, the Nongatl.  On the west and east they were wedged in between the Wiyot and Wintun.

Those of the Whilkut on Redwood Creek almost merged into the Chilula on the same stream, but that there must have been a consciousness of difference is proved by the Hupa regarding the latter as kinsmen and the Whilkut at least as potential foes.

The Whilkut are practically unknown.  The general basis of their culture must have been northwestern, but they lacked some of the specific features, and probably replaced them by customs of central Californian type.  Their houses were of bark slabs instead of planks, and without a pit, and must therefore have been smaller and poorer than those of the Chilula, Hupa, and Yurok.  They also did not dig out the small, rectangular, board-covered sweat houses of these northern neighbors, but, at least since the American is in the land, held indoor ceremonies in round structures, erected for the purpose and presumably dirt-covered.  This is the central Californian earth lodge or dance house.

A very few coiled baskets have been found among them.  These may have been acquired, or the art learned in the alien contacts enforced on them by the Americans.  If coiling was an old technique among the Whilkut, it was followed only sporadically.

As to former population, villages, and the size of the latter, we are also in ignorance.  In spite of a considerable extent of territory, the Whilkut can not have been very numerous — perhaps 500.  The Government census of 1910 reports about 50 full-blood Whilkut, besides some mixed bloods; but Chilula and members of other tribes may have been included in these figures.  The Whilkut suffered heavily in the same struggles with the whites which caused the Chilula to melt away; and similar attempts were made to settle them on the Hupa Reservation, but without permanent success.  Their name is of Hupa origin: Hoilkut-hoi.



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