Wiyot Tribe

Wiyot Indians, Wiyat Tribe, Wiyat Indians, Wishosk Tribe, Wishosk Indians. The name given by the Wishosk, a small group of the coast of Northern California, to that part of their territory about the lower course of Eel river and applied by several authors to the Wishosk people dwelling in that section or to the family as a whole. The Wishosk territory extended from the mouth of Mad River, lat, 41°, to a short distance above Blue Lake; thence the boundary followed the watershed, between the streams that flow into Humboldt Bay and those that drain into Mad and Eel River, southward to Eel River, probably slightly below Fortuna (though some accounts make the Wishosk territory extend up Eel River to the mouth of Van Duzen fork), and across it to the Bear River range, which formed the southern boundary, back to the coast perhaps 5 or 6 m. north of central Mendocino. This territory included Lindsey, Jacoby, Freshwater, and Salmon Creeks, and Elk and Salt Rivers. The entire stretch of the country of the Wishosk is scarcely 30 m., and the greatest breadth is not more than 12 or 14 m. As this limited territory is heavily timbered with redwood, the people lived almost exclusively along the edge of salt water or on the banks of the two larger rivers flowing into the ocean in their domain. For this reason the Wiyot probably depended less on acorns for food than most of the tribes of California, products of the sea, including the fish that ran up the streams, constituting their chief source of subsistence.

Wishoskan Language

A linguistic family represented by the Wiyot Indians.

  • Wish-osk.—Gibbs in Schoolcraft, lnd. Tribes, III,422,1853 (Given as the name of a dialect on Mad River and Humboldt Bay).
  • Wish-osk.—Powell in Cont. N. A. Ethnol., III, 478, 1877 (vocabularies of Wish-osk, Wi-yot, and Ko-wilth); Gatschet in Mag. Am. Hist., 162, 1877 (indicates area occupied by family); Gatsehet in Beach, Ind. Misc., 437, 1877.
  • Wee yot.—Gibbs in Schoolcraft, Ind. Tribes, III, 422,1853 (given as the name of a dialect on Eel River and Humboldt Bay).
  • Weitspek.— Latham in Trans. Philol. Soc. Lond., 77, 1856 (includes Weyot and Wishosk); Latham, Opuscula, 343, 1860.
  • Klamath.—Keane in Stanford, Compend. Cent, and So. Am., 475, 1878 (cited as including Patawats, Weeyots, Wishosks).
  • Wishoskan.—Powell in 7th Rep. B. A. E., 132,1891.

Wiyot History

The Wiyot were surrounded on the land side by Athapascan tribes, except at the north, where lower Mad River formed the boundary between themselves and the coast Yurok. The Wiyot call the Athapascan languages Wishi´lak, the Yurok language Denákwatelak. For themselves as a body they have, like the other tribes of north west California, no geographic or specific name, calling themselves simply ‘people.’ They call their language, however, as distinct from other languages, Sulä´telik. They recognize 3 divisions in their country: the territories about Mad River, Humboldt Bay, and Eel River, which they call Batawa´t, Wiki´, and Wi´yat, respectively. On the addition of -daredalitl these terms denote the people of the districts; thus Wiki-daredalitl are the people living on Humboldt bay. These, however, are only geographically natural and convenient names, and did not reflect any real political divisions. As was customary in northwest California the only organization of a political or social nature that they possessed consisted of village settlements. They showed no trace of a totemic or gentile system. They spoke only one dialect; the distinction between the Viard and the Wiyot rests on faulty orthography. The general name for them and their country among the neighboring tribes is some form of the word Wiyot; the Yurok call them Weyet; the Karok, Waiyat; the Sinkyone, the Athapascans about the lower south fork of Eel River, call them Dilwishne and their country Weyat.

The whole Humboldt bay region was rapidly settled by the whites after 1850. The Wiyot suffered considerably at their hands, a large party being massacred on Indian Island, near Eureka, on a mistaken suspicion. The numbers of the Wiyot were placed at 800 in 1853, but all figures are only estimates. At present 1 there survive about 70, who live in their original country without recognition by the Government, supporting themselves by civilized labor.

  • Consult Further: Healing the Past: What does justice look like 151 years after the Indian Island Massacre?
    This published article discusses distributive justice in the context of Native American land rights in the state of California. Focusing on the Wiyot Nation of Arcata, California, the article traces the history of the Wiyot’s disenfranchisement and decimation, struggle for recognition and rights, and gradual requisition of some of their original land holdings. Particular focus is given to “Indian Island,” as the Wiyot’s sacred center, and the “Indian Island Massacre” of 25 February 1860, which nearly succeeded in annihilating the Wiyot Nation.

Wiyot Culture

In general culture the Wiyot resembled the tribes of the lower Klamath and Trinity. They had square board houses with gabled roofs built about excavations, redwood canoes, and twined basketry, similar in all essentials to those of the Yurok, Karok, and Hupa. The women also tattooed their chins. They lacked the Deerskin dance and the Jumping or Woodpecker dance of these three tribes. They had a puberty ceremony for girls, that included dancing. According to their mythology the creator was Gudatrigakwitl, ‘Above-old-man.’ This deity is more distinctly a creator than most of the corresponding mythological characters of other tribes of northwest California. On the whole but little is known about the religion of the Wiyot. Their language is also very little known. It is complex and obscure, and appears to resemble the adjacent Yurok in general structure, but to be an entirely unrelated and independent family.

Alternate Spellings

  • Dilwishne —A. L. Kroeber. inf’n, 1904 (Sinkyone name for the Wiyot and their language).
  • Humbolt Bay Indians —U. S. Stat.. XII, 199, 1863.
  • Koquilth.—Powers in Cont. N. A. Ethnol., III, 100, 1877 (given as a Wishosk division).
  • Eo-wilth.— Powell, ibid., 478.
  • Ock-co-witth.—Buchanan (1853) in H. R. Ex. Doc. 76, 34th Cong., 3d sess., 24, 1857.
  • Solotluck.—Ibid., 23 (cf. Sulateik following).
  • Sulatelik—A. L. Kroeber, inf’n, 1904 (used by the Wiyot to designate their own language; It comes nearer to being a tribal name for themselves than any other term).
  • Waiyat.—Ibid. (Karok name).”
  • Walla-Walloo.—Gibbs (1851) in Schoolcraft, lnd. Tribes, III, 133, 1853 (said to be so called by the tribes to the N.).
  • Wee Shotch.—Buchanan, op. cit., 24.
  • Weyat.—A. L. Kroeber, inf’n, 1904 (Sinkyone name for Wishosk country).
  • Weyet.—Ibid. (Yurok name).
  • Wishosk.—Gibbs, op. cit.
  • Wiyat.


  1. 1905[]

Wishosk, Wiyat, Wiyot,

Hodge, Frederick Webb, Compiler. The Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico. Bureau of American Ethnology, Government Printing Office. 1906.

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