Yukian Indians

Yukian Family, Yuki Tribe, Yuki Indians (adapted from Wintun Yuki, ‘enemy’. Kroeber). A linguistic family in north California, comprising only the Yuki, divided into several tribes or groups speaking several dialects. Apparently they had no common name of their own. Though the territory of the Yuki was very small, it was divided into three detached areas, one about the present Round Valley Reservation and south thereof; another west of this, along the coast, and a third some distance to the south in the mountains dividing Sonoma from Napa and Lake Counties.

The greater part of the family was comprised within the area first mentioned, which ran along Eel River from a short distance above the confluence of the North fork, along both sides of the river to the junction of South Eel and Middle fork, extending on the west to the ridge east of Long Valley. From the junction of the two streams up, the Yuki possessed the entire drainage of Middle fork east to the watershed of the Coast range, which formed the boundary between them and the Wintun. They appear to have lived also on Hull Creek, which drains into the North fork of Eel River. Some of the chief divisions of the Yuki proper were the Ukomnom in and about Round Valley, the Sukshultatanom on North fork of Middle fork, the Huititnom on South fork of Middle fork, the Sukanom on Middle fork, the Utinom about the junction of Middle fork and South Eel River, and the Lilshiknom and Tanom on main Eel River. South of this group of tribes, between the Middle fork and the South Eel, in Eden Valley and the adjacent country, were the Witukomnom, whose dialect was somewhat different from that of the Yuki proper. South of the Witukomnom again, on both sides of South Eel river, certainly near the mouth of Tomki creek, and probably to the headwaters of the South Eel itself; also on the upper waters of Russian river, at the head of Potter valley, were the Huchnon, who spoke a third dialect, which differed considerably from the Yuki proper. They are known by the Pomo, who are their neighbors on the south, as Tatu, and by the whites as Redwoods.

The second territory held by Yukian tribes extended along the coast from Ten Mile river to Rockport or Usal, and inland as far as Jackson Valley creek, or more probably the range between this stream and the sea. These people call themselves Ukohtontilka, ‘Ocean tribe.’ They have probably been separated from the main body of the Yuki by Athapascan migration, as the Kato or Cahto and Laytonville occupy a strip of Athapascan territory between the two divisions. The dialect of the coast Yuki does not differ more from that of the Yuki proper than does that of the Huchnom.

The third territory occupied by the Yuki is mainly in the hills between Geysers and Calistoga, but includes a small portion of Russian River Valley, about Healdsburg. These people are called Ashochimi by Powers, and are generally known as Wappo. They are separated from their northern relatives by Pomo tribes, and their language diverges greatly from all other Yuki dialects.

The Yuki are said to have been somewhat more warlike than most of the Californians. The Yuki proper, or portions of them, were at war at times with the Kato and Wailaki, the Wintun, the Huchnom, and certain Pomo tribes. Excepting the Wappo, who fought with the Spaniards in the second quarter of the 19th century, the Yuki were barely beginning to be known at the time when the discovery of gold flooded the state with Americans. They came in conflict with the whites on different occasions, suffering considerably in numbers as a consequence. Round Valley Reservation was established in the heart of their territory in 1864, and the greater part of the stock, as well as various Athapascan, Wintun, Pomo, and other tribes, were brought to it, where they still reside. The Yuki proper in 1902 numbered about a hundred, the Huchnom barely a dozen. The coast Yuki amount probably to 15 or 20 individuals, and the number of Wappo, though not accurately known, is undoubtedly also small.

The Yuki much resemble the Pomo in appearance. They are short, broad, and sometimes fat. Measurements give an average height for men of 162 cm., which is a rather low stature. The Yuki show a considerably longer head form than any of their northern, eastern, or southern neighbors, as the Yurok, Hupa, Wintun, Maidu, and Pomo. This deviation is unexplained. The women tattoo their faces, especially across the cheeks and on the chin.

In their mode of life, habits, and beliefs the Yuki generally resemble the better known Pomo, though the Yuki proper show the closest specific cultural resemblances to the neighboring Athapascan Wailaki. The Huchnom affiliated with the Pomo, and resembled these more nearly in their habits and practices than they did the Yuki proper. They fished and hunted, but most of their food was vegetal. They performed a ceremony conducted by a secret society whose members represented the spirits of the dead. They believed that the world was created by a being, human in shape, called Taikomol, ‘He who travels alone,’ assisted by the coyote. This deity was represented in a ceremony.

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

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