Shasta Tribe

Shasta Indians (from Sǔsti’ka, apparently the mane of a well known Indian tribe living about 1840 near the site of Yreka).  A group of small tribes or divisions forming the Shastan linguistic family of north California and formerly extending into Oregon.  The area occupied by the Shasta is quite irregular, and consists of one main and three subsidiary areas.  The main body, comprising the Iruwaitsu, Kammatwa, Katiru, and Kikatsik, with whom there was little diversity in language, occupied Klamath river from Klamath Hot Springs to Happy Camp, the north half of Shasta valley, the whole of Scott valley, and the upper part of the south part of Salmon river. During the last hundred years, at least, they inhabited also the valley of Stewart river in Oregon from its source to the junction of Rogue river. The three subsidiary groups, consisting of the Konomihu, New River Indians, and Okwanuchu, occupied the forks of the Salmon, the head of New river, and McCloud and upper Sacramento rivers and Squaw creek. These subsidiary groups are now practically extinct. For the distribution of the component divisions see under their respective name, The culture and customs of the Shasta seem to have been much the same throughout this area, but linguistically they were divided into four groups speaking divergent dialects. Little record has been preserved of their characteristics, and with their decrease in numbers and proximity to civilization, they have lost practically all their native customs. They were a sedentary people, living in small villages, composed of rectangular, semisubterranean plank houses, similar to those in use by the Indians on the coast immediately to the west. Their food was largely vegetal, made up of acorns, seeds, and roots; but fish, particularly salmon, was an important factor in the food supply. The salmon were caught by net, weir, trap, and spear, and were dried and preserved for winter food. Their arts were few. Dugout canoes of rather broad, clumsy type, similar to those used nearer the mouth of the Klamath, were in use. The bow was the chief weapon. Carving was practically limited to rude spoons of wood and bone, painting was little used, and basketry was not developed to any great extent, being confined chiefly to basket caps for the women and small food baskets of simple form and ornament. There was no clan organization, and the village seems to have been the unit, as elsewhere in California. Their religious beliefs and ceremonials seem to have been only in small part similar to the tribes to the east and west of them, but their mythology is not as rich as that of the Maidu, Wintun, or other of the northern California linguistic groups. The first contact of the Shasta with the whites was with fur traders, who early in the 19th century trapped in their territory. With the opening of the trade route from Oregon to California by way of Sacramento valley in the middle of the 19th century, the Shasta came more into contact with civilization, and the development of gold mining in the 60’s hastened the process of their extinction, for they soon succumbed to the unfavorable environment of the mining camp. There are fewer than a score now living, some on the Grande Ronde Reservation in Oregon, the others scattered about their former territory. The names Idakariuke, Ikaruck, and Kosetah have been mentioned, largely through misunderstanding, as those of Shasta divisions and villages.

Shasta, Shastan,

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

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