History of Land Use
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The Wiyot Tribe

The Wiyot Indians were the original inhabitants of Humboldt Bay and the surrounding areas. The Wiyot Indians lived off the land for generations practicing ancestral traditions such as basket weaving, hunting, fishing, and gathering for food and medicine. Prior to contact with European settlers there were roughly 2,000 Wiyot Indians in the area (Wiyot, 2004).

"Figure 1. Wiyot Woman and Child, circa 1800s, Smithsonian Collection" (Wiyot, 2008)

It was not until 1802 that European settlers discovered Humboldt Bay. The gold rush of 1849 brought an influx of settlers to Humboldt Bay, all hoping to find their fortune. The city of Union (later renamed Arcata) was founded in part to provided services to the miners. The new European settler presence led to conflicts over land use. On the morning of February 26, 1860, European settlers ambushed the Wiyot tribe to take the land for themselves. Armed with firearms and the element of surprise, they killed the unsuspecting Wiyot men, women, and children. Post massacre, there were roughly 200 Wiyot people left. To avoid future attacks, and foreign diseases brought by the settlers, the Wiyot tribe survivors were forced to relocate to distant reservations.

After nearly a century of legal battles the Wiyot Indians now have an 88-acre reservation sixteen miles east of Eureka. This reservation, named Table Bluff Reservation, currently has 550 native members (Wiyot, 2004). These members strive to protect their cultural heritage by practicing traditional dances, conducting ceremonies, and forming a strong presence to ensure their history for years to come.