Yurok House, circa 1907-1930


"When you die, you will be spoken of as those in the sky, like the stars."

Yurok Tribe Home Page

The Yurok live along the lower 36 miles of the Klamath River and the California coast from Wilson Creek to Trinidad Bay. Their main foods in past times were salmon, by building wooden traps across the river and scooping them up with large nets, and then cutting them into strips and drying them, and acorns, which were harvested in autumn and stored. They also gathered sea mollusks and fished with hook and line from the shore. They hunted animals such as deer with bow and arrow.

They used redwood dugout canoes to travel in their territory, and to reach their neighbors, the Hupa and the Karok, for trade and socialization. They supplied canoes to these people, as well as dried sea foods and shells. The Hupa also traded with the Shasta and the Wiyot nearby. The Yurok got skins from the Hupa, the Shasta and the Wiyot, and from the Karok they got dentalium shell, which has that name because it looks like a tooth. These shells were valuable to the people of this area, and were used as money. They also obtained abalone shell by a trading chain that reached to the south.

They lived in houses made of redwood or cedar, which have natural preservative oils in them, and would last a long time in the rainy climate. The Yurok had a way of life very similar to the Hupa and Karok. An unusual aspect of their culture is that a house site or a fishing site would have been privately owned, which is not common for Native American people. Kroeber thought that the original population of the Yurok might have been about 2500 people.

Yurok people still live in California, and they have several reservations in Northwest California, the Smith River Rancheria, the Elk Valley Rancheria, and the Resighini Rancheria in Del Norte County, and the Yurok Reservation, the Big Lagoon Rancheria, and the Tsurai (Trinidad) Rancheria in Humboldt County.

Amy Smoker, a Yurok weaver born in 1897 created baskets that are still used in ceremonies. One of her creations is shown in the California Native American Calendar for 1998 by Press.

The main traditional/religious rites are the World Renewal Ceremonial Cycle and include the White Deerskin Dance and the Jump Dance.

Yurok Woman in Contributions to North American Ethnology, Volume III. Washington: Government Printing Office, 1877.
Historical Dance Regalia Photos
Photographs of Yurok Indians
The Yurok California Historical Society
Yurok Page at Four Directions Institute
The Yurok: notes from "The North American Indian" by ES Curtis

Myths and Stories

Yurok Creation

Death and Afterlife

The Foxes and the Sun

Once upon a time, the Foxes were angry with Sun. They held a council about the matter. Then twelve Foxes were selected - twelve of the bravest to catch Sun and tie him down.

They made ropes of sinew; then the twelve watched until the Sun, as he followed the downward trail in the sky, touched the top of a certain hill.

Then the Foxes caught Sun, and tied him fast to the hill. But the Indians saw them, and they killed the Foxes with arrows. Then they cut the sinews.

But the Sun had burned a great hole in the ground. The Indians know the story is true, because they can see the hole which Sun burned.

From: Myths and Legends of California and the Old Southwest
Compiled and Edited by Katharine Berry Judson, 1912

Indigenous Peoples' Literature Return to Indigenous Peoples' Literature
Compiled by: Glenn Welker

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