Eel River Athapaskans

The Eel River Athapaskans include the Wailaki, Lassik, Nongatl, and Sinkyone groups of Native Americans that traditionally live on or near the Eel River of northwestern California.

These groups speak dialects of a single language belonging to the Athapaskan language family which is prominently represented in Alaska, western Canada, and the southwestern U.S. Other related Athapaskan groups neighboring the Eel River Athapaskans included the Hupa-Whilkut-Chilula to the north, the Mattole on the coast to the west, and the Kato to the south.


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. (See Population of Native California.) Alfred L. Kroeber (1925:883) proposed a 1770 population for the Nongatl, Sinkyone, and Lassik as 2,000, and the population of the Wailaki as 1,000. Sherburne F. Cook (1976) suggested a total of 4,700 for the Nongatl, Sinkyone, Lassik, Wailaki, Mattole, and Kato. Martin A. Baumhoff (1958) estimated the aboriginal populations as 2,325 for the Nongatl, 4,221 for the Sinkyone, 1,411 for the Lassik, and 2,760 for the Wailaki, or a total of 10,717 for the four Eel River Athapaskan groups.

Kroeber estimated the combined population of the Nongatl, Sinkyone, and Lassik in 1910 as 100, and the population of the Wailaki as 200.

Today, some Wailaki people are enrolled in the Scotts Valley Band of Pomo Indians of California[1] and the Grindstone Indian Rancheria of Wintun-Wailaki Indians.[2]

See also



  • Baumhoff, Martin A. 1958. "California Athabascan Groups". Anthropological Records 16:157-238. University of California, Berkeley.
  • Cook, Sherburne F. 1976. The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Driver, Harold E. 1937. "Culture Element Distributions: X Northwest California". Anthropological Records 1:297-433. University of California, Berkeley. [Includes data on Nongatl.]
  • Elsasser, Albert B. 1976. "Mattole, Nongatl, Sinkyone, Lassik, and Wailaki". In California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 190-204. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8, William C. Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Essene, Frank. 1942. "Culture Element Distributions: XXI Round Valley". Anthropological Records 8:197. University of California, Berkeley. [Includes data on Lassik.]
  • . Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C., Volume 1, Page 142-158
  • Keter, Thomas S. All Those Things that You’re Liable To Read in the Ethnographic Literature They Ain’t Necessarily So, Paper Presented to The Society for California Archaeology, Modesto, California, March 13, 2009

External links

  • Survey of California and Other Indian Languages
  • Survey of California and Other Indian Languages
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