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The Lolangkok Sinkyone

Native Americans of Humboldt Redwoods State Park

[Life Before the Settlement Period]
[Marriage and Family]
[Uses of Redwood and Other Plants]
[Life After the Settlement Period]


The area which now makes up Humboldt Redwoods State Park was once the home of the Lolangkok Sinkyone Indians. Lolangkok was their name for Bull Creek. About 15 village sites have been identified in the park.
The Lolangkoks numbers diminished soon after the arrival of white settlers. Because of this, there is a lack of information about the Lolangkoks and their way of life. In the 1920s, when anthropologists and linguists visited the area, they found very few Lolangkoks remaining of a population that was estimated to be more than 2000 in 1850. By 1910, there were less than 100 Lolangkoks remaining. Much of the information we have was provided by two tribesmen, George Burt and Jack Woodman. The Lolangkok didn't venture far from their home villages. One man lived his entire life without ever venturing further than 20 miles in any direction from his home village.
Within their home territory, the tribe occupied three, and possibly more, seasonal village sites each year. Late spring and early fall were the times when they hunted the prairies and upland areas. The primary animals they hunted were the black-tailed deer and Roosevelt elk. In the fall, the salmon and steelhead runs began on the South Fork Eel River and the Lolangkok set up temporary fishing villages along the river. When the river water level got high, they moved up to their permanent villages along the creeks and tributaries where they continued fishing through the winter.

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Life Before the Settlement Period

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The lands of the Lolangkok provided abundant food. Salmon and steelhead were plentiful in the river and tributary streams. There were many deer, elk, raccoons, bear, rabbit, and game birds such as quail and grouse. Acorns from the tanoaks and other oaks were a staple in their diet. They also ate the nuts from the California buckeye, which they called lah-se. Grasshoppers were roasted. Slugs, called nah-tos, were dried and stored for later use. They cooked these in hot ashes. There were berries in late summer and other edible plants available year-round.

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Marriage and Family

The family unit was the center of Lolangkok life. Families and groups of relatives sometimes lived near each other. Chiefs were the leaders of the bands. Families were more obligated to the band or tribe than to relatives. The land each band occupied was shared in common.
Lolangkok marriages were monogamous. The groom purchased his bride. Sometimes friends and family would help the groom if the woman he wanted to marry was rich. If the man was poor, he could work for his in-laws to make his payments. Divorce was common and there were a number of reasons that a couple could get divorced, such as mistreatment, infidelity or failure to provide for the family.
Family relationships were governed by strict rules. Sisters and brothers could only speak to each other in certain cases when it was necessary. A woman could not directly communicate with her son-in-law. She had to do it through a third party. She had to cover her face when passing him. A young woman was not allowed to laugh in the presence of her father-in-law. She could only speak to him briefly, slowly and seriously.

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Two types of permanent dwellings were built. One was a wedge-shaped lean-to. Another was a conical building assembled around a center pole. These dwellings were made out of slabs of redwood bark. Two types of circular houses were constructed. One was for dancing and the other was for sweat baths. The temporary shelters used at the summer camps were constructed of brush and left to fall apart from weathering.

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The Lolangkok Sinkyone spoke a language which was one of the Athapascan tongues. Five adjacent tribes spoke Athapascan languages. The Hupas, a tribe from northern Humboldt County, also speak an Athapascan language. Other Athapascan-speaking peoples include the Apache and Navajo of the Southwest.

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Due to the rugged terrain of this region, and the fact that the tribes were able to support themselves on their own small territoires, warfare between the tribes was infrequent. Warfare between tribes was usually between the Sinkyones and the Mattole tribe to the west or the Wailiki tribe to the south. During these battles, arrows were fired at the war leaders, who stood in front of everyone else and tried to dodge the arrows.
Bull Creek got its name after some Lolangkoks stole a bull from a homesteader and slaughtered it. A group of settlers attacked and killed the Indians. Near Squaw Creek is a site where 300 Lolangkoks may have been massacred by settlers.

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The Lolangkoks used bows and arrows for hunting. They constructed canoes from hollowed out redwood logs. They hollowed the logs with fire and by chipping the wood. They used bow drills for fire making. The drills were made of wood and fire was created by the friction generated by spinning the drill in a fireboard. Baskets were made from fibrous plant materials such as redwood bark, alder bark, and the black stems of the five-finger fern. Baskets were used for fishing or storage. The hides of deer and elk were used to make clothing. The horns of the elk were used to make implements such as spoons and awls.

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Uses of Redwood and Other Plants

Redwood was used in the construction of canoes and shelters. The fibrous bark was woven into baskets and clothing items. Many plants were used for food and medicine. These included berries such as salmon berries, blackberries, thimble berries, wild strawberries, huckleberries and salal berries. The inner bark of willow trees was used as a pain reliever. The leaves of the California Bay tree were used the same way. Leaves were held to the forehead to relieve headaches.

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Life After the Settlement Period

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Much of the information on this page comes from Humboldt Redwoods State Park - The Complete Guide by Jerry and Gisela Rohde.

Return to Humboldt Redwoods State Park Home Page.

Revised: 15 October 1996
Copyright © 1996; Humboldt Redwoods Interpretive Association