Tsurai Ancestral Society Responds to Arkley’s Statements About Indian Island

Press release from The Tsurai Ancestral Society:

The Tsurai Ancestral Society is deeply saddened by the recent statements made by Mr. Arkley regarding the Tuluwat (Indian Island) land transfer. Mr. Arkley’s attitude toward the Wiyot Tribe and their killing at the hands of what one news article from that time called “[…] prominent business men from Eureka[.]”, is appalling.

While Mr. Arkley may feel the island belongs to him and his children, because, as he stated, they “like it”, it was stolen from the Wiyot’s in a horrific, murderous rampage. We, as a community, should be supporting the healing of those historical wounds and trying to support the local Tribes in their attempt to continue with their cultural.

The Tsurai Ancestral Society, an organization made up of Yurok people from the Tsurai village, would like to stand in solidarity with the Wiyot Tribe and City of Eureka in their work toward transferring the land back to the Wiyot Tribe. It is our hope that Mr. Arkley’s new found interest in the island does not derail the current transfer project. We encourage the City of Eureka to hold strong to their commitment to the Wiyot Tribe.

We empathize with the Wiyot Tribe and their desire to reclaim a piece of their cultural landscape. We, and the Yurok Tribe, are in a similar position with some of our village in Trinidad. Although, the City of Trinidad has not shown the level commitment the City of Eureka has, we have never given up the struggle to see our land given back. We understand having someone like Mr. Arkley get involved in transfer attempts and try to block it, as we have experienced a similar situation with some citizens, and organizations in Trinidad. It’s disheartening when people step forward and try to prevent historical wrongs from being righted.

It is our hope the City of Eureka and Wiyot Tribe hold strong in their efforts to transfer Tuluwat (Indian Island) back to the Wiyot Tribe.




The Tsurai Ancestral Society

Featured photo from Wikimedia Commons



  • I have defended Arkley in the past from various rabid hippies. (Mostly because I knew his dad and had many respectful disagreements with him!) I try to not demonize people. But I can’t support Arkley here. Let this island be returned. We have taken enough. Let’s all move forward now.

    • To the Victor goes the spoils…

      • What victory? No warriors fought this battle. They came when the warriors were out hunting and murdered children, woman, and the elderly. If there was an actual battle between men, then maybe you comment would have justification.

    • “Rabid hippies”? Wow. The world some people live in.

    • This question is fir Cheri Atkley and your daughters…..are you seriously just standing by and assumingly okay with your husbands/fathers attempts here? Do you not have a heart? I highly doubt you agree with him on this and I would really LOVE for you to once PUT HIM IN HIS PLACE on this subject! Be the strong women I know you are and take a damn stand……what’s he gonna do divorce you? I think not, I doubt you signed a pre-nup back in the day.

  • Well said, back off Arkley you Mini-Me of the Despot in DC!!!

  • So are we supposed to give all the land back and leave? This isnt the only place that bad things happened to innocent people. Where do you draw the line? If the tribe wants to buy it, let them. If Arkely wants to buy it, he can make an offer also. The highest bidder wins, thats the way america works.

    • Veterans friend

      Indian Island was the cultural center of the universe to the Wiyot people. They are not so stupid [edit] to think they would get all their lands back. This was their holy place. Try for a little common sense & sensitivity

    • Meh…your comment exemplifies the most ignorant and arrogant attitude of white man’s culture. Take whatever you want from whomever you can, and never mind right and wrong.

    • You are making an argument based on the “slippery slope” logical fallacy.

    • Umm yeah and america ain’t working so well- in case you haven’t noticed! 250 years and we’ve just about blown through everything… installed a new class of elite super-wealthy and covered everyone else in paperwork. Time for a change in strategy

    • Meh, you seem to forget who’s land your squatting on. These Tribes are NATIVE AMERICANS, This land belonged to them before it was stolen by non-Americans. How selfish and greedy. Must you stake claim to everything. In comparison to everything Native Americans have had stolen from them One small Island is being given back and you agree it should be denied them. Do you even know anyone from their culture, They love this land and believe in the preservation of all things. Throughout this whole planet for centuries land, cultural belief’s their way of life
      and most of all their FREEDOM has been taken away now it’s their clean water just to name just a few. Comments should be thought about before speaking [edit]

    • Born & Raised in Hoopa

      Why should they have to buy it back, when it was theirs in the first place!

    • You Meh, are ignorant at its best. You obviously failed your history classes. Would it be ok with you if I came to your home and killed your family, then just moved in and decides to sell “my” home?

  • Can’t wait until there is a casino there. I hate driving to Blue Lake or Trinidad.

    • Humboldt Historian

      It is a ceremonial site as it has been for over 2,500 years, there is zero plans or talk of building any Casino. The site is still used for ceremonial gathering today! Do your research!

    • Seriously? That sad old excuse should be filed under “that dog don’t hunt.” The island is barely habitable compliments of Gunther and his trenching. It was slightly more so but only in certain months. You had to stay to the high ground.

      and I know this how? My Uncle Billie was one of the few survivors of the men “who crawled on their bellies like the weasel in the middle of the night.” And his account of what occurred in on record. So, say the rest of your lame comments.

  • That’s native land and should belong to the native people. Fuck this white man

  • I’m OK with the island being returned to the tribe as long as there are stipulations that forbid the building of yet another casino.

    • Build a casino? There isn’t any land access to the island. A good portion of it is under water in high tide.

      • That’s how bigots think n work. Of course that would be the 1st thing they mention, a casino. Sure there are many casinos but not every reservation has one, in fact many are against gambling. They assume worse than an old lady and sound like, well you know, Hee Haw!

        • Humboldt Historian

          Exactly! The racists who are against any thing “tribal” always use the “casino” anthology in protest and in jealousy of anything being built or bought by the Aboriginal Peoples of California. They would rather see our tribes going broke and the Indians living in poverty…. In many ways they have the same mindset of the Genocidists (prominent Eureka Businessmen and Masonic Members” who murdered 100’s of Women and Children on Tolowat Island in the 1800’s….. The genocide which is “the destruction and erasing” of a culture still proliferate among many folks, they have the mindset of “we stole it, it’s ours and we owe these Natives nothing” America was built on Genocide by Slave Laborers.

        • Worse than an “old lady?” Get a grip. Nothing is worse than an “old man.”

      • What are you people thinking…….CASINO?? REALLY?? That is sacred land, there would be no freaking casino built. And Arkley, sit your ass down and quit thinking that everybody is supposed to live by your damn rules. Your crap is getting real old real fast.

  • >”There isn’t any land access to the island. A good portion of it is under water in high tide.”

    I guess in 30 years or so… it will all be underwater.

    IMHO: Build a dock and bring in a floating casino.

    • so, yes, give it back to them!! LOL Oh my, did I say that? Wait? The first “Under Water Casino” that will draw a crowd indeed!!

  • How would y’all feel if someone was making fun of YOUR sacred sites/ideas/religions? Especially one that was stolen from you in a murderous rampage.

    Some folks seem to revel in insensitivity.

    As a nation, we have become coarsened.

    Respect is in short supply these days.

    Try it sometime.

  • Perhaps Mr. Arkley could demonstrate his good will by donating/granting funds to the Wiyot Tribe so they can continue their clean-up efforts of the island? The Wiyot Tribe is generous and very gracious when inviting members of the public to ceremonies and events. If Mr. Arkley really wants to help the community in this respect then he can achieve that with a donation.

  • This land was sacred land to these natives it was stolen in a horrific mass murder of men, women, and children. Does the word STOLEN mean anything to any of you who think they should buy it back? So the next time you have something stolen we can expect you to buy it back? That is the most arrogant statement I’ve read yet…oh and they have bought part of it back. With that being said Mr. Arkley might be a prominent business man in this community, but he doesn’t do anything that doesn’t benefit him or his businesses. And he might as well be one of those business men that murdered all those natives!

  • Rob Arkley, when is everything enough? How much must you own to feel good inside? Why don’t you use some of that money laying around and book some decent acts at that music venue you built?

  • Pingback: Tsurai Ancestral Society response to Arkleys | Sohum Parlance II

  • Mr. Arkley wants to pay over fair market value for the island because his kids like it and he wants everyone to enjoy it? I smell a rat. Who else except someone like Arkley could get it developed like Woodly Island? He’d like to develop it and maybe have a half acre called Arkley Park.

    He says the city shouldn’t give it away because the city needs money. Maybe he should buy so the city gets money and then donate it to the Wiyot Tribe.

  • More of Arkley’s self serving BS as usual. He f’d Friends of the Dumes out of the dune forest and what has he done with it? Allowed 100 homeless to camp there and destroying the land. Allowing his camps to remain also resulted in at least 2 murders that we know of, meth labs and tons of trash piled up.
    He’s hated in the community more than he knows and his latest sceme does nothing to endear him to the people. Go back to New Orleans Rob.

  • These were real people who died there. It was a heinous act that cannot be undone. That said, can we be “big enough” to return what has been stolen? Rob Arkley seems to have the same attitudes that fed the myth that the Wiyot were “other” than worthy people, and thus did not “deserve” to keep their ancestral lands. High bidders do not the rightful owner make.

  • Humboldt Historian

    Chronology of Indian Island – Humboldt County, California
    Pre-Contact. About 1500-2000 Wiyot people lived in their ancestral territory that included the current tows of McKinleyville, Photo of Indian IslandBlue Lake, Arcata, Eureka, Kneeland, Loleta, Fortuna, Ferndale, and Rohnerville. Indian Island was and remains the center of the Wiyot People’s world. It is home to the ancient village of Tuluwat and the traditional site of the World Renewal Ceremony held annually to welcome the new year. The ceremony lasted between 7-10 days and began with the men leaving the island and returning the next day with the needed supplies. The elders, women, and children remained behind. The ground beneath Tuluwat village is an enormous clamshell mound (or midden). This mound, measuring over six acres in size and estimated to be over 1,000 years old, is an irreplaceable physical history of the Wiyot way of life. Contained within it are remains of meals, tools, and ceremonies, as well as many burial sites.

    1850. The town of Eureka was founded by a group of miners who needed a more convenient route to the overland trail from Sacramento the California gold fields. Shortly thereafter, Humboldt Bay became the busiest port between San Francisco and Portland. As Eureka’s population and economy grew, its white residents became increasingly uneasy about local Indians whom ranchers blamed for thefts and cattle loss. Merchants began to see Indian villages that thrived along the Bay as a direct threat to their growing trade.

    1860. An army officer at Fort Humboldt observed, “Cold-blooded Indian killing being considered honorable, shooting Indians and murdering even squaws and children that have been domesticated for months and years, without a moment’s warning and with as little compunction as they would rid themselves of a dog.” An editorial in the Humboldt Times opined, “The whites cannot afford horses and cattle for their [Indian] sustenance, and will not. Ergo, unless Government provides for the Indians, the settlers must exterminate them.”
    In February, the Humboldt Volunteer Militia was created, two years after Humboldt citizens sent the following letter to the governor:
    “It has now been two months since the Indians in this vicinity started in open hostility to us, though so far they have confined their operations to the trail connecting this County to Weaverville. This being our direct channel of communication with the Sacramento Valley, and a trail over which the United States Mail must pass once a week, it is of the utmost importance that it should be kept open. The Indians on this trail first manifested their hostility to us by shooting a man who was traveling alone. We supposed that a few men would be sufficient to punish the Indians and make them ask for peace, and accordingly, a party was organized, provided for by private means and sent in search of the hostiles. After trailing the Indians for several days, they were attacked from ambush and one man was killed. In the meantime their camp which they had left unguarded was attacked, and ten mules were killed. This party consisted of only twelve men. Subsequently, another party of twenty-five men went out who were provisioned at a heavy private expense. In endeavoring to drive the Indians from the vicinity of the trails, they were fired upon in a deep canyon, and one man was killed, another wounded. The company has now disbanded, not feeling inclined to incur further danger and hardships at their own expense. The trails are now closed, there being no travel over them except by night or in large parties. The question now is what is there to.be done? There are no troops here at the garrison and the people are not able to carry on a war at their own expense. The people of the county are of the opinion that if the militia could be called out, and arms furnished, the merchants would feel encouraged to furnish supplies, and wait for the State to pay. We can furnish the men if they can only be supplied.”
    On February 16, The Indian Island Massacreoccured at the hands of the newly-created Humboldt Volunteer Milita. Armed with hatchets, clubs, and knives, militia men paddled to Indian Island where Wiyot men, women, and children were sleeping after a week of ceremonial dancing. Two other villages were raided on the same night – one on the Eel River and another on the South Spit. Somewhere between 80-100 people were killed on Indian Island. A baby, Jerry James, was the only infant that survived the massacre on the Island. Another 200-600 Wiyot were massacred in the other raids.
    Journalist Bret Harte published a front-page editorial in The Northern Californian in which he expresses horror over the massacre. Subsequently, he was run out of the county and moved to San Francisco.
    After 1860. An estimated 200 Wiyot people still lived in the area. Federal troops collected the surviving Wiyot people from other villages and confined them to the Klamath River Reservation. After a disastrous flood on the Klamath, the Wiyot were moved to the Smith River Reservation and later to the Hoopa and Round Valley Reservations.

    1870. A shipyard repair facility was built on part of the Island and operated there until the 1980s. During that time, it dumped creosote, solvents, and other chemicals that were used to maintain ships.

    Late 19th Century. Non-Indian settlers built dikes and channels on Indian Island that changed tidal action along the shore and caused some erosion of the clamshell-shaped mound.

    Early 1900s. A church group purchased 20 acres in the Eel River estuary for homeless Wiyot people. This land later became known as the Table Bluff Rancheria of Wiyot Indians.
    1910. Under 100 full blood Wiyot people were estimated to be living in Wiyot territory.
    1913. Anthropologist Alfred Kroeber sent one of his staff members, Llewellyn Loud to Humboldt County to collect Indian human remains. Loud conducted most of his work at Indian Island. He recorded 24 skeletons existing in 22 graves that existed prior to the 1860 massacre.
    1918. Loud published his report and thereafter, Indian Island became a popular site for local hobbyists and entrepreneurs to search for collectables and human remains.
    1923. Eureka dentist, H. H. Stuart began extensive excavations of Indian graves at Indian Island. He eventually dug up 382 graves.
    1960. The City of Eureka acquired ownership of most of Indian Island.
    1961. Eureka High School teacher and collector of local history, Cecile Clarke received uanimous approval from the Humboldt County Board of Supervisors “to excavate and preserve relics of Indian tribes native to this region” on Indian Island.
    1963-69. Clarke and her team excavated sites on Indian Island. It carried out radiocarbon dates tests confirming the site’s original occupation as 880A.D.

    1992. In February, the first candlelight vigil was held to remember those who lost their lives in the Massacre and to help the community heal. About 75 people participated that year and by 1996, over 300 participated. The Wiyot hope that at some point, the vigil can be held on Indian Island which remains inaccessible to the Wiyot.

    2000. The Wiyot Tribe purchased 1.5 acres of Indian Island and began cleaning the debris and pollutants left on the village site.

    2004. On May 18th, the Eureka City County unanimously approved a resolution to return 60 acres – comprising the northeastern tip of Indian Island where the Tribe once celebrated its World Renewal Ceremony – to the Wiyot Tribe. Some of the remaining Wiyot people lived on the 88-acre Table Bluff Reservation and 550 members were enrolled in the Wiyot nation.
    2009. In February, the Wiyot Tribe had its 17th candlelight vigil
    2010. In February, the Wiyot Tribe commemorated the 150 year anniversary of the Indian Island Massacre.
    2013. The Wiyot Tribe completed the clean-up of dioxin, asbestos, and other toxins left by the former shipyard.
    2014. In February, the Wiyot Tribe had it 22nd and final candlelight vigil as shown in the photograph below. Photo of Indian Island Celebration
    In March, Eureka Major Frank Jager wrote the following letter to the Wiyot people, “As Mayor of Eureka, on behalf of the City Council and the people of Eureka, we would like to offer a formal apolgy to the Wiyot people for the actions of our people in 1860. Nothing we say or do can make up for what occurrred on that night of infamy. It will forever be a scar on our history We can, however, with our present and future actions of support for the Wiyot, work to remove the prejudice and bigotry that still exists in our society today.” Other city officials then rewrote the letter, left out the apology and the reference to prejudice and bigotry, and delivered what many Eurekans have called the “non-apology” letter.
    Between March 28-30, 2014, the Wiyot Tribe held its first World Renewal Ceremony since February 1860. This sacred ceremony took place over three consecutive days at Tuluwat on Indian Island, Pimad on the South Jetty, and at Rrawuraghumuk at Table Bluff Reservation.
    2015. In April, the Eureka City Council received a request from the Yurok Tribe to transfer more of the publicly-owned land on Indian Island to the Tribe. On April 7, the City Council unanimously voted to refer the tribe’s request to a committee that promised an “expeditious” process.
    Conclusions – Manifest Destiny and California Indians

    The State of California decided to solve the “Indian Problem” through policies of forced labor, slavery, and vigilante militia whose job it was to kill local Indians.
    The policies of the federal government in regard to California Indians paralleled the federal policies passed during the era of Manifest Destiny: making treaties, removing Indians from their ancestral homelands and placing them on reservations, educating their children through Americanization and assimilation, and alloting Indian lands.
    State and Federal attitudes about the “Indian Problem” resulted in policies and/or actions that had enormous consequences for the Indians of California:
    Many of the previously sovereign Indian Nations became semi-sovereign, impoverished nations largely dependent upon the U.S. government for their well being.
    The Indian nations of California were the victims of genocidal policies. The vast majority of the Indians who had lived in California had either been forcibly removed to Indian reservations, or they had been killed.
    The Indian population of 1850, ranging between 70,000-100,000, dropped to about 30,000 by 1870. By the 1900 federal census, only 16,000 Indians were recorded in California.
    Northern Californian citizens responded to Indian raids, Indian killings, and economic competition from Indian communities with acts of vigilante violence – none of which were punished by local, state, or federal agencies.
    Despite the many attempts to destroy the Indians of California, within several generations, most nations had survived and replenished their populations and maintained many of their tribal cultural, political, economic, and spiritual traditions.
    By the end of the twentieth century, California had more Indian people than any other state in the nation.
    About one-sixth of the estimated Indian population of the nation lived in California – approximately 320,000 Indians.
    The Bureau of Indian Affairs served about 56,000 Indians who live on California’s 104 federally recognized Indian reservations, about one-third of which are located in Northern California.
    About 200,000 urban Indians and 75,000 other indigeneous Indians live on about 80 reservations that are not federally recognized.
    As of late 1999, approximately 52 California Indian Nations had applied to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for federal recognition

  • Humboldt Historian

    The following is from Genocide in Northwestern California, by Jack Norton—pg. 86-88, quoting Andrew M. Genzoli and Wallace E. Martin, Redwood Cavalcade… Pioneer Life, Times (Eureka, California Schooner Features, 1968), pp. 11-13

    Years after the Indian Island massacre, Robert Gunther was asked to address a special ban­quet at the Old Sequoia Yacht Club, which for years stood on the south end of Gunther Island (Indian Island). In a surprisingly can­did presentation, he reviewed the heinous acts of butchery, but also stated that secretly the parties who did the killing had been pointed out. The following description of activities involved in the genocide committed by a gang of ruffians euphemistically called “the good citizens of Humboldt” bears repeating in full:

    Early in 1860, I learned that Indian Island was for sale. It was owned by a Captain Moore who took up eighty acres on Washington’s birthday, 1860, and three days later, the Indian massacre occurred.

    The general impression is that Indians were only killed on In­dian Island, but that is a mistake. Indians were killed that night all over the Bay, and even up on Mad River.

    There were Indians living on Elk River, on Humboldt Point, on the South Beach, on the North Beach, on Indian Island and on Mad River, and all were killed that night who did not make their escape. It was never publicly known who did the killing, yet secretly, the parties were pointed out. Nor was their number definitely known. Some claimed there were six, while others claimed seven. It was said that about two hundred fifty Indians were killed that night.

    The Indians on Indian Island, (now Gunther’s Island), were liv­ing on the upper mound towards Arcata. Every year, they had a festival which lasted a week. The festival was in full blast when I bought the island. Saturday was the last day, but as the wind blew furiously from the northwest, the Mad River In­dians could not go home, but those living south did.

    I occupied a room then, in the Picayune mill office, which stood on the wharf right opposite where the Indians lived at the foot of K Street. Sunday morning, I was awakened by a noise, and I got up to see what it was.

    When I came out everything was still again. Shortly after, a scream went up from many voices, and I could plainly hear it was on Indian Island, for it was perfectly still and dark. Hear­ing no more, I went to bed again.

    Early in the morning Captain Moore came down and asked me to lend him my boat as he wanted to go to Indian Island. He had heard the trouble before daylight and I would go with him.

    When we came to the Island, we found Hatteway’s squaw, who lived on the Peninsula, sitting on the bank crying. She knew both of us and seemed to be glad to see us. But what a sight presented itself to our eyes. Corpses lying all around, and all women and children, but two. Most of them had their skulls split.

    One old Indian, who looked to be a hundred years old, had his skull split, and still he sat there shivering. There was no one there but three squaws, Hatteway’s and two belonging to the Island. Hatteway’s squaw told us that she was sitting where she sat when we came, and she could not sleep.

    She said she saw them coming. She ran to the shanties and hollooed that white men were coming and the Indians got out as fast as they could. She stood on a low place as they came up the bank and saw them distinctly against the sky, and she thought there were six or seven. When she saw they came to kill them, she ran for the brush which was close by, and everybody else ran.

    All the men got into the brush but two, but the women and children were killed. The white men did not dare to go into the brush, but left after they had killed all they could find.

    The squaw told us that forty in all were killed, but that many belonged to Mad River, and that the Mad River Indians took their dead along, as they went home.

    There were twenty-four dead lying on the ground, so sixteen must have belonged to Mad River. The old man I spoke of, and a little child, died later. The child was a bout two years old and was dressed. We could see no injury, but it cried when we moved it. We asked permission to take the child with us to a doctor, and the squaws were willing.

    By that time some more people had come over from Eureka and we left. On the way home, we planned to bring the parties to justice. Captain Moore was justice of the peace. We soon found that we had better keep our mouths shut. We took the child to Dr. Manley. He examined it and found the spine out. He said it could not live, and we had better carry it back, and we did.

    That massacre gave impetus to the Indian War in Humboldt County. The war did not start right away, but soon after, and it lasted over three years. After buying part of the Island I soon managed to get the rest.

    I took up land, and others took up land and I bought them out. There were no Indians living on the mound where my house stands, when I bought the place. The last family moved away to the upper mound in 1857, when Captain Moore took up the place.

    After the massacre, the government gathered up all the In­dians on the Bay and took them to Smith River. The lower mound was covered with brush. Both mounds were made by the Indians. They boiled and baked clams and feasted when the tide was out until the clam shells rose above tide water, then they built permanent habitations. There are places on both mounds where the clamshells were 22 feet deep, and In­dian bones and relics can be found all the way down.

    The number of people killed on the night of February 25, 1860, has not been precisely determined to this day. Some writers include the total number killed during the four simultaneous attacks; others in­clude only those killed on Indian Island. The most conservative estimate is forty human beings wantonly slaughtered. The highest figure is given at more than two hundred souls murdered.

    • “The ground beneath Tuluwat village is an enormous clamshell mound (or midden). This mound, measuring over six acres in size and estimated to be over 1,000 years old, is an irreplaceable physical history of the Wiyot way of life. Contained within it are remains of meals, tools, and ceremonies, as well as many burial sites.”


      Thank you for sharing all of this info, Humboldt Historian.
      The terrible, awful details should not be forgotten, especially in the context of Arkley’s move to take the island.

    • I appreciate your comments, Humboldt Historian. This is the first time I’ve read Mr. Gunther’s account.

  • Why is the interested buyer the evil one instead of the interested seller?
    How long has it been for sale or deliberated for sale?
    Why haven’t the tribes saved the needed funds for purchasing it should the occasion ever arise?
    I see a lot of lawsuits against state and federal governments. Wouldn’t this money for lawyers and courts be better spent on purchasing the lands that pull the heartstrings?
    Please don’t feel insulted. An informed mind beats a conclusive mind.
    The relationship between Govts and Native Americans has always been, imo, a confusing relationship. Trusts, permits, and sovereignty nations seems to be a head scratcher.
    I would ask a lawyer, but I don’t have $800.00 per hour, or the patience, for the himhawing gooblyspeak they’re known for.
    I can draw conclusions, but I’d rather hear the facts.
    Take it from the top please.

  • Humboldt Historian

    Learn more about Humboldt Counties Genocidal Beginnings Read:
    THE RIGHT THING TO DO: RETURNING LAND TO THE WIYOT TRIBE by Karen Elizabeth Nelson A Thesis Presented to The Faculty of Humboldt State University

  • Humboldt Historian

    Gunther House Tolowat Island AKA Gunther island Humboldt Bay Ca

  • Give the land back to the rightful owners, in this case the Tribe. Let Arkley find something else to do with his money that could benefit the entire city, he has no business even entertaining the thought of buying this island.

  • Thank you Humboldt Historian!

  • My great grandmother swam from Túlúwát, 8 months pregnant during the massacre. So I could be here today.
    My grandmother/ góóchá tells the story with great sadness. She is the old Wiyot with us today, she is 102 years young.

    Yíl Túlúwát/ I’m Túlúwát!

    • That gave me chills. Tell your grandmother thank you for carrying the story.

    • Your grandmother’s oral history is one of the most important in the history of the land now known as Humboldt County.

      Echoing Kym, thank you so much to your great-grandmother, grandmother and to you for keeping this terrible story alive and for sharing it here.
      We should never forget.

      May your grandmother live at least another 102 years. Thank you again.

      • Well said, I concur with the heartfelt comments above, and could not say it better. Thanks to our elders, the history lives on, good or bad. Thanks for the Humboldt Historian for the detailed report, and to Kym Kemp for carrying the story. She does a tremendous job keeping the tradition of fair and informative journalism alive in Humboldt County!
        I applaud Rob for some of the good things he has done, and tried to do in and for the community, but he kinda stepped in it on this one.

    • Thank you and your grandma!

  • August 2, 2017

    Open letter in response to Rob Arkley’s attempted block of spiritual justice,

    Yes, it is “astonishing and flabbergasting” that the City of Eureka is now considering returning Indian Island – Tuluwat to the Wiyot Tribal Nation because that action is long overdue. There, we said it – The City of Eureka is rightfully deliberating on this matter, at this time, finally in 2017.

    In fact, we congratulate them and thank the city for its forward thinking and respectful engagement on this matter. We encourage the City of Eureka to stand firmly and with resolve to their commitment to the Wiyot Tribe and the future generations yet to come. Perhaps such a deliberation is taking place because in its very heart, the good people on the Eureka City Council know that this land, and far more, is owed back into the possession of the rightful sovereign nation, the Wiyot.

    Of course we do not need to remind anyone that it was the everyday citizens of Eureka, fueled by racism and consumptive greed, that led to not just one, but multiple brutal massacres, butcherings, mass enslavements and the trafficking of the Indigenous Peoples’ of this region in the mid and late 1800’s. The results of this wrongful taking are the captivity of Native homelands, devastation of cultures, and the continued oppression of the Peoples well until today. This has allowed the amassing of fortunes and benefits from blood-soaked stolen lands and exploited resources.

    Your ineloquent remarks, Rob, on the Northcoast’s KINS Talkshop radio program this past Monday morning, July 31, 2017, were astonishing. In our opinion, these revealed greed, disrespect, and a denigrating mentality toward Native Peoples. Perhaps for some who know you, such a tone was not a surprise. However, true leaders reveal themselves in their actions and behavior, and your demeanor and expressed intent on that program are not that of any kind of leader who would benefit the diverse peoples and needs of this area. How sad that your world is so small that you believe yourself superior to anyone else. We imagine this is due to your privileged status rather than any actual strength or intellectual power.

    Tuluwat – Indian Island is not your asset Rob. It does not belong to you or your family for your personal pleasure or financial gain. You can’t put it in your pocket and walk off. We doubt you have any sincere concern for a heron rookery on sacred land stolen from a brutalized People and that now needs to be returned. Keeping it out of Native possession and relationship is what is morally indefensible. And it’s that simple.

    We echo the recent communication from the Tsurai Ancestral Society and join them and others who stand in solidarity with the Wiyot Tribe and the City of Eureka in their transferring of that sacred land back into the safekeeping of the Wiyot Tribe. We call to action every person and organization of conscience to join in this stand. The return of this land can support the Wiyot Peoples’ distinct cosmology which is centered here, which is their homeland, in a way that can renew and flourish all life. We recognize and respect that such a return can help nurture the vitality of the Wiyot People and facilitate collective healing for the entire region. This is a sacred birthright of the generations to come.

    In peace,
    Chris Peters, President & Tia Oros Peters, Executive Director
    Seventh Generation Fund for Indigenous Peoples

    cc: The Honorable Ted Hernandez, Chair, Wiyot Tribal Nation

  • Humboldt Historian

    CaliforniaPrehistory.com — The Site on Gunther Island Tolowat Island is a very important Cremona site, but it also holds enormous secrets as to the first people’s of California and is known by the State of California as Archaeological Site (CA-HUM-67) Tolowat is known as a very large graveyard and numerous Graves with very significant findings which were not properly cate Logue by R. F. HEIFER, L.L. Loud, Harrington when they were sent there by Berkeley professor Alured Kroeber, R.F. Heizer stole and took from Tolowat some 10,000 archaeological items of “immense importance” from Tolowat during his first 4 month archaeological survey of Tolowat around 1914. There were in actuality over 20,000 different prehistory artifacts “inventoried” by UC Berkeley Anthropology Department between 1910 and 1930! The pieces prove that Tolowat was a meeting spot for many tribes from as far as British Colombia North and Santa Barbara Chumash Indians from the South! Items include very rare ” slave killers” which were shaped like dinosaurs made of different stones! Not to mention numerous Mortar and Pestles, Metates, Metate Balls, arrow heads, rare stone ceremonial bowls among over 50+ excavated graves! The importance to the tribe and to science is very significant! This island needs to be returned to the people who actually “built the island” as Scientists and researchers say the Island was actually “Indian hand made”! The ” World Renewal Festival” was reported to have taken place on Tolowat Island for over 2500 years, making this site incredibly important to the prehistoric history and ceremonial importance to all California Indian Tribes, many of whom traveled hundreds of miles along the Coast to attend this important “World Renewal Ceremony” which lasted as long as three weeks! I will share more as well as more links stay tuned!


    Albert B. Elsasser

    This article originally appeared in Symposium: A New Look at some Old Sites, Papers from the Symposium Organized by Francis A. Riddell, Presented at the Annual Meeting of the Society for California Archaeology, March 23-26, 1983, San Diego, California. Coyote Press Archives of California Prehistory 6:49-54, 1986.

    It seems fairly evident that A.L. Kroeber was aware at an early date that two sites, one in southern Washington, and one in northwestern California, were of key importance to the archaeology of the region called the southern Northwest Coast and its immediate environs. These sites were the Wakemap site on the Columbia River and the site on Gunther Island. The Gunther Island site, besides being a sort of landmark–the only high spot at the northern end of the island–was also considered a focal point of a massacre by local whites of the resident Wiyot tribe. This ghastly event took place in 1860, and was in some measure responsible for the subsequent near-extinction of the Wiyot. Many Wiyot from several other sites in the region of Gunther Island also suffered heavily in the same massacre.
    In 1913, L.L. Loud spent four months in the Humboldt Bay region, and attempted to chart the Indian sites in a manner similar to that which N.C. Nelson had done earlier on San Francisco Bay. He stated that about one-half of this time was spent in excavating the site on Gunther Island. At the time he was there, Robert Gunther, who had acquired the island in 1860, was living, and was able to give Loud much information about the main site which referred to the time before Loud’s visit. He spoke of a small Indian village at one end of the site, the house types, and estimated that only about 50 persons were living on the site before 1860. The village was also known as the seat of an annual dance ceremony, held in February, and lasting about a week. It was during one of these February weeks that the 1860 massacre took place.

    Gunther Island was mostly tidal marsh, except for two shell-mounds, in prehistoric times, and has been diked by white settlers. One of the sites has disappeared, evidently, while the site we are discussing still remains in remnant form at the northeast end of the island. In 1971 a bridge from Eureka to Samoa was competed, with one of its foundations near but evidently not directly anchored on the site. I don’t know the extent of the damage while the bridge was being built. This was before the time, effectively, of organized cultural resource management, and the bridge seems to have been thrown up without very wide, if any, notice being given to possible further destruction of the mound.

    Loud’s excavation report was published in 1918, and remained for more than 30 years practically the only published representation of northwestern California archaeology. Loud’s work allowed distinguishing of two cultural layers; he found 22 burials, but in excavating to a depth of about 275 cm, he found comparatively few artifacts scattered in the midden. At the lowest depth, in “marsh material consisting of carbonized wood and vegetable detritus,” he collected the sample used much later in the Carbon 14 dating of around A.D. 900 as the supposed time of first occupation of the site. In general he brought to light the salient artifacts, mostly burial accompaniments, which enabled later archaeologists to refer to part of a regional culture sequence as the Gunther Pattern or Phase.

    Probably there had been numerous pot-hunting forays on the site even before Loud’s day, and almost certainly at various times afterwards. Dating from the early 1920s, a local dentist named H. H. Stuart purchased a lease on the site and excavated in places where Loud had not dug. Stuart produced a chart showing that he had found about 382 burials during the course of the next 30 years. He claimed never to have found any evidence of burial of the Wiyot who were massacred at the site in 1860. Records of a sort were kept, unfortunately, on only 142 of the 382 burials he found. It is clear that Stuart was reasonably careful with the 142 burials, but measuring his standards against Loud’s, he would probably have been classified as a slightly above-average private collector looking for spectacular items like the unusual animal-form carvings of slate or steatite which Loud called slave killers. Stuart claimed to have spent more time taking measurements and making records than in excavating.

    From a Eureka newspaper article dated 1965, I have found that another private collector, a teacher from Eureka named T.J. Hannah, had spent the past two and one-half years excavating on the island. The report (Rinehart 1965) refers to Hannah in quotes as a “student,” and to his activities, also in quotes, as “salvage.” I do not know the present whereabouts of his collection, nor if he kept records of any kind.
    During 1964, I was fairly heavily involved in the publication of Stuart’s notes, copies of which Heizer had obtained before 1950 (Heizer and Elsasser 1964). Despite the care that went into preparing these sometimes sketchy data, Stuart was greatly incensed about the publication, and was threatening to sue the University of California for, in effect, not having treated his notes as he would have. I understood that before he could proceed with his suit, he was overtaken by serious illness, and the case was subsequently dropped. I gather from newspaper stories from 1970 (e.g., Hodgkinson 1970), however, that he seemingly relented, and was not unpleased that his work was now available to the public.
    In 1965, I attempted to correlate Loud’s and Stuart’s data, and one part of this job was constructing a lengthy chart (Table 1) that combined their findings. This showed that though Loud’s sample was small, he had revealed most of the diagnostic classes of artifacts of the site, while at the same time missing a fair number of other kinds, which Stuart had recovered. It can easily be seen from this chart that, if nothing else, Stuart was zealous, although none of his excavations went below 152 cm, while Loud’s trench went down to 275 cm in one place at least. It seems that Loud’s suggestion of cultural stratigraphy in noting what he called cremations at lower levels (that is, below 91 cm) versus simple interments at upper levels in the midden was not confuted by Stuart’s finds, although Stuart’s “burns,” in a larger sample, far outnumbered his finds of simple interments. In addition, Stuart’s data strongly suggest not cremation proper, but pre-interment grave pit burning (a Central California trait); some of his graves evidently had no calcined bones, while others had bones which were scarcely burned. I might add here that the preferred method of burial by both ethnographic Wiyot and Yurok has been simple interment, not cremation or burning.
    Some of the artifacts recovered after Loud’s excavation at Gunther Island are now in the Cecile Clarke Memorial Museum in Eureka. Probably Stuart gave some of these to the Museum, and some were collected by Cecile Clarke, who was a teacher in a Eureka high school at the time Stuart was working. All of this material is not very well documented, as far as I could determine from a visit I made there almost 30 years ago. I really do not know what has become of the bulk of the Stuart collection–perhaps it is at the Clarke Museum.
    After Stuart’s time, there was, as I said, additional pot-hunting on the Island, and possibly even some controlled excavation of which I am not aware. In 1980, Suzanne Ramiller of Sonoma State produced an excellent, up-to-date overview of the prehistory of the northwest region (Ramiller 1980), and in this no mention is made of any but the sort of thing I have been talking about at Gunther Island–I assume from this that if any new reliable work has been done on the Island, it has not been reported, at least in any of the usual sources. Perhaps someone at this meeting can throw some light on this subject,
    In recent times, that is since 1965 or so, several valuable surveys and excavations in the northwestern California region, for example by Fredrickson, Gould (1966); Milburn (1979); and Moratto (1973), have resulted in the presentation of a reasonably firm prehistoric culture sequence which includes the Gunther Island Phase in its middle range. In addition, we now seem to be in a fairly good position to estimate early population movements in the region by combining archaeological data with certain linguistic suppositions (cf. Whistler 1979). Unfortunately the Gunther Island site does not provide any definite archaeological evidence for these movements or changes, and even leaves us puzzled to some degree about the true identity of the late prehistoric occupants of the Island site. Although the site was so important in the historic period, both Loud’s and Stuart’s excavations seem not to have yielded any definite historic material beyond an iron harpoon part found in one of Stuart’s burial lots. Despite the facts of a village, known to be of small size, and of the site’s known use as a ceremonial place in the mid-19th Century, there were, then, virtually no signs of mixing of late prehistoric and historic artifacts in the burials. It has been observed that the simple interments usually contained much less artifact accompaniment than the graves that had evidence of burning. Moreover Stuart’s excavation disclosed several classes of artifacts, like ‘C’ shaped fishhooks, ‘offset’ pestles, and human figurines of clay, while both Loud and Stuart found small baked clay balls, and animal form ground slate figures. None of these kinds of artifacts was known either to ethnographic Wiyot or Yurok.
    The graves with evidence of burning which Loud called cremations and Stuart “burns,” but which I am now referring to as pre-interment grave pit burnings, may well be suggestive of links with Central California. It has been assumed that the prehistoric Wiyot were more likely to have received such significant influences than the Yurok. Despite the physical contiguity and linguistic relationship (which is not notably close even though the two languages are in the same family), between the Yurok and Wiyot, Kroeber noted long ago (e.g., 1939) that they were more different in culture than one would at first suspect, with the Wiyot in effect pointing south and the Yurok pointing north. On the other hand, if we consider the data in Table 1, which was drawn up about 20 years ago but never published, it is obviously not very helpful in establishing long Wiyot residence at the site; if anything, it suggests Yurok predominance in prehistoric times.
    In conclusion, I’d like to make the observation that we are really not much farther along than we were in 1918, when Loud published his report on the site, based upon a quite small sample, as it turned out, taken from a trench about 35 meters long. It is somehow appropriate that Loud himself collected the sample of organic material that was dated in 1964, pointing to around A.D. 900 for the earliest use of the site. It appears that Stuart’s largest contribution was in offering evidence that the site was more important as a burial and mollusc-collecting place rather than an intensively occupied village site. Given the extent of the only semi-valuable data of Stuart, plus the numerous unrecorded pillagings of the site for perhaps 100 years, it seems unlikely that we shall ever be able to obtain any definitive answers to lingering questions concerning the upper levels, at least.
    Whatever the case, the site also continues to be of some public interest. I have read (Hayden 1982) that in 1973, two years after the Samoa bridge was built, an Indian organization was attempting to sue the City of Eureka for reparations in the matter of the bloody massacre of 1860, which probably will always be chiefly identified with the Gunther Island site. I mention this because, despite the public interest, the site may have been further damaged by the bridge building operation. If it has not, and the local Indians indeed would permit further excavation there, we may conjecture that the lower levels of the site, still presumably undisturbed except by Loud’s limited excavation, contain something of archaeological significance in them, including the possibilities of obtaining additional samples of material for radiocarbon dating.
    It is said that the Far Western Indian Historical Association proposes to build a museum and cultural center on the 270 acre island, which is currently a National Wildlife Refuge. It appears that the days of predatory pot-hunters on Gunther Island are, or should be, over.
    Table 1. Some Culture Elements Found at CA-HUM-67 Known Also by Yurok and Wiyot.

    Element (No. from Driver 1939)
    Bone fish spear (233)

    Vertical pole or plank as grave marker (2065)

    Suggested at Hum-67 by relative lack of overlapping burials
    Cemetery away from village (2072)1


    Mammal bone hair pin (1138)

    Inferred at Hum-67
    Cemetery away from village (2071)


    Manufactured stone club (912)


    Buried property broken (2082)

    Many specimens at Hum-67, not broken, although burned
    All stone tubular pipes (1288)


    Spatula-paddle shaped stone clubs (see remarks)

    Found in Yurok territory by Indians (Driver 1939:391)
    Orientation of burials2

    1 The items titled “Cemetery away from or close to village” may not be applicable here, insofar as it is not clear whether the Gunther Island site was a bona-fide village site in prehistoric times.
    2 “Orientation of burials” at Hum-67 also is probably weak–it is statistical only, and does not indicate any rigid adherence to the northerly direction by whatever group was conducting the burial ceremony.

    Driver, H.E. 1939. Culture Element Distributions: X. Northwest California. University of California Anthropological Records 1(6):297-435. Berkeley.
    Gould, R.A. 1966. Archaeology of the Point St. George Site and Tolowa Prehistory. University of California Publications in Anthropology 4. Berkeley.
    Hayden, M. 1982. Exploring the North Coast: A Guide to the California Coast from the Golden Gate to the Oregon Border. Chronicle Books, San Francisco.
    Heizer, R.F., and A.B. Elsasser. 1964. The Archaeology of Hum-67: The Gunther Island Site in Humboldt Bay, California. Reports of the University of California Archaeological Survey 62:5-122). Berkeley.
    Hodgkinson, E. 1970. Dr. Stuart Rediscovered a Lost People. Times-Standard, Sunday March 8, 1970. Eureka.
    Kroeber, A.L. 1939. Local Ethnographic and Methodological Inferences. In H.E. Driver, Culture Element Distributions: X. Northwest California. University of California Anthropological Records 1(6):425-429. Berkeley.
    Milburn, J., D.A. Fredrickson, M. Dreiss, L. de Michael, and W. Van Dusen. 1979. A Preliminary Report on the Archaeology of CA-Hum-129 /Tsahpek/. Submitted to California Department of Parks and Recreation, Sacramento.
    Moratto, M.J. 1973. A Survey of Cultural Resources in and near Redwood National Park, California. Submitted to National Park Service, Tucson.
    Moratto, M.J. 1980. Some Archaeological Research Prospects in Northwestern California. Appendix 3:116-123 in Resource Evaluations at Nine Archaeological Sites, Redwood Creek Basin, Redwood National Park, California, A. King and P. McW. Bickel, eds. Submitted to National Park Service, Redwood Park, Arcata.
    Ramiller, S. 1982. Humboldt and Del Norte Counties. In Prehistoric Overview–Northwest Region: California Archaeological Inventory, Vol. 1, D.A. Fredrickson, general editor. Anthropological Research Center, Sonoma State University, Rohnert Park.
    Rinehart, F. 1965. Gunther Artifacts Tell Tale of Lost Tribe: Ancient Indians Far Surpass Moderns in Craftsmanship. Times Standard, November 7, 1965. Eureka.
    Whistler, K.W. 1979. Linguistic Prehistory of the Northwestern California Coastal Area. In A Study of Cultural Resources in Redwood National Park, California, P. McW. Bickel, ed.

  • Humboldt Historian

    This site is seriously a “World Heritage Site” …. do the research! ARCHAEOLOGY OF HUM67, THE Gunther Island Site : UC Berkeley http://digitalassets.lib.berkeley.edu/anthpubs/ucb/text/ucas062-002.pdf

    Page 1
    ARCHAEOLOGY OF HUM-67, THE GUNTHER ISLAND SITE IN HUMBOLDT BAY, CALIFORNIA Robert F. Heizer and A. B. Elsasser CONTENTS INTRODUCTION . . . . . 7 STUART’S EXCAVATIONS AT SITE HUM-67 . . . 9 Description of site . . . . . . . 10 Disposal of the dead . . . . . . . 10 Stuart’s graves 1 to 141 . . . . . . 15 ARTIFACTS RECOVERED Objects of chipped stone Obsidian blades . 24 Obsidian knives . . . 24 Flint knives . . . . . . . 24 Projectile points . . . . . . . 25 Scrapers . . . . 25 Drills . . 25 Ground stone artifacts Pestles. . . . . . . . . 26 Mauls . . . . . . . . . 26 Adze handles. . . . . . . . 26 Sinkers. . . . . . . . . 26 Stone bowls . . . . . . . . 27 Zooform clubs . . . . . . . 27 Flat stone clubs . . . . . . . 29 Slate knife(?) . . . . . . . 29 Tubular steatite pipes . . . . . . 29 Baked clay objects Figurines . . . . . . . . 30 Tubular claypipes . . . . . . 30 Clay balls . . . . . . . . 30 Bone and antler objects Antler and bone wedges . . . . . . 31 Barbed harpoons, toggle harpoons and spears . 31 Bone fishhooks . . . . . . . 31 Bone awls and perforated needles . . . . 32 Hairpins and headscratchers . . . . . 32 Bone ornaments . . . . . . . 32 Undecorated bone objects . . . . . 33 – 5 –
    Page 2
    6 Shell artifacts Abalone ornaments . 33 Dentalia beads . . . 34 Olivella beads 34 Vegetal material . . . 34 Miscellaneous material . 34 SUMMARY . . . . . . . . 35 TABLE 1: Occurrence of Burials and Artifacts at Gunther Island Site (Hum-67) Graves Nos. 1 -27 . a . . . . 36 Graves Nos. 28- 54 . . 42 Graves Nos. 55 – 81 48 Graves Nos. 82 -107 . 54 Graves Nos. 108 – 134 . 60 Graves Nos. 135 – 141 . 66 CHART 1: Contour Plan of Site Hum-67 . . . 69 CHART 2: Section of Site and Diagram of Trench . . 70 DIAGRAM 1: Plan ofStuart’s Excavation . . 71 EXPLANATION OF FIGURES . . . . . . . 73 Figures 1 -23 . . . . . . . . 74 BIBLIOGRAPHY . . . . . . . . 120
    Page 3

  • Humboldt Historian

    Where was Bret’s Harte?
    A local legend re-examined
    By J. Thomas Morgan
    It may have been in self-defense. Who really knows why people do awful things? Still, few would argue that what the people of Humboldt County did on Feb. 26, 1860 was right, or even justifiable.
    But the facts remain. On that cold winter morning, a group of men from Eureka and the surrounding area, led by a man named Captain Wright, went out to Indian Island and recklessly destroyed some 60 human lives and possibly an entire culture.
    “They took away our culture by killing our families — our elders, who pass on those traditions; our children, who learn those traditions,” says Cheryl Seidner. She is the great-great-granddaughter of a baby found on the island after the massacre. She says she learned of the massacre from oral tradition when she was very young, but her elders taught her not to dwell on it. Though at some point in time she asked, “Who’s ‘civilized?'”
    Armed with hatchets and clubs and other implements of destruction, the “civilized” men did the only thing they felt they could to stop the native people of Humboldt County from harming their civilization. Oxen and other livestock turned up missing. Even some white men turned up dead as few as two weeks before the massacre.
    Though none of the county citizens thought the Wiyot stole the livestock or killed any men, some mistakenly came to the conclusion Wiyot helped the tribes from the mountains. Those tribes, people thought, committed the crimes. People assumed they traded things like ammunition and weaponry, along with information, for the meat the mountain tribes acquired.
    Local newspapers reported after the massacre, those investigating the scene found as much as 100 pounds of jerked beef on the island. But that too was a mistake. The jerked meat turned out to be seal — the Wiyot were not really beef eaters.
    Also, the citizens of Humboldt County, according to some written accounts, interpreted some events the night before as a sign that a war with the Indians, including the Wiyot, was inevitable. The people knew very little about native culture, and did little to understand or accept it. To them and Indian was and Indian.
    “You can’t trust an injun,” said noted pioneer and hunter Seth Kinman. “I know ’em. If they get the upper hand on you, they will cinch you sure. The only way to get along with them is make them afeard of you.” And so went the prevailing thought of Humboldt County at the time. Newspapers actually suggested a solution a little more harsh than making “them afeard.”
    The natives merely celebrated that week. Some things are lost, says Seidner. Among those things were the name of the island and what the celebration was for. The Wiyot have never celebrated that week since. But they did celebrate for a week before the massacre. The celebration culminated on Saturday night with a great dance. And according to historian Lewellyn Loud, winds from the north kept the inhabitants of the North Bay from going home that night. But those who lived south of the island were able to get back to the mainland. Loud also claimed that spies from the mainland, who went to investigate the dance, also eventually traveled back to Eureka.
    D.R. Leeper, who claimed to be with the group of whites that slaughtered the natives on the island, wrote that the whole town was expecting war. He said there were plans to put a stockade in the plaza. They saw people from the island leaving in boats. Whether it was boats of those from the Eel River going home, the spies headed back to Eureka, or some men leaving the island earlier in the day is irrelevant. They took it as a sign the natives were on the move. But his account is all together less than accurate. He went on to claim the militia was “armed to the teeth” with guns. He said there were 12 of them, led by Captain ‘Smith,’ and they shot everything in sight. But most reports have it as being a group of six men who used very little in the way of bullets.
    Assuming the responsible parties were right all along about the Wiyot, the attack would have done little good. Few men were on the island, and even fewer were of prime age. And surely no one thought it was the women and children who were guilty of any crimes, if only because of the latent sexism that prevailed during the 19th century.

    Bret Harte Clipping courtesy of “The Writings of Bret Harte: Vol. 1.” Supporting photographs taken at Indian Island on Humboldt Bay in Eureka. Illustration by Kevin Bell In fact, history tends to paint the picture in a slightly different hue.
    First, it was no isolated incident. Nor was it a “spur-of-the-moment” reaction to some supposed war with “injuns.” There were many groups of natives attacked in a very similar way — early that morn, and for the next three years in both Mendocino and Humboldt counties. On that morning, natives suffered attacks at three separate locations. The attack at Indian Island was simply the best known and publicized. Publicity was in part due to a young typesetter and reporter working for the Union or Uniontown (but now known as Arcata) newspaper, The Northern Californian, named Francis Brett Harte. Harte would eventually change his name as well — dropping the Francis and the second ‘t’ in ‘Brett.’
    Harte had only been writing for three or four years. He ended up in Humboldt County after coming to California from New York with his mom as a child. She remarried after Harte’s father had died. When Harte grew to adulthood, he moved in with a sister who had married and moved to the north coast of California. He found work with the paper when it first started, and as a result, had considerable clout. Though officially only a typesetter, he was working as the Uniontown reporter and editor in late February and early March 1860.
    That Sunday morning Harte and Eureka senior agent J.H. Davis were hard at work. Harte was in Uniontown where he witnessed survivors bring four canoes loaded with bodies in en route to the Mad River, where some of the natives on the island that night lived. Davis made his way out to the island, where he witnessed the bulk of the tragedy. Both men reported the same thing: dead people, mostly women and children, with their heads split open from ax blades and blunt objects, supplemented by multiple stab wounds. Very few injuries were from bullets, and the residents of Eureka claimed they only heard a few shots during the long night.
    In the next issue of The Northern Californian, which came out that Wednesday, the shocking details of the crime were conveyed. With the details was the story of a man named “Bill,” who was friendly with many of the citizens, and how he had lost his wife, mother, sister, two brothers, and two children in the massacre. Harte worked aggressively to send the message that the attack was wrong home to the readers. But Harte also wrote an editorial claiming though the massacre was deplorable, the blame should be placed squarely on the shoulders of the U.S. government.
    But clearly Harte was no angel himself. His newspaper and others from Humboldt County helped to provide fertile intellectual soil in which the hate and ignorance could grow. The Northern Californian published editorials in the month leading to the massacre that helped to create a war-ready attitude. Even less than two weeks before the massacre, a news item claiming natives killed an ox belonging to Mr. Titlow appeared in the paper. It claimed a militia, led by Captain Wright, organized without permission of the governor and that was merely a sign immediate action was a “necessity.”
    It’s possible that Bret Harte felt guilty, because in the following issue of The Northern Californian he would appear to atone. Showing some sympathy, Harte tried to convince the people of Humboldt County that it would be wise to employ the natives who had survived the attack. He claimed they were weak and incited only pity and therefore would not pose the same threat as an able bodied native. Harte rationalized it by noting that in cases where natives had been willing to part with their offspring, the offspring often turned out to be good servants.
    Harte left town fewer than two weeks after that editorial had been published. Legend has it that the people of Humboldt — presumably the powerful ones who not only owned the livestock in question but were also influential in putting together the militia for the massacre — drove Harte from the town for writing the two aforementioned editorials. Though the tone of the second seems more sympathetic, it’s hard to imagine much of an uproar stirring from such minor disapproval.
    But the news had traveled far. The Northern Californian regularly made it down to Sacramento, a major stop on the Pony Express and the gate to the East. There the Sacramento Bee published articles questioning the actions of the Humboldt citizens.
    “Why not send troops after the lions as well as the Indians, when both are guilty of the same offense in the same degree,” it asked. “The fact is that these Mendocino and Humboldt people make a terrible ado about nothing — appear to be afraid of Indian’s shadow — and would have the state inaugurate and carry on a war of Indian extermination, because Mr. Titlow lost an ox!”
    Also, much had been written in San Francisco, which was well on its way to becoming the world city that it is today. And a lot of the material published in San Francisco came from letters sent from Humboldt County. There were letters from the sheriff and upstanding citizens who opposed the barbarism. Letters from Maj. G. J. Rains, the commander of Fort Humboldt, exonerated the Wiyot from any of the acts they were accused of. These were all accompanied by a host of anonymous letters written by someone calling themselves “Eye-Witness,” “Anti-Thug,” “Citizen,” and “Exodus.”
    Those anonymous letters are of some special notice. Bret Harte was well known for writing anonymously. He would often sign his work simply “B” or “Bret.” Other times he would sign “Bohemian.” Though it’s some leap to go from “Bohemian” to “Anti-Thug,” Harte was an eyewitness to the atrocities he saw that Sunday morning. He was also well connected to San Francisco and its media. He wrote for the Golden Era magazine while living in Union. And it’s much easier to accept that he was run out of town for writing harsh, pro-native prose then for writing mild editorials echoing the general mentality of the public.
    Seidner remembers being told that Harte was run out of town not for what was published in Union, but for what was published in San Francisco. She also remembers hearing that things were passed on to the East and to New York. But the news could have easily gotten to New York from Sacramento. Either way, Harte’s legacy in Humboldt County will be that of a young journalist who tried to say what was right and was run off for it.
    History was not so kind to the Wiyot. So much of their culture and identity were destroyed. They were held in at Fort Humboldt for their safety, presumably both from the winter and from those who might try to finish what they started. Eventually, the survivors were moved to reservations. Some people repeatedly came back to Humboldt Bay, while others tried to assimilate with other tribes. But they have managed to survive, in some capacity, for the 140 years since. Survivors have seen both blessings and troubles, but they now have a reservation specifically for Wiyot. And in March of 2000 they purchased 1.5 acres of the 275-acre island that used to be a mere part of home. http://www2.humboldt.edu/journalism/osprey/spr01/harte.html

  • Just give it back already.

  • The other side of the narrative holds other truths.
    War is evil. To this day innocents all over the world are slaughtered, thanks to our eagerness to give the government more and more money to take care of us. Taking care of us is NOT their job. Their job is to secure our liberties, not control them.
    Perpetual unconstitutional wars creates perpetual fund flowing for more perpetual wars.
    We are supposed to learn from history, not change or infect it with more hate and blame.

    The most important time dates are always left out of the narratives, so that people will go against each other.
    If we don’t learn from the past, we are doomed to repeat the same mistakes.

    How many here are aware that the Native tribes slaughtered the colonists and aligned with the oppressive Brits? Yes, alligned. They became allies.
    The colonists wanted freedom from oppression, not more of it. They fought hard and won their freedom.
    Ask yourselves this. If freedom and property rights are so important, why are we fighting each other over freedom and property rights?
    The UN was a pet project of the USA. The USA were the biggest contributors. Today, the neo-cons have military all across the globe. The neo-cons (a genuine group, not a slur word), have it all planned out for one world government. The UN isn’t helping Venezuela or any of the other areas of plight. Instead, they are busy instigating victimhood amongst all cultures, races and beliefs.

    I want the island to belong to the people who truly cherish all it’s history. It must become a symbol of peace, not war.
    Peace is a beautiful thing.
    Love conquers all bias.

    Beware of British Loyalists whose only loyalty lays with the oppressive king.

    • “…the Native tribes slaughtered the colonists and aligned with the oppressive Brits…”

      ^Blanket statement, confused, toxic and false. Smallpox blanket statement, to further the metaphor.

      “I want the island to belong to the people who truly cherish all it’s history. It must become a symbol of peace, not war.”

      It is not your island and not your call. It is what it is to the Wiyot. What it is or should be to you is irrelevant to anyone but you.

      • It’s not a blanket statement. It’s a factual event that took place amongst many of the tribes and colonists.
        The act that aligned many tribes with the oppressive King and his loyalists, put all tribes and colonists on high alert.
        When the alert is sounded, all kinds of chaos takes hold. The instigators rush to the telegraph lines, the newspapers rush to get their headlines out first, townspeople rush to safeguard their families, while the instigators smile as they head to the bank with a handsome reward from the King.
        One such instigator, possibly falsely alerted the people to a forthcoming massacre of their town. This part is always left out of the history journals isn’t it.
        The menfolk were off hunting according to the journals of those who survived the deplorable massacre.
        The menfolk were off killing white eyes, according to the loyalists who alerted the townspeople.

        In the end, what have we learned? To research all avenues of historical reference and learn from the mistakes so the horrors are never repeated.

        Or, as some like to point out, to hide it away and declare war on anybody who dares to question the narrative.

  • I’d like to add, that the British Loyalists were brutally tortured and often murdered, due to the incredibly evil ploys they used to gain favor from the King against both the Tribes and the Colonists. They used the press to narrate twisted stories. They used the press to spread lies about peaceful tribes on the warpath. They wanted war against the colonists at all costs. They sabotaged Tribes and the Colonists at every turn. They set both sides up for slaughter.
    They are not, were not, never will be, allies.
    Be always watchful of who interprets the smoke signals.

    • Your simple conflation of all Native Americans is simply racist. No matter if you don’t think it is; that’s the problem; you haven’t thought it through.

      • Your perspective is yours to own. Not mine.
        I’d rather learn from the mistakes of history so they’re never repeated.

        How you arrived at your conclusion is baffling to those who do not wear your blinders.
        I do not wear your blinders.

        When war and high alert is sounded, throughout all of history, including today, it is up to us to be aware of those who take advantage of the chaos for profit or evil destruction.

        Beware of wolves in sheep’s clothing.

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