[Untitled]‎ > ‎Northwest‎ > ‎

Hupa Indians

Name: Also known as the Hoopa, the full name of the Hupa Indians is the Hoopa Indian Valley Tribe. The tribe is also made up of the Karuk and Tolowa tribes.

Location: The original Hupa Indians resided in different regions of Northwestern California. Many of their descendants currently live on the Hoopa Valley Reservation. Their traditional houses were made of redwood or cedar.

Clothing: The men wore a breechclout of deerskin or of skins of small animals joined together, and leggings to their knees of painted deerskin. Their moccasins were made of deerskin with soles of elk hide. The dance robes of the men were made of two deerskins sewn together along one side, the necks meeting over the left shoulder and the tails nearly touching the ground. Panther skins were sometimes used. The hair was tied into two clubs, one hanging down on each side of the head, or into one which hung behind. Bands of deerskin, sometimes ornamented with wood peckers' crests, were worn about the head in dances, and occasionally feathers or feathered darts were stuck in the hair. A quiver made of skin was filled with arrows and one of plain buckskin sack of netting was carried as a pocket for small articles. Women wore a skirt of deerskin reaching to the knees, with a long, thick fringe hanging below and a short fringe at the waist and an apron underneath. The skirts worn in dances were ornamented with strings of shell beads, pieces of abalone shell, and Hakes of obsidian fastened to the upper and of shells of pine nuts inserted at intervals in the lower fringe.

Food: Meat was roasted before the fire or on the coals or incased in the stomach and buried in the ashes until cooked, or was boiled in water-tight baskets by dropping in hot stones. Meat and fish were preserved by smoking. Salmon were caught in latticed weirs stretched across the river or in seines or pound nets, or were speared with barbs that detached but were made fast to the pole by lines. Dried acorns were ground into flour, leached in a pit to extract the bitter taste, and boiled into a mush.

What They’re Known For: The Hupa are well known for their trading with other tribes. They traded with the Yurok to their west and north for redwood dugout canoes, fish, seaweed and dentalia shells, which the Yurok in turn had obtained from the Tolowa, and which the Hupa traded to the Shasta along with acorns, baskets and salt. The Hupa exchanged skins and acorns for Yurok goods. They traded with the Wiyot for white deerskins, and got tobacco and abalone shells from the Mattole, to whom they gave grass for rope and pine nut beads. The Northern Wintun provided salt. The Shasta provided them with buckskin, pine nuts and horn for spoons.

Ceremonies/Traditions/Rituals: The Hupa believed there was a person who represented the region east, west, south, and above with mortals known as Kihunai. The underworld is the abode of the dead. Their creator or culture hero, Yimantuwingyai, dwells with Kihunai across the ocean toward the north. A salmon feast is held by the southern division in the spring and an acorn feast by the northern division in the fall. They celebrated three dances each year: the spring dance, the white-deerskin dance, and the jumping dance. The white deerskins were used in the White Deerskin Dance, part of the World Renewal Ceremony which averted natural disasters such as acorn crop or salmon run failures. They had a large and varied folklore and many medicine formulas.

    A young woman, a virgin, who lived at Kintcuwhwikut used to make baskets by the riverside. After a time she became pregnant. She wondered about her condition for she had not even seen a man. She gave birth to a girl and took proper care of it. When the child was quite large the mother made baskets by the river again. She became pregnant a second time. This time she gave birth to a boy. She hated it and never took care of it. The girl tended her little brother. After a time the mother was to be married and started to her husband's house taking the little girl with her. She dropped the boy, baby-basket and all, down a steep bank by the trail. "Come along," she said to the girl. "No," she said. She cried for her brother but the mother went off and left them both. The sister, seizing the baby-basket by the bail, dragged it up the hill and back into the house. When at night they lay down to sleep the girl said, "I wish when we wake up in the morning we would be lying in a blanket and something to eat would be by our heads." When they woke in the morning they found themselves covered with a blanket and food was lying by their heads. They always did that way. When the boy became large his sister said, "I wish, my brother, when we wake up tomorrow morning a string of dentalia would lie at our heads." In the morning it was there. They always made wishes that way and they afterwards came to pass. After a time he began to run about. One night the sister said, "I wish when we wake up in the morning we would find a bow and arrows at our heads." In the morning there they were. Then they went hunting and he killed birds. Finally he became a man and killed deer. The girl was now a woman. They filled their house with dried meat. Then the boy fished and they dried the fish and stored them away. When their house would hold no more they made cribs of hazel. They filled ten of these with provisions. All this time they saw nothing of their mother. One night the girl had a dream. The next morning, the young man, who now slept in a sweat-house, came in and said, "I dreamed there will be a famine." "I, too, dreamed that," said the sister. For several years there was a famine. The people about began to starve. One morning the sister thought she heard someone moving outside. She looked out and saw a woman who said, "Here take your brother." She took it and carried it in. Then she took in another and another until she had taken in ten children which had been born to her mother. Last of all the husband came in. "I have come back," said the mother, "these your brothers were about to starve." "Poor things," thought the girl, "I had better hurry and feed them." She fed the smallest one and told the others to eat as fast as they could. She was afraid of the young man, her brother. When he came back at night he brought in a deer. "I am glad my boy," said the woman, "for I am going to eat." He did not even look at her, but turned around and went out. All the next day he stayed in the sweat-house without food. The following evening the girl went to the sweat-house entrance and said, "Come and eat." "No," he said, "gather up your things. I have found our father; he has come for us. Soon he will push a stick under our house." The girl went back to the house and made a quantity of soup that they might all have plenty to eat. When the rest were asleep she emptied down some acorns and buried some salmon under the earthen floor. At midnight the father pushed a stick under both the house and sweat-house and they went of their own accord under the water. There their father, a water sprite, lived. The next morning when the others woke up they saw they were lying without a house to cover them. The woman looked about but saw nothing left. Then she began to dig in the wood-room where she found acorns and salmon buried. She knew her daughter had done that for her.

Current Status With Government: In 1864, a Peace and Friendship Treaty was negotiated with the United States. In 1896, the Department of the Interior began preparing a land allotment list and in1909 a Proclamation was handed down by President Theodore Roosevelt. This list was not completed and approved until 1923. The Hupa People successfully avoided the physical destruction of their valley homeland, and in modern times created one of the first successful Self-Governance Tribal structures in the nation.