Monday, October 2, 2023

The Remains of Twenty Members of Humboldt County’s Wiyot Tribe Return Home


The following is a press release from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers:

An undated photograph of a Wiyot man

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District and the University of California, Berkeley, have successfully repatriated 20 human remains and 136 objects of historical, traditional and cultural importance to the Wiyot Tribe of Loleta, Calif.

The collection resided in the Phoebe A. Hearst Museum of Anthropology at UC Berkeley. The remains and associated items were uncovered in 1946 during construction activities related to the Humboldt Bay Jetties, which were built by the Corps. A cultural affiliation study conducted by Statistical Research Inc. for the Corps found the human remains were likely to be lineal descendants of the Wiyot people, based on ethnographic, linguistic, osteological and archaeological data. Further research conducted by UC Berkeley in 2021 indicated that these individuals were likely victims of the Indian Island Massacre, which took place on Feb. 26, 1860, when settlers attacked numerous Wiyot villages.

The Wiyot are Indigenous people of California who have lived in the Humboldt Bay region since time immemorial. Today, there are about 650 tribal members who enrolled in several federally recognized tribes, such as the Wiyot Tribe, Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria and Blue Lake Rancheria.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District and UC Berkeley first consulted with numerous tribes concerning the collection in September 2007. Information supplied by the Wiyot Tribe and other federally recognized tribes with Wiyot composition supported the research of the two agencies. The tribe recognized that the human remains belonged to the Wiyot and then requested the return of the remains and associated funerary items. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers San Francisco District and UC Berkeley agreed to follow the process of repatriation pursuant to the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA).

NAGPRA is a federal law enacted by Congress in 1990 to ensure the return of Native American human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony to lineal descendants, Indian tribes and Native Hawaiian organizations.

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Ted Hernandez, Cultural Director and Tribal Historic Preservation Officer for the Wiyot Tribe, said, “We have been working to return the remains of our relations for years. We are thankful to finally be able to welcome them home.”

This repatriation is a benchmark for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the University, since, at the time of the excavation, neither party could clearly determine who owned the land where the remains were discovered. As a result, it was unclear who should conduct the repatriation. Rather than delay the process for years, and at the request of the tribe, the two parties conducted the repatriation jointly.“This a tremendous day for us” said Hernandez. “It reflects the commitment of the University to find ways to make repatriation happen, to work constructively with our tribe, and agency partners.”

The Wiyot ancestral territory encompasses the area bounded by Little River to the north, Bear River Ridge to the south, the Pacific Coast to Berry Summit in the northeast, and Chalk Mountain in the southeast. The tribe’s current land holdings include 88 acres on the south end of Humboldt Bay, five miles from the town of Loleta, which is where its tribal government seat is located.

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  1. Do You Believe In Magic by John Sebastion
    Will you be feeding maggots in a shallow grave
    Or sold to Russians as a young sex slave
    Because it’s easy to make you disappear our goal is always to keep the natives in fear
    From Plymoth Rock to Standing Rock the rules never change
    We want what’s yours and we never face that shame

  2. I am happy to see this article. I’ve tried too get a role number for my ancestry and I donated to the bear river tribe ethnic Indian artifacts too their display in the casino. The agreement was too honor my ancestry and the agreement was not kept by the tribe. Mr. Eby was the decent INDIAN I even supplied family tree and in the HUMBOLDT County records book. Other Indian records. I had the book for proof. It was my grandparents copy for Marshall law. As they were special deputy SHERRIFFS. Until THIER deaths. My family holds THIER badges and card ##’s.Mr. eby was searched by the Ulysses Grant and calvery for four years with no luck of his capture. He was FOUND dead on black lassic ceremonial ground of natural causes of death. There is a headstone on his grave site too mark his grave. Hid INDIAN name was Indian Dave or aka Mr. EBY HE HELPED BUILD HUMBOLDT COUNTY. HE was involved with much of Ferndale dairies and his very own. His daughter Nancy may laninni and husband Rafael panini built the first home on HUMBOLDT Hill with 50 dairy cow’s. Ulysses Grant tried too rape Nancy mea panini in her home,but Raphael came home catching Grant. He beat him up threw him in his backboard wagon clapping his horse pulling the wagon. It headed into Eureka as Grant awoke he started shooting his gun,which got Grant in trouble for being intoxicated and firing his gun. This is historically written about Grant but not the attempts on Nancy. That is the true story of the North COAST spirit ! When that is mentioned my family laughs at the story. I want recognition of my ancestry and the agreement fulfilled for my donation to the tribe. A roll number is my dream!!!!!

    • I just did a very quick search about the names you mentioned. Your ancestor, Nancy Mae (nee Eby) Laninni, was born in 1868 and died in 1957. Ulysses S Grant was at Fort Humboldt for a few months in 1854. Your anecdote concerrning Grant and your ancestors doesn’t appear to be factually possible.

      I also took a brief look at Nancy M Eby’s parents (according to the Find-a-Grave website) and her parents and their parents all appear to have originated from somewhere other than Humboldt County, They also seem to be shown as caucasian.

      As citizens of tribal nations, we must all be able to document our lineage. That documentation may include birth certificates, marriage records, and census records. Obviously, the further back you go, birth and marriage records become scarce, but there were quite extensive records kept re: native populations. There are also allotment records, death records, newspaper stories, etc that help to prove a consistent story about a particular family.

      I’m not sure how you came to believe that you would receive tribal membership in exchange for some donated items (and I’m not enrolled at Bear River, but I have relatives who are) but I can assure you tribal nations have policies that must be followed in order for anyone to be enrolled.

  3. Tribal rolls were recorded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, they hold these records in their Sacramento office. This might be a good place to start looking for official documentation, just a suggestion, I am no expert.

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Matt LaFever
Matt LaFeverhttps://mendofever.com/
I like to think of myself as a reporter for the Average Joe. Journalism has become a craft defined largely by city dwellers on America's coasts. It’s time to take it back. I have been an Emerald Triangle resident since 2006 and this is year ten in Mendocino County. Please, email me at matthewplafever@gmail.com if you know a story that needs to be told.

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