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Hupa Indian Fact Sheet

Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Hupa tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students and teachers to visit our main Hupa website for in-depth information about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with Hupa pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.

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    Hupa Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Hupa"? What does it mean?
Hupa is pronounced "hoo-pah." That is the name for their tribe in the language of their Yurok neighbors. In their own language, Hupa people called themselves Natinixwe. But today, most of the people use the name "Hupa" to refer to themselves. Sometimes it is spelled "Hoopa" instead. Like most Native American languages, the Hupa language was traditionally unwritten, so spellings of Hupa words in English sometimes vary a lot.

Where do the Hupas live?
The Hupas are original people of Northern California. Most Hupa people still live there today.

How is the Hupa Indian nation organized?
Most Hupa people live on a reservation in California, which belongs to the Hupa tribe and is under their control. The Hupa tribe has its own government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. Other Hupas live on rancherias together with Karuk, Yurok, and Tolowa Indians. Rancherias are small parcels of land that California Indians have partial control over.

In the past, there was no centralized Hupa government. Each Hupa village was informally led by an elder from the wealthiest clan in town. Today, the Hupa tribe is governed by an elected tribal council.

What language do the Hupas speak?
The Hupa speak English today. Some older people also speak their native Hupa language. If you'd like to know an easy Hupa word, "He:yung" (pronounced hay-yung) is a friendly greeting. Here is a Hupa picture glossary you can look at.

Today Hupa is an endangered language because most children aren't learning it anymore. However, some Hupa people are working to keep their language alive.

What was Hupa culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here's a link to the Hoopa Tribe's homepage. On their site you can find information about the Hupa people in the past and today.

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How do Hupa Indian children live? What games and toys do the Hupas have?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Hupa children like to go hunting and fishing with their fathers. In the past, Indian kids had more chores and less time to play, just like colonial children. But they did have toys and games. One Hupa game was the hand game. Players held marked sticks behind their backs and gambled as they guessed the location of each stick. Another Hupa game is shinny, which is an athletic sport similar to lacrosse and rugby. Traditionally, only men and boys played shinny or the hand game. Hupa girls often played with dolls. Like many California Indians, Hupa mothers traditionally carried their babies in baby baskets.

What were Hupa homes like in the past?
The Hupas lived in rectangular cedar-plank houses with pitched roofs and chimneys. Usually these buildings were large and an extended family lived in each one. Here are some pictures of Native American homes like the ones Hupa Indians used. Today, most Hupas live in modern houses and apartment buildings, just like you.

What was Hupa clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Hupa men wore short deerskin kilts, and Hupa women wore longer skirts made of deerskin and grasses decorated with shells and beads. Shirts were not necessary in the Hupa culture, but both men and women wore ponchos or deerskin robes in cool or rainy weather. The Hupas usually went barefoot, but they did wear Indian moccasins on their feet while traveling. Here are some photos and links about the American Indian clothing in general.

The Hupas didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux tribe. For dances and ceremonies, Hupa men sometimes wore a special headdress decorated with woodpecker scalps, like this. Hupa women usually wore a woven basket hat. The Hupas painted their faces for dances or other special occasions. They also tattooed themselves. Women tattooed lines on their chins, and men tattooed their arms. The Hupas often wore strands of beaded necklaces around their necks.

Today, some Hupa people still wear moccasins or beaded jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of kilts.

What was Hupa transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Hupa tribe made dugout canoes by hollowing out redwood logs. The Hupa tribe used canoes to travel up and down the Trinity River fishing and trading. Here is a website of Native canoe pictures. Canoeing is still popular among California Indians, though few people carve a dugout canoe by hand anymore. Today, of course, Hupa people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.

What was Hupa food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Hupas were fishing people. Hupa men caught salmon and other fish. They also sometimes hunted deer and small game. Hupa women gathered acorns and ground them into meal to bake bread with, as well as collecting berries, nuts, and other plants. Here is a website with more information about different types of Indian foods.

What were Hupa weapons and tools like in the past?
Hupa hunters used bows and arrows. Hupa fishermen used spears, nets, and wooden fish traps. The Hupa didn't go to war very often. They had a complicated legal system and sued each other when they felt wronged, like Americans do today. But occasionally Hupa men would fight duels with clubs (usually not to the death.) Here is a website of pictures and information about Native American Indians weapons.

What are Hupa arts and crafts like?
Hupa artists are known for their fine basket and carving arts. Here is a picture of some beautiful Hupa baskets.

What other Native Americans did the Hupa tribe interact with?
The different Hupa villages traded frequently with each other, and also with the Yurok tribe, their closest traditional ally.

What kinds of stories do the Hupas tell?
There are lots of traditional Hupa legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Hupa Indian culture. Here is a story about a magical boy hero. Here's a website where you can read more about Hupa myths.

What about Hupa religion?
Spirituality and religion were important parts of Hupa life, and some people continue to practice traditional beliefs today. It is respectful to avoid imitating religious rituals for school projects since some Hupa people care about them deeply. You can read and learn about them, however. You can visit this site to learn more about Hupa religious traditions or this site about Native beliefs in general.

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
If you want to know more about Hupa culture and history, one interesting source for kids is Hupa Tribe. Older readers may enjoy Our Home Forever, a more in-depth look at the Hupa people. Two good books for kids on California Indians in general are California Native Peoples and Native Ways; a more complicated book for older readers is Tribes of California. You can also browse through our reading list of recommended Native American children's stories. Disclaimer: we are an Amazon affiliate and our website earns a commission if you buy a book through one of these links. Most of them can also be found in a public library, though!

How do I cite your website in my bibliography?
You will need to ask your teacher for the format he or she wants you to use. The authors' names are Laura Redish and Orrin Lewis and the title of our site is Native Languages of the Americas. We are a nonprofit educational organization working to preserve and protect Native American languages and culture. You can learn more about our organization here. Our website was first created in 1998 and last updated in 2020.

Thanks for your interest in the Hupa Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Hupa Tribe

Hupa Indian Tribe
An overview of the Hupa tribe, their language and history.

Hupa Language Resources
Hupa Indian language samples, articles, and indexed links.

Hupa Culture and History Directory
Related links about the Hupa Native Americans past and present.

Hupa Words
Hupa Indian vocabulary lists.

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