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Wailaki Indian Fact Sheet

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

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    Wailaki Tribe

How do you pronounce the word "Wailaki"? What does it mean?
Wailaki is pronounced "why-lah-kee." That means "northerners" in the language of their allies the Wintu.

Where do the Wailakis live?
The Wailakis are California people. Their native lands are in Northern California. Most Wailaki people still live there today.

How is the Wailaki Indian nation organized?
Most Wailaki people live on the Round Valley Reservation or the Sugar Bowl Rancheria, together with Indians from other Northern California tribes such as the Wiyot, Hoopa, and Maidu. In the past, each Wailaki band had its own chief, who usually was the son or nephew of the previous chief. Today, since the Wailakis share their governments with members of other tribes, they are led by tribal councils elected by all the residents.

What language do the Wailakis speak?
The Wailakis speak English today. In the past, they spoke their native Wailaki language. Some Wailaki elders still remember words from this language, and there are younger people who are interested in learning to speak their traditional language again. If you'd like to know an easy Wailaki word, Sukim (pronounced soo-kim) is a friendly greeting. Here is a Wailaki picture glossary you can look at.

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

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How do Wailaki Indian children live? What games and toys do the Wailakis have?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house. Many Wailaki 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. Wailaki people were fond of gambling games. Men bet on the hand game, where players held marked sticks behind their backs and tried to guess the location of each stick. Women played a dice game, while children played a stone-tossing game similar to jacks or marbles. Another Wailaki game is shinny, which is an athletic sport similar to lacrosse and rugby. Wailaki girls often played with dolls. As in many California Indian tribes, a Wailaki mother would traditionally carry her baby in a baby basket.

What were Wailaki homes like in the past?
The Wailakis lived in earth lodges. Usually these houses were made from a cone-shaped frame of wooden poles placed over a basement-like hole dug into the ground. Then the frame would be covered with sheets of redwood bark. Because they were partially underground, Wailaki houses appeared smaller than they really were. Here are some pictures of a lodge like the ones Wailaki people used. Today, most Wailakis live in modern houses and apartments, just like you.

What was Wailaki clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Wailaki men wore short wraparound kilts made of deerskin. Wailaki women wore longer skirts made of deerskin and grasses, decorated with shells and beads. Shirts were not necessary in the Wailaki culture, but both men and women wore long tunic-like shirts in cool or rainy weather. Like most Native Americans, the Wailakis wore moccasins on their feet. Here is a website with moccassin pictures, and here are some photos and links about Native American costumes in general.

The Wailakis didn't wear long headdresses like the Sioux. Wailaki women wore woven basket caps. The Wailakis painted their faces for dances and other special occasions. They also wore Native Indian tattoos or their faces and chests. The Wailakis often wore strands of beaded necklaces around their necks. Wailaki men wore shell jewelry in their pierced noses, as well.

Today, some Wailaki people still wear moccasins or shell jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of kilts or grass skirts.

What was Wailaki transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
No-- Wailaki people enjoyed swimming, but they rarely traveled by water, and when they did, they used log rafts. Most of the time, when they needed to travel, the Wailakis walked overland.

What was Wailaki food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Wailakis were hunting people. Wailaki men hunted deer, birds, and small game, and fished in the lakes and rivers. Wailaki women gathered acorns and ground them into meal, as well as collecting berries, nuts, and other plants. Here is a website with more information about Native American Indians food.

What were Wailaki weapons and tools like in the past?
Wailaki hunters used bows and arrows. Wailaki fishermen used nets and wooden fish traps. The Wailaki 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 Wailaki men would fight duels with war clubs and hide shields. Here is a website of pictures and information about weapons of the Native Americans.

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

What other Native Americans did the Wailaki tribe interact with?
The Wailakis engaged in trade with most of the other tribes of Northern California. Their closest allies were the Pomo, Yuki, and Cahto tribes. Sometimes these tribes fought battles with each other over territory or resources, but they usually resolved these fights quickly and returned to being trading partners.

What kinds of stories do the Wailakis tell?
There are lots of traditional Wailaki legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the Wailaki Indian culture. Here is a story about a fight between a bear family and a deer family. Here's a website where you can read more about Wailaki legends.

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

Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
We do not know of any children's books specifically about the Wailaki tribe. Two good books for kids on California Indians in general are California Native Peoples and Native Ways; a more in-depth book for older readers is Tribes of California. You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American novels. 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 Wailaki Indian people and their language!

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Learn More About The Wailaki Tribe

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

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

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

Wailaki Words
Wailaki Indian vocabulary lists.

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