Native American Facts For Kids was written for young people learning about the Wiyot tribe for school or home-schooling reports. We encourage students
and teachers to visit our main Wiyot website
for in-depth information
about the tribe, but here are our answers to the questions we are most often asked by children, with
Wiyot pictures and links we believe are suitable for all ages.
How do you pronounce the word "Wiyot"? What does it mean? Wiyot is pronounced "WEE-yot." This was their word for Eel River, which was part of their territory. Sometimes it is spelled Weott instead.
Where do the Wiyots live?
The Wiyot Indians are original people of Northern California. Their surviving descendents still live there today.
How is the Wiyot Indian nation organized?
Wiyot descendents live together with Yurok, Hupa,
Mattole Indians on four rancherias. Rancherias are small parcels of land that California Indians
have partial control over. Each rancheria has its own government, laws, police, and other services, just like a small country. However, the Wiyots are still US citizens and must
obey American law.
In the past, each Wiyot village was ruled by a headman, similar to a mayor.
Today, since the rancherias are home to Indians from many different tribes, they are ruled by tribal councils which are elected by all the residents.
What language do the Wiyot Indians speak?
The Wiyot people speak English today. The last native speaker of the Wiyot language died in 1962. But some younger people are
trying to learn the language again.
If you'd like to know an easy Wiyot word,
"He'ba'lo'" (pronounced similar to hay-bah-loh) is a friendly greeting.
You can also see a Wiyot picture dictionary
Why are there so few Wiyot people today?
In 1860, a murderer named Hank Larrabee attacked the Wiyot women and children during a religious ceremony while the Wiyot men were away.
He and his followers killed almost all of them. After this massacre, the Wiyot tribe had to merge with other California Indians like the
Yurok and the
Mattole to survive.
What was Wiyot culture like in the past? What is it like now?
Here is a link to the Wiyot Tribe's homepage,
where you can find information about the Wiyot Indians past and present.
How do Wiyot Indian children live, and what did they do in the past?
They do the same things any children do--play with each other, go to school and help around the house.
Many Wiyot 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 early colonial children. But they did have dolls,
toys and games to play.
One Wiyot game was the stick game. Players held marked sticks behind their backs and gambled as they guessed the location of each stick.
Like many California Indians, Wiyot mothers traditionally carried their babies in
What were Wiyot homes like in the past? The Wiyots lived in rectangular redwood-plank houses with
pitched roofs and chimneys. Usually these houses were large and several families would share one.
Here are some pictures of Native American houses like
the ones Wiyot Indians used.
Today, Wiyot people live in modern houses
and apartment buildings, just like you.
What was Wiyot clothing like? Did they wear feather headdresses and face paint?
Wiyot men wore buckskin breechcloths. Wiyot women wore long grass skirts
decorated with shells and beads.
Shirts were not necessary in the Wiyot culture, but both men and women wore ponchos or deerskin robes in cool or rainy weather.
The Wiyots wore sandals or
on their feet and strands of shell necklaces around their necks. Here are some photos and links
about Native American costume in general.
The Wiyots didn't wear Indian war bonnet headdresses like the
Sioux. Wiyot women wore woven basket caps, and warriors
sometimes wore a deerskin headband decorated with woodpecker scalps. The Wiyots didn't paint their faces, but women
tattooed lines on their chins.
Today, some Wiyot people still wear moccasins or shell jewelry, but they wear modern clothes like jeans instead of
breechcloths or grass skirts.
What was Wiyot transportation like in the days before cars? Did they paddle canoes?
Yes--the Wiyot Indian tribe made dugout canoes by hollowing out redwood logs. A Wiyot canoe could be more than thirty feet long.
The Wiyot tribe used these canoes to travel up and down the coast of California for trading, fishing and hunting.
Here is a website showing different types of Native canoes.
Today, of course, Wiyot people also use cars... and non-native people also use canoes.
What was Wiyot food like in the days before supermarkets?
The Wiyot Indians were fishing people. Wiyot men caught fish and mollusks from their canoes. They also hunted sea lions, deer, and small game.
Wiyot women gathered acorns and ground them into meal, as well as collecting berries and roots.
Here is a website with more information
about American Indian food.
What were Wiyot weapons and tools like in the past?
Wiyot hunters used bows and arrows. Wiyot fishermen used spears, nets, and wooden fish traps.
The Wiyot tribe didn't go to war very often, but sometimes men would fight duels using clubs and hide shields.
Here is a website of pictures and information about American Indian weapons.
What kinds of stories do the Wiyot Indians tell?
There are lots of traditional Wiyot legends and fairy tales. Storytelling is very important to the
Wiyot Indian culture. Here is one Wiyot legend about why owls live in the dark.
Here's a website where you can read more about Wiyot stories.
What about Wiyot religion?
Religions are too complicated and culturally sensitive to describe appropriately
in only a few simple sentences, and we strongly want to avoid misleading anybody. You can visit this site to learn more about
Wiyot religious traditions
or this site about Native American religions in general.
Can you recommend a good book for me to read?
I don't know of any children's books written by Wiyot authors or specifically about the Wiyot 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.
There are two good books for kids on the Yurok tribe, who areclose kinfolk of the Wiyot: Yurok Tribe
Weaving A California Tradition is a charming book
about a contemporary Mono girl learning to weave baskets--an art form also important to the Wiyot people.
You can also browse through our recommendations of Native American books in general.
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
Thanks for your interest in the Wiyot Indian people and their language!