Manataka American Indian Council



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Tuluwat Memories (observance)

Remembering a Massacre
By Allie Hostler


EUREKA, Calif.—A flock of Aleutian geese in a "W" formation flew directly over more than 100 people just after they prayed. A wave of "a-a-h-h-s" and an occasional holler swept through the gathering. Wiyot Tribal Chairwoman Cheryl A. Seidner called it a sign.

Geese fly over every year during the Indian Island candlelight vigil to commemorate a 146-year-old massacre of Wiyot people, Seidner told the crowd.

The ancient village of Tuluwat, or Indian Island, is where as many as 200 Wiyot people—mostly women and children—were slain while they were sleeping in the early morning hours of Feb. 26, 1860, by Eureka settlers. Wiyot people regularly traveled to the village, a ceremonial site. Typically ceremonies would last 10 days, but in 1860 it was cut short.

Tuluwat, or Indian Island, is one of two islands located in northern California’s Humboldt Bay; the other is Woodley Island. Both islands are visible from the city of Eureka’s waterfront.

This year, tribal leaders and members, people of all races, pastors and children gathered at the west end of Woodley Island, to share song, poetry and prayer by candlelight to remember those who lost their lives on that early morning so many years ago.

Wiyot Ancestral Territory

This year we will remember those killed in 1860 and we will also remember those who have gone home in the past year,” Seidner said.

Seidner described different attitudes toward the massacre.

“Some people are indifferent because it happened a long time ago; some people are angry because of what happened; some people want to see that it doesn’t happen again,” Seidner said. “I can’t speak for anyone else, but for me it is really important to begin working together without animosity, to understand both worlds.”

In 2004, the city of Eureka deeded 61 acres of land on Tuluwat/Indian Island to the Wiyot Tribe, which had purchased one and a half acres of the island in 2000.

The tribe plans to gradually clean up its newly returned land on the island. Seidner said the tribe also will work to protect burial sites. One day, she said, with help from neighboring tribes, the Wiyot will hold traditional ceremonies at Tuluwat for the first time since the 1860 massacre.

Allie Hostler, Hoopa, attended Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. She is a graduate of the Freedom Forum's 2005 American Indian Journalism Institute.