The Hupa tribe is a group of Native American people living in northwestern California. Also referred to as the Hoopa, Hupa, or Ntinixwe, they live on the Hoopa Valley Indian Reservation, which has a population of more than 2,600 people. The reservation is just more than 141 square miles (365 square km) and was established by the United States government in 1864.
The reservation of the Hupa tribe is the largest Native American reservation in California. Located in the northeastern corner of Humboldt County, it is 50 miles (80.5 km) from the Pacific Ocean. The reservation includes 133 miles (214 km) of rivers and streams, 3,200 acres (1,294 hectares) of wetlands, and part of the Trinity River.
Eight elected tribal council members and a tribal chairman govern the Hupa tribe today. The Hupa tribe has the only Native American-owned and operated radio station, KIDE 91.3 FM, and a newspaper, the Two Rivers Tribune. In addition to other enterprises, the Hupa have a logging company, their own chamber of commerce, and Lucky Bear Casino.
The people called themselves Natinook-wa, which translates to “people of the place where the trail returns.” Officially known as the Hoopa Valley Tribe, the people traditionally spoke a language of the Athabaskan family. Classes in the traditional language are offered weekly on the reservation. The tribe is also working to preserve other aspects of its heritage, including the traditional flower dance.
The culture centered around the twice-annual runs of king salmon on the Trinity River. Acorns were another staple of the traditional diet. Acorns were prepared by drying, crushing, and boiling to make a mush. Acorns were sometimes made into a type of bread that was cooked on a hot stone.
There were 13 villages within 7 miles (about 11 km) along the river before the Hupa tribe first had contact with Europeans. The people lived in homes called xontas, made of cedar planks. Women and children slept in the xontas, and men slept in nearby sweathouses. Women gave birth in a shelter called a minch, and women and girls went to the minch when they were menstruating.
Traditionally, marriages were held in summer. The marriage was negotiated by two men, one representing the bride’s family and one representing the groom’s family. Once an arrangement was reached, the bride’s family was given a payment in shell money. In most instances, marriages were between men and women of different villages. Women were responsible for gathering food, childcare, and cooking, with men being responsible for hunting and fishing.