Native Languages of the Americas: Wiyot (Weott, Sulateluk)
Language: Wiyot is an Algic language
once spoken in Northern California. Sadly, its last native speaker died in 1962, but some members of the Wiyot tribe are trying to
revive the language from audio recordings for cultural purposes.
Wiyot is related to Yurok but not to the other languages of Northern
California--known to linguists as the Ritwan languages, Wiyot and Yurok are actually distant relatives of Algonquian languages
like Ojibway and Cree.
Like the Algonquian languages, Wiyot is an agglutinative language with complex verbs and fairly free word order.
People: The Wiyot people traditionally lived on the far northwest coast of California, along the shores
of Humboldt Bay. Unlike most native peoples of the west coast, the Wiyot were
Algonquian speakers. There are about 500 Wiyot Indians on four
rancherias in Northern California today; in some places, they have merged with their neighbors the
History: Always a small tribe, the Wiyot Indians were known as friendly and hospitable people and got along well with
white settlers until gold was discovered in California. Like most Native Americans in the region, the Wiyot tribe
was trampled underfoot in the Gold Rush and its aftermath. The Wiyots suffered a worse fate than most, though.
In 1860, a local man named Hank Larrabee--called a "thug" even by the other rowdy white miners in the area--stormed
Indian Island with a few followers while the Wiyot women and children were preparing sacred ceremonies there and killed almost
all of them. The survivors of this massacre have mostly merged together with their allies the
The descendants of the Wiyot nation are currently trying to buy Indian Island back from its white owners. If you'd like to help
them, you can click here.
Demographic information about the Wiyot language from the Ethnologue of Languages.
Pacific Northwest Language Domains:
Language map of Wiyot and other Northwest Coast languages of Washington, Oregon and California.