Language: Yurok is an Algic language of Northern California, spoken by
only a handful of elders there. (It should not be confused with the unrelated Siberian language Nenets,
sometimes also called "Yurok.") Yurok is related to Wiyot 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, Yurok is an agglutinative language with complex verbs and fairly free word order.
People: The Yurok tribe traditionally lived in the far northwestern corner of California, along
the lower Klamath River and on the Pacific Coast near its mouth. ("Yurok" means, in fact, "downriver," in the language of the
Karoks who lived at its other end.) Unlike most native peoples of
the west coast, the Yuroks are Algonquian speakers. There are about 3500
Yurok people in Northern California today; in some places, they have merged with their neighbors
History: The California Indians were brutally
trampled underfoot in the American gold rush of the 1800's, and the Yurok tribe was no exception. By
most accounts a quiet and unassertive people, the Yurok Indians did not often clash with miners,
but the government offices paying $5 bounties for the severed heads of Indian men did not tend to know
the difference between the head of a Karok
warrior and a Yurok fisherman, and all the natives of California suffered under the same yoke--more than 90%
of the American Indian population of California were killed during the 19th century.