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ETHNONYMS: Hoopa, Nabiltse, Natano, Trinity Indians

The Hupa are an American Indian group who lived at the time of contact and continue to live on the lower course of the Trinity River in northwestern California. Culturally, they were closely related to the neighboring Yurok and Karok and the Chilula, Whilkut, and South Fork Hupa, the latter three no longer existing as distinct cultural entities. At the time of contact in 1850 there were about 1,000 Hupa. In 1980 there were 1,502 Hupa living on the 84,703-acre Hoopa Valley Reservation in Humboldt County, California. Hupa is an Athapaskan language and is still spoken by many people, though English is the primary language for most Hupa today. The Hupa have successfully retained their cultural identity while benefiting financially from participation in the mainstream economy. The annual tribal income is about $1.5 Million, with some 80 percent derived from forestry, and the Hupa enjoy the highest standard of living of all California Indian groups. First contact with Whites was in 1850 when White gold miners moved into northern California. In 1864 the Hoopa Valley Reservation was authorized by Congress, and the Hupa began a steady transition from a life based on fishing and acorn gathering to one based first on farming and livestock raising and finally to one based on logging, millwork and other types of wage labor.

The traditional economy was based on fishing for salmon and the gathering of acorns for processing into flour. The twelve Hupa villages were located about a mile apart from one another along the Trinity River. Each village contained a number of cedar-plank dwellings, each housing a nuclear family of about seven people, and several sweat lodges. The residential family was the basic social group, though several such patrilineally related units often lived in the same village and cooperated in various activities. There was no political organization at either the village or the tribal level and no Tribal leadership. Today, tribal affairs are managed by an elected seven-member tribal council and a tribal chairman elected by the Council. Though lacking true social classes, the Hupa were much concerned about individual wealth and the Prestige that such wealth carried with it. With missionary activity commencing soon after contact, many Hupa converted to Christianity, though traditional dances are still performed, including the White Deerskin and Jumping renewal dances, which are performed every other year.

See also Karok, Yurok


Goddard, Pliny E. (1903-04). Life and Culture of the Hupa. University of California Publications in American Archaeology and Ethnology, 1, 1-88. Berkeley.

Wallace, William J. (1978). "Hupa, Chilula, and Whilkut." In Handbook of North American Indians. Vol. 8, California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, 164-179. Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution.