December 10, 2013

Chimariko Tribe of California


Originally hunter-gatherers, the Chimariko are possibly the earliest residents of their region in California. They had good reliations with Wintu people and were enemies of the Hupa, a Southern Athabaskan people. Conflict between Chimariko and white miners led to almost total extinction of the entire population. The surviving Chimariko fled to live with the Hupa and Shasta and became extinct by 1900.


Official Tribal Name:

Chimariko Tribe of Northwest California


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California Region

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Traditional Territory:

Northwest California around the Trinity River, New River and South Fork River.  The Chimariko primarily lived in a narrow, 20-mile section of canyon on the Trinity River in Trinity County, California, with smaller settlements on the South Fork and New Rivers.






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Population at Contact:

Kroeber estimated an 1849 population of 250. Others estimated about 250 Chimariko people in the 18th and early 19th centuries, moving down to 200 in 1852, 20 in 1880, and none by 1900.

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Language Classification:

Hokan -> Northern Hokan -> Chimariko 

Language Dialects:

Chimariko is an extinct language isolate formerly spoken in northern Trinity County, California, by the inhabitants of several independent communities. While the total area claimed by these communities was remarkably small, Golla (2011:87–89) believes there is evidence that three local dialects were recognized: Trinity River Chimariko, spoken along the Trinity River from the mouth of South Fork at Salyer as far upstream as Big Bar, with a principal village at Burnt Ranch; South Fork Chimariko, spoken around the junction of South Fork and Hayfork Creek, with a principal village at Hyampom; and New River Chimariko, spoken along New River on the southern slopes of the Trinity Alps, with a principal village at Denny.

Proposals linking Chimariko to other languages in various versions of the Hokan family have been advanced. Roland Dixon suggested a relationship between Chimariko and the Shastan and Palaihnihan families. Edward Sapir’s famous 1929 classification grouped Chimariko with Shastan, Palaihnihan, Pomoan, and the Karuk and Yana languages in a Hokan sub-grouping known as Northern Hokan.

A Kahi family consisting of Chimariko, Shastan, Palaihnihan, and Karuk has been suggested (appearing also within Sapir’s 1929 Northern Hokan). Most specialists currently find these relationships to be undemonstrated, and consider Chimariko to remain best considered an isolate language.

Number of fluent Speakers:

Sally Noble was the last speaker of the Chimariko language. She died in the early 1900s. 





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Tribe History:

Non-native fur trappers first entered Chimariko’s territory in 1820, following by miners and settlers in the 1850s. The Chimariko were profoundly affected by the destructive practices of gold seekers during California Gold Rush during the 1850s.

One of the major issues involved the disruption of the salmon population that was the main food source of the Chimariko.

In the 1860s, conflict between Chimariko and white miners led to almost total extinction of the entire Chimariko population. The surviving Chimariko fled to live with the Hupa and Shasta. 

In the News:


Further Reading:


Extinct Native American Tribes A-C
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