July 10, 2012

Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation


The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, previously known as Smith River Rancheria is a federally recognized tribe of Tolowa people in Del Norte County, California. Some Chetco and Yurok people are also members of this tribe.

Official Tribal Name: Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation

Address:  140 Rowdy Creek Road, Smith River, CA 95567
Phone: (707) 487-9255
Fax: 707-487-0930
Email: Contact Form

Official Website: www.tolowa-nsn.gov

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning:

Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation

Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

Alternate names / Alternate spellings:

Previously known as the Smith River Rancheria.

Name in other languages:

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

The Tolowa Dee-ni’ traditional land lays along the Pacific Coast between the water sheds of Wilson Creek and the Smith River in California and the Winchuck, Chetco, Pistol, Rogue, Elk and Sixes Rivers, extending inland up the Rogue River throughout the Applegate Valley in Oregon. Their traditional lands roughly cover what are today Curry, Josephine and Del Norte Counties.

Confederacy: Tolowa, Wiyot-Yurok


Reservation: Smith River Rancheria and Off-Reservation Trust Land

Land Area:  Over 500 acres
Tribal Headquarters:  Smith River, CA 95567
Time Zone:  Pacific

Population at Contact:

Registered Population Today:

Approximately 1,609 enrolled members. About 1,000 are Tolowa, about a hundred are Chetco, and the rest are Yurok and other tribes.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

All persons listed on the Plan for Distribution of Assets of the Smith River Rancheria, July 28, 1960, and their lineal descendants, and their siblings, and lineal descendants of those siblings, are eligible for enrollment.

A person of Tolowa Indian blood who satisfies the requirements of 1 (c) of the Articles of Constitution may petition the Tribal Council for admission into membership. The Tribal Council shall submit the petition to the Nation’s membership in an election. Upon the concurrence of a majority of those voting in the election, the petitioner as well as the lineal descendants of such petitioner, upon submitting their enrollment application and who satisfy the requirements of 1 (c)  shall be accepted into full membership with all rights and responsibilities of members, and her/his name shall be added to the official membership roll.

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body:  Tribal Council
Number of Council members:   7, including the executive officers.
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Executive Officers:  Chairperson, Vice-Chairperson, Secretary and Treasurer.


Elections for tribal council are staggered, with 2 or 3 members elected each year for a three year term. Officers of the Council serve for a period of one year or until their successors are chosen and are elected in separate elections by the Tribal Council members at their first meeting after the General Election. 

Any vacancies which occur on the Council as a result of recall, removal, resignation, or death shall be filled in the following manner:

When a vacancy occurs the Council shall appoint, by majority vote, a qualified member of the Nation to fill the vacancy until the next general election.  The appointed member shall not serve in the capacity of an Officer of the Council.  Should that appointed member be elected, that appointed member shall fulfill only the remainder of the original term of office.

Language Classification: Na-Dené => Athabaskan => Pacific Coast Athabaskan =>Tolowa

Language Dialects: Tolowa

The Tolowa Dee-ni’ Alphabet has 30 consonants; 6 are ejectives and 2 are glottalized, 5 vowels, 3 nasal vowels, 4 glottalized vowels and 4 diphthongs.

Number of fluent Speakers: There was 1 elderly semi-fluent speaker in 2001, making the language officially extinct. There is a language revitalization program in progress with a growing number of speakers with limited competence.



Bands, Gens, and Clans

Related Tribes:

Traditional Allies:

Traditional Enemies:

Ceremonies / Dances:

Modern Day Events & Tourism:

Tolowa Legends / Oral Stories:

Yurok Legends

Art & Crafts:





Primary food staples included

Economy Today:

The tribe owns Lucky 7 Casino, Lucky 7 Fuel Mart, Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery, Howonquet Head Start and Day Care, Howonquet Lodge, House of Howonquet Restaurant, and controls access to Kamph Park and Pelican Beach. Plans are underway for development and construction of a RV park and hotel on Tribal land.

Religion Today:

Traditional Religion & Spiritual Beliefs:

Yan’-daa-k’vt (Yontocket) located at the mouth of the Smith River is the Dee-ni’ place of Genesis. The Dee-ni’ Waa-tr’vslh-‘a~ (Religion) centers around the act of Genesis, the K’vsh-chuu-lhk’i (White-Redwood) and the Nee-dash (World-Renewal) Ceremony. At Yan’-daa-k’vt the Creators, completed Creation, set forth life, the first human beings and prescribed the laws for life. The Dee-ni’ and their neighbors made an annual pilgrimage to attend the ten-day Nee-dash Ceremony to participate in the re-making of the universe. Srxii-yvlh-‘a(Baby-Sender) foretold that the Dee-ni’ would expand across the land and become differing people speaking unique languages.

The Dee-ni’ know that they come from the pool of life of Yvtlh-xay (Daylight), their Father before birth upon the sacred Nvn-nvst-‘a~ (Earth), their Mother. The mountain ridges and peaks are the Dee-ni’ temples for prayer and meditation. The Tr’vm-dan’ (Early) Dee-ni’ practiced the Xuu-cha~ (Sacred) Way of life during their time here. They knew everything in the universe has a place in creation, a spirit and is sacred. They prayed daily at dawn before they bathed and dusk before they retired for the night. They made offering and sang for each animal, fruit and herb taken in its season and purpose.

Burial / Death Customs:

The Dee-ni’ believe that after death they will travel to live with their ancestors, the Yaa-me’ Dee-ni’(Sky People).

Wedding Customs:

Radio:  KCRA Radio In Crescent City

Newspapers:  A tribal newsletter is available online for tribal members, only.

Tolowa Chiefs & Famous People

Yurok Chiefs & Famous People

Catastrophic Events:

Tribe History:

In the News:

Further Reading:


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