Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria


Last Updated: 5 years

Who are the Bear River tribe?

The Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria are the people of the Eel River Basin. They are located in Northern California on the Pacific coast in Loleta, California. Members are mostly Wiyot and Mattole.

In 1958 Rohnerville Rancheria was one of 34 California tribes that was terminated by an act of congress known as the Rancheria Act. In December of 1983, the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria, along with sixteen (16) other California Tribes, regained their federal recognition status by a class action lawsuit known as the Tillie-Hardwick case.

Official Tribal Name: Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria

Phone: 1-888-733-1900

Official Website: 

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

Traditional Name / Traditional Meaning: Nī’ekeni’, name they applied to themselves and to the Mattole.

 Common Name / Meaning of Common Name:

 Alternate names / Alternate spellings / Mispellings:

Name in other languages:

Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

The tribe’s traditional territory was along the Mattole and Bear Rivers near Cape Mendocino. Wiyot people lived along the Little River down to the Bear River and 25 miles eastward. The Mattole villages of Tcalko’, Chilsheck, Selsche’ech, Tlanko, Estakana, and Sehtla were located along Bear River.



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Reservation: Rohnerville Rancheria. 
Land Area:  
Tribal Headquarters:  In the city of Lolet.

The Rohnerville Rancheria is a federally recognized ranchería located in two separate parts. One is at the eastern edge of Fortuna, and the other to the southeast of Loleta, both in Humboldt County, California. The Tribe was originally established in 1910 as a home for homeless, landless Natives. 

Time Zone:  Pacific

Population at Contact: The number of these Bear River Indians was unknown until 1937,  when they were listed as 23.

Registered Population Today: There are about 250 members of the Bear River, Mattole and Wiyot tribes. There are only about 50 living on the Rohnerville Rancheria, others live in neighboring communities (Fortuna, Eureka and Arcata). There are also about 50 people who do not belong to the tribe. They live poorly and without financial resources.

Tribal Enrollment Requirements:

Genealogy Resources:


Name of Governing Body:  
Number of Council members:   Three council members at large, plus executive officers
Dates of Constitutional amendments: 
Number of Executive Officers:  Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Treasurer


Language Classification:

Mattole people spoke the Mattole language, an Athapaskan language, while Wiyots spoke the Wiyot language, an Algonquian language.

Number of fluent Speakers:

Dictionary: Wiyot Language


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Related Tribes: Mattole and Wiyot

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Adornment: Mattole people differed from the neighboring tribes because their men traditionally tattooed their faces, instead of just women. Women of all the tribes in the area tattooed their faces as a form of adornment.



Economy Today:

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Buy this Bear River Band T-ShirtThe Bear River Band owns and operate the Bear River Casino-Hotel resort, River’s Edge Restaurant, and the Thirsty Bear Sports Bar and Grill in Loleta, California.

Religion Today:

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Famous Wiyot People:

Famous Mattole People:

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In the News:

Further Reading:

An American Genocide: The United States and the California Indian Catastrophe, 1846-1873
Survival Skills of Native California
 The California Indians: A Source Book
A Cross of Thorns: The Enslavement of California’s Indians by the Spanish Missions