The Bear River Indians belonged to the Athapascan linguistic family, and were most closely connected with the Mattole, Sinkyone, and Nongatl tribes to the south and east.
Bear River Indians. A body of Indians living along Bear River in the present Humboldt County, California. Also called: Nī’ekeni’, name they applied to themselves and to the Mattole.
Federally Recognized Tribe: Bear River Band of the Rohnerville Rancheria
Location. As given above. (See North Carolina for a tribe similarly named.)
Villages From the mouth of Bear River inland as given by Nomland (1938):
- Tcalko’, at the mouth of Bear River. Chilshĕck, on the site of the present Capetown.
- Chilenchĕ, near the present Morrison Ranch.
- Selsche’ech, on a site marked by a large red rock 34 miles above the last. Tlanko, above the preceding.
- Estakana, at Gear’s place, on the largest flat in the upper valley above Tlanko. Sehtla, about 7 miles above Capetown.
- Me’sseah, name for a natural amphitheater, the training place for shamans, about which lived a few families.
Population. Included with the Nongatl (q. v.). 1,129 were returned in the census of 1930. The United States Office of Indian Affairs reported 23 “Bear River” Indians in 1937.