Elk Valley Rancheria


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Elk Valley Rancheria is a federal reservation of Tolowa Indians in Del Norte County, near Crescent City, on the Pacific Coast just south of the Oregon border. Some Yurok people are also enrolled in this ranceria. The Tolowa also live on the Smith River Rancheria.

Official Tribal Name: Elk Valley Rancheria

Address:  2332 Howland Hill Rd, Crescent City, CA 95531
Phone: 1-866-464-4680            
Email: EVRHumanResources@Elk-Valley.com

Official Website: www.elk-valley.com/

Recognition Status: Federally Recognized

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Region: California

State(s) Today: California

Traditional Territory:

The Tolowa were located on Crescent Bay, Lake Earl and the Smith River, living in 8 to 10 villages. The Pacific Coast Athapaskans arrived in the area late in the first millennium from Canada.

Confederacy: Tolowa


Reservations: Smith River Rancheria and Elk Valley Rancheria
Land Area: 105 acres on Elk Valley Rancheria 
Tribal Headquarters:  
Time Zone:  Pacific

Population at Contact: Kroeber estimated 450 in 1770. 

Registered Population Today: 77 members live on the Elk Valley Rancheria.

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Language Classification: Na-Dene -> Athapaskan -> Pacific Coast Athapaskan -> Tolawan

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Number of fluent Speakers: There are only 5 remaining fluent speakers of Tolawan as of 1997.



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From an excavation of an abandoned village site, Point St. George, it was learned that before white people came there, the Tolowa made villages with separate locations for living, working and cemeteries to bury their dead.

The Tolowa made square-shaped semi-subterranean houses of redwood planks set into the earth along the sides, with earth, clay, flat beachstone or wood plank floors, and plank roofs meeting at a single central peak with a smokehole in the center and a rounded entrance hole at one end, similar to the dwellings of the Yurok, their near neighbors.

A ledge all the way around the inside of the house was used to store baskets full of dried food. In the working area, they worked.flint harpoons and arrowheads,and knives for butchering animals, and made stone adzes to hollow out redwood logs for canoes.

From an excavation of an abandoned village site at Point St. George, it was learned that before white people came there, the Tolowa made villages with separate locations for living, working and cemeteries to bury their dead.


The Tolowa were a sedentary coastal hunter/gatherer tribe that relied heavily on fishing.

The Tolowa also hunted seals and sea-lions, using redwood dugouts, going as far as Seal Rocks, about 6 miles offshore, and they fished for smelt, perch and cod from the beach and gathered shellfish, and got salmon, and eel from the rivers. They also hunted deer and elk, but this was not as important a supply of food for them as the rivers and sea provided.

They would travel inland to gather acorns Like most of the people in the area, they prized the dentalia shell, and large shells were reserved for their elite people, and shamen. Strings of dentalia were used as money in trade.

Obsidian did not naturally occur in the area, and the Tolowa would trade for it. Some obsidian actually came from as far away as Bend, in east-central Oregon.

The Tolowa gave the Karok smelt and dentalia, and got from them soaproot and pine nut beads. They gave the Rogue River Athabaskans women’s basketry caps, eating baskets and trinket baskets. They obtained redwood dugouts from the Yurok.

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Yurok Chiefs & Famous People

Catastrophic Events:

The Tolowa were nearly decimated from diseases brought with the White influx.

Following unspecified Indian-white conflicts during 1851-1852, Del Norte settlers attacked and burned the northernmost Tolowa village of Howonquet in 1853. About 70 people were killed.

A well-remembered massacre occurred in the late fall of that year, at the Tolowa village of Yontocket on Lake Earl, north of Crescent City. During a winter dance, probably a ten-day World Renewal Dance, an armed contingent of Crescent City settlers attacked, killing a large number of dance participants, and burned the village to the ground.

Tribe History:


Bodega visited Trinidad Bay, but did not meet Tolowa


Capt. George Vancouver visited Trinidad Bay and did not meet tribe, but may have caused Cholera epidemic which spread to Tolowa


First White contact with Jedediah Smith


Decade of measles and cholera epidemics as White settlers and miners encroached into territory


Began practice of Ghost Dance


Introduction of Indian Shaker movement

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