The Acquisition of Xaa-wan’-k’wvt

The name Xaa-wan'-k'wvt means "Along-There Upon-It." Our Dee-ni' name describes the bench of the prime land setting along the eastern oceanfront in the estuary of the Smith River. Currently, this expanse of property is known as Ship Ashore and Salmon Harbor Resorts.

Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation signed the initial offer on September 10, 2016, during Dee-ni' Day for the property. The very day that celebrates us, the Tolowa Dee-ni'. A great day that led to the purchase of our own historical Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Village and its return to our people as a new Cultural and Economic Development Project on November 30, 2016. These lands have a socio-economic impact on the TDN historically as it was once the location of the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt municipality that provided us with governance, food, housing and worship. The reminiscences of Xaa-wan'-k'wvt hold a deep and profound place in our identity. This prime sixty-acre oceanfront property has remarkable opportunities for business development and growth.

As part of continuing the expansion of Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation) TDN, we welcome the Ship Ashore and Salmon Harbor into the TDN group of companies. We believe that this significant acquisition will serve the economic sustainability of our citizenry while meaningfully impacting our local economy and support our culture. Ship Ashore and Salmon Harbor are welcome contributors toward expanding the business offerings of the Nation and will improve our business growth to our existing customers.

The acquisition of Ship Ashore and Salmon Harbor united by our traditional culture opens the door to Aboriginal Tourism, First Class RV camping, and a unique resort opportunity. This will make TDN a forerunner in employment and business opportunities in the Smith River Area complimenting the Lucky 7 Casino, the Howonquet Lodge, and Fuel Mart. Beneath these resorts lies the prehistoric antiquity of we, the Tolowa Dee-ni' people.

Xaa-wan'-k'wvt was a Dee-ni' metropolis. It was only second in size to nearby Yan'-daa-k'vt at the Center of the World. The redwood plank homes were four rows deep along the shore having streets and alleys. Da'-chvn-dvn lies below Xaa-wan'-k'wvt. Da'-chvn-dvn means "The-Mouth-at-the-foot-of". Da'-chvn-dvn was the canoe mooring place for its large population and commerce.

Xaa-wan'-k'wvt was seated within the Yan'-daa-k'vt Yvtlh-'i~ or "Yan'-daa-k'vt Governance-District." This yvtlh-'i~ laid across the land from Cone Island to Kellogg Road along the seashore, west to the horizon that includes Dan'-sa~ or "North Sealion Rock" located six miles out on the Point Saint George reef and east beyond Gasquet to include the drainage of the upper-middle and north forks of the Smith River. Xaa-wan'-k'wvt contained several suburbs. Upstream was Srdvn-das-'a~ or "The Island". Downstream above the cove in the mouth of the river was Trail'uu-luu-me' meaning "Fishing-In." Just north at the mouth of Cemetery Creek on the Reservation was Trail'in-des-'a~ meaning "Downwardly-Solid-At," referring to the tall boulder at the tip of the peninsula there. This entire unit formed the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt support and allegiance configuration.

The long ridge to the east of Xaa-wan'-k'wvt was xa'slh-nvt or "control burned" to maintain an expansive meadow to support and increase the elk and deer herds and flocks of quails and prairie chickens. This meadow ran from Dominie Creek to the Winchuck River. It also provided protection from attacks to be made from the east. Prayer alters are situated along this expanse of land. The most notable is Xaa-wan'-le' or "Xaa-wan's-Peak." Below Xaa-wan'-le' at Xaa-wan'-chii-la' meaning "Xaa-wan's-Tail" the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Treaty was shaped there in 1855.

The Valley below along the pristine river supplied salmon, steelhead, sturgeon, duck, flounder, and trout. The riverine valley and estuary were filled with an old-growth climax redwood and spruce forest. The forest provided large timber to sculpt sea-going canoes for commerce and social networking too far distances up and down the Pacific coast that connected the great expanse of the Taa-laa-waa-dvn, the "Tolowa-Homeland" across many river drainages. In 1872 Stephen Powers described a seagoing canoe he observed in Humboldt Bay that had been fashioned by the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Dee-ni'.

I saw one on Humboldt Bay, which had been launched by them on Smith River, and which had therefore demonstrated its sea-worthiness by a voyage of over a hundred miles. It was forty-two feet long and eight feet four inches wide and capable of carrying twenty-four men or five tons of freight. It was a "thing of beauty", sitting plumb and lightly on the sea, smoothly polished, and so symmetrical that a pound's weight on either side would throw it slightly out of trim. Twenty-four tall, swarthy boatmen, naked except around the loins, standing erect in it, as their habit, and with their narrow paddles measuring off the blue waters with long, even sweeps, must have been a fine spectacle.

To the west men paddled out to Dan'-sa~ to harpoon sea lions. The coast north of Xaa-wan'-k'wvt is named Dat Naa-svt or "North Beach." To the south extends Yan' Naa-svt or "South Beach" on the spit. Both of the shores provide smelt, perch and whale. Clams, mussels and seaweed are provided at the foot of Setlh-xa~ or "Prince Island."

'E'sr-k'aa-ni or "Sinestia-Rock" on the reservation is the home of the Shaa-sree-ni or "The Little People" and is a prayer place for the Nee-dash Ceremony. Now blown down, See-cha~ or "Rock-of-Weather" stood at the Mouth of Lopez Creek. Prayers are offered there to bring sunny weather in the summer to dry the surf fish in the camps below. See-cha~ and Yaa-ghii~-'a~, "The-Hole-in-the-Ground" are also homes of the Shaa-sree-ni.

The Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Xvsh-xay-yu' or "Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Headmen" was a wealthy and powerful lot and dreaded by adjacent tribes. Conflict with the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Dee-ni' was avoided as it would bring the wrath of Xaa-wan'-k'wvt and their Mii~-xvsh-xay or "Bosses" upon themselves. While attending the home of the Xvsh-xay-yu, the Mii~-xvsh-xay could not seat themselves. They maintained a squatted posture known as dalh-ch'ak in preparation to spring forth in combat. Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Mii~-xvsh-xay were hired into battle by external Capitol Headmen. The Mii~-xvsh-xay trained in hand to hand combat. They trained in the river currents, swam the ocean, ran the hills for stamina and practiced marksmanship. At the completion of training one would choose a deer from a herd and chase it until it buckled down, frothing foam from the mouth, in complete exhaustion. Another trained by swimming around Setlh-xa~ until he could swim the twelve miles out and back from Dan'-sa~. Others prided themselves in the timing of long-distance running. Mii~-xvsh-xay ran far distances between Xvsh-xay-yu' carrying their correspondences and event announcements. They could run the thirty-seven-mile distance from Xaa-wan-k'wvt to the Taa-chit Capitol at Requa and back in one day.

With the detection of gold in 1849 California was hastily brought into statehood in 1850 and thus began the California and Oregon Holocaust. Beginning with the first days for the new the State of California racism defined the destructive future pitted against the thousands of Indians living in the territory. In 1845 the California Indian population was estimated to have been 150,000 strong. In 1848, at the end of the Mexican-American War, Indians in California outnumbered Whites in California by ten to one.

On April 22, 1850, at the First State Constitutional Convention, California enacted an Indian slavery law called, "The Act for the Government and Protection of Indian." Indians of all ages could be indentured or apprenticed to any White citizen for a period of involuntary servitude for an average term of sixteen years. The Indian slave brought in from $50 to $250 each. It was legal to execute the Indian parents and sequester their children for sale into slavery. While the Act was repealed in 1863, slavery continued here for many decades.

Peter Barnett moved from the Oregon Territory and served as the Lieutenant Governor and then became the first Governor of California from 1849-51. On January 7, 1851, He proclaimed, "a war of extermination will continue to be waged between the races until the Indian race becomes extinct." State and local militias formed to execute the mandates of extermination. The earliest recorded attack by miners in the Taa-laa-waa-dvn occurred on a Dee-ni' town on eastern drainages in 1851. The state received Indian scalps for evidence to pay the militias. Scalping continued in Del Norte County until 1895. Identical extermination began in the Oregon Territory at Jacksonville with the yelps, "Exterminate the whole race, knits breed lice." And, "We have been killing Indians all day."

The next attack was in the spring of 1853 at the Taa-'at-dvn Capitol at Crescent City Bay to establish Crescent City. Following attacks hit Xaa-wan'-k'wvt and then Yan'-daa-k'vt Capitol where they also burned the redwood homes and Dance Houses to the ground, as was the European practice of annihilation. Seventy Mii~-xvsh-xay and citizens perished at Xaa-wan'-k'wvt. Hundreds and hundreds of Dee-ni' perished during the hallowed Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash or "Fix-the-Earth Nee-dash" at Yan'-daa-k'vt. The Yan'-daa-k'vt Extermination stands as the second-largest, single mass killing of Indians, in American history. Forty plank houses were burned at Duu-srxuu-shi' or "Winchuck Village" with the old people in them, while the Mii~-xvsh-xay and their families had moved to the hills for the fall harvest.

In the fall of September 10, 1853, the Rogue River Treaty created the Table Rock Reservation near Medford in the Oregon Territory. The upper Rogue River, Applegate River, Illinois River, and Galice Creek Dee-ni' survivors were imprisoned there.

In 1854, the attacks continued with the burning of Chit-xu on the mouth of the Chetco River by Mr. Miller. In December White rumors escalated about the presence of Rogue, Chetco, and Klamath River Indians at a local rancheria in Smith River Valley. The Dee-ni' were gathered there making preparations for the next Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash Ceremony to be held at the 'Ee-chuu-le' Capitol at Lake Earl because the state militias leveled the Yan'-daa-k'vt Capitol during the previous Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash.

On January 1, 1855, the Coast and Klamath Rangers along with the settlers of Smith River Valley descended on the Dee-ni' gathered for Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash at 'Ee-chuu-le'. The Dee-ni' were trapped by water on three sides of the peninsula located between Lake Earl and Tolowa lagoons. Accordingly, the Crescent City Herald reported: "The die is cast and a war of extermination commenced against the Indians." Dozens of victims were shot in the waters of the Lagoons as they attempted to swim away from the bloodbath. The results of this massacre left seven layers of bodies in the Dance House before it was torched.

Starting in 1855 multiple treaties were negotiated throughout the vast stretches of our Taa-laa-waa-dvn in Oregon and California. Following the destruction of 'Ee-chuu-le' a dis-favorable treaty was negotiated above Xaa-wan'-k'wvt at Xaa-wan'-chii-la' to end the complete annihilation of us. Through January 2nd, 3rd, and 4th of 1855 this one-sided seven article treaty was wedged between Headman K'ay-lish, K'us-t'uu-t'i and Yu'-xaa-shvlh Junior and the White military officers A.K. Hamilton as Chairman and J.S. Wallace as recording Secretary. From the hasty and poor drafting, the treaty shows the White's desire to render our ancestors defenseless and dependent. In short, the Dee-ni' were remanded:

  1. To live peacefully and not rake the life of a Whiteman or his cattle and not break any of the articles of this treaty.
  2. To give up all firearms.
  3. To not hereafter purchase firearms.
  4. To not harbor any hostile from the Whites and report the hostile immediately.
  5. To deliver any Indian charged with a crime or misdemeanor within a Chief's jurisdiction. His failure to do so would make him responsible for the satisfaction of the crime or offense and himself be duly convicted.
  6. To treat the Whites friendly, if not the Tolowas would be considered enemies and the
  7. Tolowas would be able to hunt and fish at their pleasure.

The Whites pledged that any White found guilty of a crime toward the Tolowa will be brought to justice according to the laws of California.

As the Headman of Xaa-wan'-k'wvt, K'ay-lish was responsible to enforce the treaty placed against him. His responsibility was to enforce the treaty with the treat of his life by hanging or imprisonment at San Quentin. San Quentin was established in 1852 in response to the massive criminal activity brought on by the sudden influx of "roughs" seeking their fortune in the goldfields.

The treaty brought a brief calm on the Smith River. "Indian" wars had broken out on the Rogue, Chetco, and upper Klamath Rivers the Oregon Territory. These exterminations and the associated treaties resulted in the creation of the Indian Coast Reservation located at Siletz and Grand Ronde far north beyond the Taa-laa-waa-dvn in 1855. The Klamath River Reservation was also established on November 16, 1855, at Fort Terwer and Requa California. Many Dee-ni' were imprisoned at these new concentration camps.

By 1855, the California Indian population had been reduced to 50,000. By 1900, less than 16,000 Indians in California had survived the onslaught of murderous invading White immigrants. Our Dee-ni' population plummeted by eighty % to two thousand survivors in California and Oregon. One-hundred-thirty-four-thousand (134,000) California Indian lives were destroyed during this 55-year period following the U.S. Government taking control of California.

Life on The Island, Srdvn-das-'a~, continued in relative peace. Modern sawn wood homes were constructed adjacent to the Dance House belonging to Headman K'ay-lish. The cemetery sat on the western bank. The Whites named Srdvn-das-'a~, "Tillas Island", from their English versions of Ai-lis, I-las and Tillas after the Headman K'ay-lish. The rest of the Taa-laa-waa-dvn was overrun by the invading squatters, taking the prime lands for themselves, including Xaa-wan'-k'wvt. The 1855 Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Treaty led to the creation of the 17,000 acre Smith River Reservation on May 3, 1862. During the winter of 1861 to 1862, a flooding freshet destroyed the Fort Terwer Agency Office on the Klamath that caused the agent and staff to be transferred north to the Smith River Reservation.

The Smith River Reservation covered an area from the California border, south to Yan'-daa-k'vt, and east to the foothills of the Smith River Valley. Following the 1860 Indian Island Massacre in Humboldt Bay, many Eel River Wiyot and Wailaki Indians were imprisoned at the Smith River Reservation near the headquarters, while the Dee-ni' continued to live downriver on Srdvn-das-'a~. The Headman and patriarch K'ay-lish passed away in 1866 leaving his Nation and descendants to carry on. With no impetus left to enforce the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Treaty of 1855, the federal government annulled the Smith River Reservation in 1868 and removed the Indians to the Hoopa Valley Reservation. Rather than relocate them, many Eel River citizens were executed, and then, interred into a mass pit grave in the fields of the Smith River Reservation.

Aged grandmothers too old to slog to the Hoopa Valley Concentration Camp were dropped into salt boxes tied to the sides of mules for their exile to Hoopa. The Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni' traversed along their ancient roads up Rowdy Creek, south along Rattle Snake Ridge and east to Weitchpec at the forks of the Klamath River, and then on to Camp Gaston at Hoopa. The Dee-ni' again escaped to their "former haunts" in Del Norte and Curry counties. The Dee-ni' returned to various locations including Srdvn-das-'a~ living under the intents of the Xaa-wan'-k'wvt Treaty until 1903.

During the winter of 1903, the course of the Smith River began to run easterly and started the severe erosion of Srdvn-das-'a~. The cemetery began to cave into the raging river. Threatened Dee-ni' remains were hastily exhumed and saved. Simultaneously, the Woman's National Indian Association formed the National Indian Association to purchase land for displaced Indians across California. A Congressional Act in 1906 provided $150,000 for the purchase of lands for Indians. C.E. Kelsey traveled to Del Norte County to interview the Headmen seeking information were to establish a land base for them.

The Headmen requested a place to hunt, fish, and clam. Kelsey considered a one-thousand parcel of logged over stump land belonging to Hobbs-Wall lumber located below Dr. Fine Bridge at the village site of T'uu-yaa~-sdvm-dvn meaning "Meadow-small." Kelsey decided one-thousand acres was too much land for the Dee-ni'. The second location for consideration was at the mouth of the Smith River adjacent to the clam bed at Setlh-xa~ or "Prince Island." The nearby hills and river allowed for game and fish. The eight-hundred dollars in gold coin purchase of one-hundred-sixty acres by Mr. Kelsey established the Smith River Rancheria in 1908. He acquired another Dee-ni' rancheria east of Crescent City in Elk Valley. The Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni' began the move from many places across the Taa-laa-waa-dvn in California and Oregon to the new reservation at Smith River along with the Srdvn-das-'a~ Dee-ni'. A new Xaa-wan'-k'wvt cemetery was established at the old town of Trail'in-des-'a~ on the reservation. The remaining graves at Srdvn-das-'a~ were exhumed. Then, along with the remains previously salvaged, they were laid to rest in the new cemetery by 1908. As a result, today, some single graves contain multiple Dee-ni' remains.

The final Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash to be held on Srdvn-das-'a~ was in 1910, before the Dance House was swept away in the swift eroding current. The Headmen extended Nee-dash for an eleventh night as a farewell to K'ay-lish's Dance House on Srdvn-das-'a~, inherited by one of his grandsons named Trail'a~lh-t'as or "Longhaired Bob."

The first Rancheria Land Assignments were issued to citizens in 1914 by the Council. The Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash continued there until federal agents busted up and banned us from the 1st Amendment right of the free exercise of religious freedom. They arrested and incarcerated the Headmen during the Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash in 1923. With the public Naa-yvlh-sri Nee-dash put to an end, the Methodist and Indian Shaker churches gained clout, while Nee-dash went underground.

We continued while working in the timber, fishing, and agricultural industries until Termination under the provisions of the California Rancheria Act of 1958. On November 25, 1960 Termination formally severed our Federal Indian Relationship nullifying our Federal Recognition and our government. Our Termination was published in the Federal Register in 1967. Termination opened our lands to sale and loss for taxation that resulted in the loss of forty % of our reservation. Our government and reservation were restored under the Tillie Hartwick Case in 1983. The restoration began rebuilding our governance under a new Constitution in 1987, along with the renaissance of our cultural identity and the acquisition of property.

Following our restoration from Termination to our self-identification as citizens of the Tolowa Dee-ni' Nation, we have made a turn to further strengthen our Nation. After a long struggle and wait for its return, finally the Taa-laa-wa Dee-ni' again own Xaa-wan'-k'wvt. With the acquisition of this significant property comes a promising expansion for our Nation and our values. As the lands along with the river return to Trust Status we will be able to traditional fish and hunt at Da'-chvn-dvn, formerly shut down by Public Law 280 in 1953. These lands, coupled with the Rowdy Creek Fish Hatchery and our regulatory codification, will afford lhuk or "salmon," to once again be part of our healthful and customary way of life. K'wan'-lee-shvm shu' nuu-xwa nin-la "Creator good for-us you-have-done,"

Source: Loren Me'-lash-ne Bommelyn - November 2016