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The Hupa shared a language and most customs with their less prosperous neighbors, the Chilula, who depended on the much smaller Redwood Creek for resources.
The frequently damp, foggy climate, rocky cliffs, narrow stony beaches, and hardwood forests that surrounded the two tribes had more in common with the Pacific Northwest than with typical California locales.
Throughout the United States relations between whites and Native Americans were far from good.
In California, where white settlers and gold seekers were pouring in, rumors spread about “wild” Indians killing “innocent” whites. troops were stationed at the fort.1828: American trappers enter the Hoopa Valley.1850: Gold is discovered on the Trinity River; prospectors pour onto Hupa and Chilula lands.1859: One hundred sixty Chilula attending what they think is a peace conference are forced onto a reservation in Mendocino.
Fine basketry was made by twining segments of certain roots, leaves, and stems around prepared shoots.
As an inland group, the Hupa often exchanged acorns and other local foods with the coast-dwelling Yurok, who reciprocated with redwood canoes, saltwater fish, mussels, and seaweed.
The name “Chilula” is an Americanized version of the Yurok čulula, meaning “they frequent Bald Hills” or “they pass through Bald Hills.” They were known to their other neighbors as the Bald Hills Indians or Redwood Creek Indians. Both the Hupa and Chilula lived in northwestern California, the Hupa along the shores of the Trinity River and the Chilula in the lower section of Redwood Creek in Humboldt County.
Hupa villages were traditionally located on the riverbank and included dwellings for women and children, separate semisubterranean buildings where men slept and took sweat baths, and small menstrual lodges for women.
The Hupa economy was based on elk, deer, salmon, and acorns, all of which were readily available in the region.
In the early twenty-first century the Hupa share the Blue Lake Rancheria with the Yurok and Wiyot.
The Hupa are and always have been the largest of the Athabaskan-speaking tribes living in northwestern California.