Stories Legends and Other Things: Peace in the Valley
By BYRON NELSON JR., TRT Columnist
In the years to come, scholars will continue to wage battles over the different theories of how long Indians have been in America. Some will even go to their graves with the same biased theories that they learned in graduate school, while others just might explore new and exciting ways to explain the American Indian existence.
But time itself was irrelevant to the Hupa. When a group of people live in one community in one location for hundreds of generations, a way of life is developed through trial and error, which is honed and tailored into a near perfect society. That is what happened in this valley.
Unlike the mysterious, stoic and romanticized version of the Indian that Hollywood tried to portray over the years, the old Hupa were none of those things. The Hupa of old were probably one of the most practical people on the planet and everything they did was a reflection in common sense.
A large part of how they lived was due to where they lived; the beautiful Hoopa Valley.
Before the arrival of outsiders, sticker bushes like the yellow star thistle, the bull thistle and even our large Himalayan black berry, were not heard of in this valley. You could literally run through any of the fields barefooted, and not worry about stepping on a sticker. Without a doubt, it was a virtual paradise.
The area was blessed with abundant resources and the Hupa knew it, giving constant thanks to the creator through their ceremonies and other ways. The abundance of food also allowed them to dedicate much of their time to spiritual and other pursuits, resulting in a prolific number of different kinds of doctors and medicine people. These people were often sought out by people from other tribes in the region. The Hoopa Valley was widely known as a place you came for healing.
Contrary to what some present day scholars say about how the different tribes in our region went to war against each other; none were tribe against tribe. If it did happen, which was very rare, it was always village against village.
The one conflict most scholars like to refer to as a war between the Hupa and the Yurok happened at the beginning of the nineteenth century. The Hupa from the village of Takimildin, believing the Yurok at the Requa village at the mouth of the Klamath River were preventing the salmon from coming up the river, went down the river to investigate. When a Yurok medicine woman at Requa told the Hupa that she was the one keeping the salmon from coming up the river, they killed her after she insulted them. The Hupa returned to the valley probably thinking that they could have handled that situation in a more diplomatic fashion.
Before long, the survivors from Requa showed up at Takimildin and took revenge almost wiping out the whole village. About six months later the survivors at Takimildin with assistance from Whilkut, Chilula and South Fork soldiers, which they hired, returned to Requa, and in turn almost wiped them out.
Although there is no record of any settlement between the two villages, the issue seems to have been brought to a close through battle. But there is one thing very clear about this particular conflict; none of the other villages within the tribes came to the aid of either one of the participating villages. When Taklimildin put together a retaliatory force, it apparently could not depend on the other Hupa to help fight their battle. And the same for the Requa village; none of the
Yurok villages lifted a hand against the Hupa battle contingence even though their boats passed right in front of most of Yurok villages on their way down the Klamath, and on their way back. This was a battle just between those two villages, and the rest of the tribal members knew that.
This type of conflict was very rare because all the tribes in the area had systems in place to prevent most hostilities. One of the basic laws was payment for insult no matter how minor it might have seemed. This law was strictly enforced and would usually stop any kind of disagreement from escalating.
The Hupa, in particular, had things ingrained right into their very way of life to help prevent any kind of unruliness which could lead to potential disagreements between individuals. One way they would accomplish this was to raise their children to behave in a certain way.
We all know that certain disagreements between individuals will arise just by someone elevating their voice in discussion with another person. To help counter this, children would be taught at a very early age to keep their voices down and conduct themselves in a quiet and respectful manner. One of the ways the parents would do this was to tell them about the journey a person will take after they pass away.
In part of the journey after crossing the river, there is a place in the trail where you have to call out to a person who will further aid you in your journey. Some children were told that if you were loud and raising your voice unnecessarily, a person who assists people to complete their journey to the other side, might hear you and come and get you.
This was just one way out of hundreds in which they lived by to ensure peace in the valley.