The Yurok live on the northwest coast of California and on the lower Klamath River. Traditional subsistence was based on fishing, hunting, and gathering, with salmon being the most important food source. Yurok society was socially stratified into "aristocrats", "commoners", and the "poor". There were no chiefs or leaders, although a man could sometimes gain importance through great wealth. Villages, which had communal property and distinct boundaries, were the basic units for conducting ceremonies and warfare. Contemporary Yurok work for wages in a broad variety of service jobs or in the fishing and lumbering industries.
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North America --Northwest Coast and California
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Documents referred to in this section are included in the eHRAF World Cultures collection and are referenced by author, date of publication and eHRAF document number.
The Yurok (NS31) collection consists of all English language documents covering a variety of ethnographic topics. The major source of information on the Yurok is found in Heizer and Mills (1952, no. 1) which is an account of a coastal village through time (ca. 1775-1952), supplemented by additional information from Kroeber (1925, no. 9), and Pilling (1978, 1989, nos. 14 and 19). Two of the studies in this collection deal with the Yurok’s own view of their culture, Thompson (1916, no. 12), and Pilling (1978, no. 14). The remaining collection is rounded out by data on child training and world view in Erickson (1943, no. 4); marriage as examined through genealogical records, Waterman and Kroeber (1934, no. 2); geography, Waterman (1920, no. 6); law, Kroeber (1928, no.7); the tradition of music and songs among the Yurok, Keeling (1992, no, 18); women’s attitude toward menstruation and associated rituals Buckly (1952, no. 16); and finally physical anthropology in Ferreira (1998, no. 15).
For more detailed information on the content of the individual works in this collection see the abstracts in the citations preceding each document.
This culture summary is from the article “Yurok” by Thomas R. Hester in the Encyclopedia of World Cultures, Vol. 1. North America. Timothy O’Leary and David Levinson, eds. Boston, Mass.: G. K. Hall & Co., 1991. The synopsis was written by John Beierle in June 2011; population was updated by HRAF staff in June, 2011 based on data from the U.S. census.