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Annual vigil open to public

The annual vigil commemorates members of the Tolowa tribe killed in the 1850s.
The annual vigil commemorates members of the Tolowa tribe killed in the 1850s. Del Norte Triplicate file / Adam Spencer
In 1853 and 1854, hundreds of Tolowa Indians were slaughtered by members of local white militia at the villages of Yan’-daa-k’vt (Yontocket) and Ee-chuu-le (Etchulet) near what are now called Lake Earl and Lake Tolowa.

A candlelight vigil commemorating the 1854 massacre at ‘Ee-chuu-le’ Village and honoring Tolowa Dee-ni’ (people) ancestors will take place Friday.

The vigil is open to the public and those wishing to attend are asked to meet at 3:30 p.m. at the Lake Earl Wildlife Area Information Center, 2591 Old Mill Road, where a shuttle will be provided to ‘Ee-chuu-le.’

This year marks the 160th anniversary of the 1853 massacre at Yan’-daa-k’vt, which the tribe describes as the second-largest in American history, when more than 450 Tolowa people were killed during the long-held annual world renewal ceremony of Nee-Dash. Yan’-daa-k’vt, located within present-day Tolowa Dunes State Park, is considered to be the Tolowas’ genesis place, the center of their spiritual world.

After the village of Yan’-daa-k’vt  was burned, the tribe founded a new village between present-day Lake Earl and Lake Tolowa called Ee-chuu-le, meaning large land peninsula, and the 1854/1855 Nee-Dash ceremony, which starts on the winter solstice and lasts 10 days, was held there instead.

But again, white settlers descended on the gathering to murder at least a hundred Tolowa Indians.

From 1851 to 1856, around 8,000 Tolowa people were killed, then another 1,834 were marched to a reservation, which was more like a concentration camp, in Oregon, said Loren Bommelyn, the cultural leader of the tribe.

Following the vigil, refreshments will be served at the Lake Earl Wildlife Area Center, including ’es-day (tea), k’aa-be (coffee), taa-svlh (homemade soups) and baa-shuk (bread).

Candles will be provided and the event will be held rain or shine. Participants are advised to wear warm clothing and rain boots and bring a chair and umbrella.

For more information, call the Smith River Rancheria tribal office at 707-487-9255, ext. 3176.

The vigil is sponsored by the rancheria and hosted by Tolowa Dunes Stewards and Redwood Parks Association.

Reach Adam Spencer at This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it


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