Indian Island, Humboldt Bay

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Indian Island, Humboldt Bay

by | Nov 7, 2019

Indian Island, also known as Gunther Island and Duluwat Island, is the largest of three islands along with Woodley and Dalby Islands located in Humboldt Bay, about 5.5 miles (8.8 km) south-southwest of Arcata and within the city of Eureka, California. Although the island is mostly tidal marsh, the indigenous Wiyot lived on the island in Tolowot village long enough to alter the topography by the accumulation of shell fragments in middens.

On February 26, 1860, about 100 Wiyot people, mainly women and children, were massacred by European immigrants who had settled in the area since the California Gold Rush. The killings followed two years of open hostility by a group of local whites against the residents of Indian Island who were suspected of cattle rustling. The massacre was part of a coordinated attack that targeted other nearby Wiyot, including 40 people at an encampment on the Eel River, and 58 people at South Beach about 1 mile (1.6 km) south of Eureka, and 35 at Eagle Prairie a few days later. Though the attacks were widely condemned in newspapers outside Humboldt County, no one was ever prosecuted for the murders.

Robert Gunther acquired the island and subsequently diked and drained the marshes and pastured dairy cattle there for nearly 40 years. In the 1870s a shipyard repair facility was constructed and operated until the 1980s leaving considerable contamination in the form of boat batteries, lead paint, chemicals, scrap metal, rusty buckets, a huge engine, and polluted soil. On October 21, 2019, the City of Eureka deeded all its land on the island to the Wiyot people who intend to use it for ceremonies and a place where the community can gather. Read more here and here. Explore more of Indian Island here:

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