This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Yana people" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (May 2020) (Learn how and when to remove this message)

Regions with significant populations
English, formerly Yana
Related ethnic groups
Pre-contact Yana territory

The Yana are a group of Native Americans indigenous to Northern California in the central Sierra Nevada, on the western side of the range. Their lands, prior to encroachment by white settlers, bordered the Pit and Feather rivers. They were nearly destroyed during the California genocide in the latter half of the 19th century. The Central and Southern Yana continue to live in California as members of Redding Rancheria.[1]


The Yana-speaking people comprise four groups: the North Yana, the Central Yana, the Southern Yana, and the Yahi, of which two - the Central and Southern - remain. The noun stem Ya- means "person"; the noun suffix is -na in the northern Yana dialects and -hi [xi] in the southern dialects.


Further information: Population of Native California

Anthropologist Alfred L. Kroeber put the 1770 population of the Yana at 1,500,[2] and Sherburne F. Cook estimated their numbers at 1,900 and 1,850.[3] Other estimates of the total Yana population before the Gold Rush exceed 3,000. They lived on wild game, salmon, fruit, acorns and roots.[4]

Their territory was approximately 2,400 square miles, or more than 6,000 km2, and contained mountain streams, gorges, boulder-strewn hills, and lush meadows. Each group had relatively distinct boundaries, dialects and customs.[5]


The Yahi were the southernmost portion of the Yana.[6] They were hunter-gatherers who lived in small egalitarian bands without centralized political authority, were reclusive and fiercely defended their territory of mountain canyons. The Yahi initially numbered around 400.[7]

The Yahi were the first Yana group to suffer from the Californian Gold Rush, as their lands were the closest to the gold fields.[6] They suffered great population losses from the loss of their traditional food supplies and fought with the settlers over territory. They lacked firearms, and armed white settlers committed genocide against them in multiple raids.[7] These raids took place as part of the California Genocide, during which the U.S. Army and vigilante militias carried out killings as well as the relocation of thousands of indigenous peoples in California.[8] The massacre reduced the Yahi, who were already suffering from starvation, to a population of less than 100.[6]

On August 6, 1865, seventeen settlers raided a Yahi village at dawn. In 1866, more Yahis were massacred when they were caught by surprise in a ravine. Circa 1867, 33 Yahis were killed after being tracked to a cave north of Mill Creek. Circa 1871, four cowboys trapped and killed about 30 Yahis in Kingsley cave.[7]


Main article: Ishi

Ishi, the last known survivor of the Yahi

The last known survivor of the Yahi was named Ishi by American anthropologists. Ishi had spent most of his life hiding with his tribe members in the Sierra wilderness, emerging at the age of about 49, after the deaths of his mother and remaining relatives. He was the only Yahi known to Americans. Ishi emerged from the mountains near Oroville, California, on August 29, 1911, having lived his entire life outside of the settler-colonial culture.[9]

Ishi would teach Saxton T. Pope archery as referenced in Pope's book on archery by the last Yana Indian.[10]

See also


  1. ^ Redding Rancheria (2013). With the Strength of Our Ancestors (film). United States. Retrieved September 27, 2013.
  2. ^ Kroeber, p.883
  3. ^ Cook, 1976a:177, 1976b:16
  4. ^ Pritzker, Barry M. (2000). A Native American Encyclopedia: History, Culture, and Peoples, p. 156. Oxford University Press.
  5. ^ "Ishi's Hiding Place", Butte County Archived July 16, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, A History of American Indians in California: HISTORIC SITES, National Park Service, 2004, accessed November 5, 2010
  6. ^ a b c "We Are California: The Yana/Yahi People". California Humanities. Retrieved November 16, 2014.
  7. ^ a b c Diamond, Jared (1997), Guns, Germs, and Steel, New York: W. W. Norton & Company, p. 374, ISBN 0-393-31755-2
  8. ^ Robert K. Hitchcock, and Charles Flowerday. “Ishi and the California Indian Genocide as Developmental Mass Violence.” Humboldt Journal of Social Relations, no. 42, Department of Sociology, Humboldt State University, 2020, pp. 69–85.
  9. ^ Kroeber, Karl; Kroeber, Clifton B. (January 2003). Ishi in Three Centuries. U of Nebraska Press. p. 377. ISBN 0-8032-2757-4.
  10. ^ Pope, Saxton T. (Saxton Temple) (May 1, 2005). Hunting with the Bow & Arrow.