Member of an American Indian people living in the Hoopa Valley, northwest California. They speak an Athabaskan dialect, and were closely related to the Yoruk, with whom they had trading, marriage, and ceremonial links. They established 13 villages along the Trinity River and had a hunter-gatherer subsistence, based primarily on acorns and salmon. Social rank was dictated solely by wealth, and calculated by ownership of shells, scarlet woodpecker scalps, deerskins, and obsidian blades. Strings of dentalia shells were used as money. Hupa women specialized in basketry. The Hupa now live on California's largest reservation, and number some 2,500 (1990). Farming and logging are the main activities.
The Hupa used triangular fishing nets and constructed weirs to trap salmon, and hunted deer and elk. Acorns were ground to make a flour. They were great traders, exchanging skins and acorns with the Yoruk for dugout canoes, saltwater fish, seaweed, dentalia shells, and woodpecker scalps; and trading with other neighbouring peoples for white deerskins, abalone shells, and tobacco. Hupa houses were half-buried rectangular structures made from redwood or cedar logs and planks. Traditionally the women slept in separate family dwellings while the men slept together in a communal lodge known as the sweat-house. Their clothing was made from deerskins and braided bear grass.
The headman was the wealthiest individual and held a particularly important place in Hupa society compared to other California peoples. Hupa religion was shamanistic, and involved curing rituals, the recital of magical formulas, and seasonal feasts. Rituals included the white deerskin dance and jump dance, part of their world renewal ceremony, the first salmon ceremony, and the acorn feast. Unlike other Pacific coastal peoples, they did not practise the potlatch (a gift-giving ceremony).
The Hupa had no contact with white people until 1828. They established fur-trading relations, but were otherwise undisturbed until the California gold rush of 1828 opened up the region. Their territory came under increasing pressure from white settlers. The Hupa signed a treaty in 1851 aimed at establishing protection and a reservation, but it was never ratified and relations deteriorated. In 1863 they were imprisoned for a year at Fort Gaston, and on release waged war against the US government by hiring mercenaries from other Indian groups to attack on their behalf, while maintaining peace in the Hoopa Valley. In 1864 the Treaty of Peace and Friendship secured the Hupa a reservation comprising 90% of their original homelands. They fought determinedly against efforts to assimilate them into white culture, and retain a strong cultural identity.