Formation of Reservations
The Federal Government established the Yurok Reservation in 1855 and immediately Yurok people were confined to the area. The Reservation was considerably smaller than the Yurok original ancestral territory. This presented a hardship for Yurok families who traditionally lived in villages along the Klamath River and northern Pacific coastline.
When Fort Terwer was established many Yurok families were relocated and forced to learn farming and the English language. In January 1862, the Fort was washed away by flood waters, along with the Indian agency at Wau-kell flat. Several Yurok people were relocated to the newly established Reservation in Smith River that same year.
However, the Smith River Reservation was closed in July 1867. Once the Hoopa Valley Reservation was established many Yurok people were sent to live there, as were the Mad River, Eel River and Tolowa Indians.
In the years following the opening of the Hoopa Valley Reservation, several squatters on the Yurok Reservation continued to farm and fish in the Klamath River. The government’s response was to evict squatters and use military force. Many squatters did not vacate and waited for military intervention, which was slow to come. In the interim, the squatters pursued other avenues to acquire land.