Yurok people have lived in and around Sue-meg State Park for generations. The temperate climate and abundant wildlife of the North Coast promoted a culturally rich way of life that continues today. Yurok people built villages of redwood planks along the coast and major waterways. Traveling by dugout canoe, they fished for salmon. They also hunted elk, deer, and other small game. Berries, roots, and many traditional plants are still harvested by Yuroks at Sue-meg, and acorns are gathered from hillside areas east of the park.
In 1850, when gold was found in California's interior, the Yurok people were overwhelmed by an influx of settlers. Conflict over the land took many forms. The native people were hunted down, and those who survived the attacks were forced onto reservations. Newly introduced diseases further decimated their numbers.
Today, the Yurok have made a remarkable recovery. As the most populous tribe in California, nearly 5,500 Yurok live in Humboldt and Del Norte counties. Tribal members are building a future by revitalizing their ancestral language and traditions based on the customs of the past.
Europeans and Americans
Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo and Sir Francis Drake sailed along the coast of what is now Humboldt County as early as the 16th century, but it was a Spanish vessel captained by Bruno de Hezeta that braved the unpredictable winds and rocky shoreline to land in Trinidad Bay in 1775. The fur trade had come to the Trinidad Bay region by June 1801. Captain Jonathon Winship arranged with Governor Alexandr Baronov of Sitka, Alaska, to take 100 native people from the Aleutian Islands to California on a sea-otter hunting expedition.
With the discovery of gold in northern California’s Trinity River in the mid-1800s, the area experienced a rush of miners and would-be entrepreneurs. Those who came seeking adventure and wealth through trading and trapping gave way to gold miners and settlers.
The California State Park Commission purchased Sue-meg in 1929 after approval of the 1928 Park Bond. Additional land was acquired over several years, bringing the park’s total to 640 acres. From the beginning, the park was identified as a potential site of a representative traditional Indian village that would portray the rich culture of the northwest coast.