★ Let's Explore Trinidad, California!
(roughly pronounced, "chew rye")
Photo by Jim Popenoe
A historic marker (left) overlooks the bluff at the corner of Edwards Street and Ocean Avenue, 250 feet east of the Trinidad Memorial Lighthouse. It states:
"Directly below was located the ancient Yurok village of Tsurai. A prehistoric, permanent Indian community, it was first discovered by Captains Bodega and Heceta, June 9-19, 1775. The houses were of hand-split redwood planks, designed for defense and protection. The village was occupied until 1916."
See the Historic Marker Database for more photos and details about this marker.
Surrounded by natural beauty, the ancient village of Tsurai was an awe-inspiring place to live. According to Tsurai lineal descendant, Axel Lindgren II (1), Tsurai had
... "ten or twelve redwood slab houses, a sweat house, quality waterhole, brush-dance pit, trails, graves, boat landing, and alder trees." ... "Here an elegant life-style was enjoyed until European contact" ...
The south-facing slope provided a mild climate. In 1909, anthropologist Thomas Waterman (2) wrote,
"On the day of my visit, a cold wind was sweeping over the treeless flat about the white town on the bluff, but in the Indian village, down over the bluff, the air was still warm and pleasant."
In 1906, A. W. Ericson (3) took a photo of Tsurai from the bluff, although by then, all of the traditional split redwood houses had been replaced with Euro-American style milled timber dwellings. No structures remain today, and you must not explore. Instead, to imagine what ancient Tsurai was like, visit Sumêg, a village replica constructed in traditional Yurok style at Sue-meg State Park, 5 miles north of town.
Please remain strictly on designated trails. Those who fail to do so jeopardize both irreplaceable cultural resources and future public access. Stewardship of our heritage is everyone's responsibility.
(1) Introduction by Axel Lindgren in Heizer and Mills (1952)
(2) Note 31, p. 271 in Waterman (1920)
(3) Photo of Tsurai in 1906 from Ericson Photograph Collection, Online Archive of California; photo identified on p. 314 in Waterman (1920)
Heizer, Robert F. and John E. Mills. 1952. The Four Ages of Tsurai. A Documentary History of the Indian Village on Trinidad Bay. Reprinted in 1991 with introductory material by Axel Lindgren and the Trinidad Museum Society, Trinidad, California.
Waterman, Thomas T. 1920. Yurok Geography. Reprinted in 1993 by the Trinidad Museum Society, Trinidad, California.