Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Tuesday, May 30, 2023 @ 3:41 p.m. / Community

Tolowa Coastal Stories Project Seeks To Share 'All Aspects of Tolowa History'; Videography Starts This Month

Members of a committee working with Crescent City’s interpretive design team for Beachfront Park plan to begin interviewing Tolowa elders next month.

Coming after the City Council approved a $193,000 contract with consultant Sea Reach Ltd. on May 15 — calling it an opportunity to tell “as close to the whole story about who we are and where we came from,” — interviewees will be members of the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation, Elk Valley Rancheria and the Tolowa Nation, said Emily Reed, the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation’s public relations manager.

These videos will feature three to four interviews at 10 spots in and around Beachfront Park, Reed said. They will be accompanied by interpretive signs and a traditional stool, giving elders a place to sit when the Tolowa Coastal Stories trail is finished.

“Our hope in sharing Tolowa history is that locals and visitors will be more aware of the place they are in whether they reside here or are visiting,” she told the Wild Rivers Outpost. “Del Norte County is Tolowa Ancestral Territory and we are still here today. Our history matters and it needs to be told by the Tolowa people.”

Crescent City used a $200,000 California Coastal Conservancy Coastal Stories grant to put together the videos featuring tribal elders. Sea Reach Ltd. will shoot video of those elders in the third week of June, he said.

A workshop for tribal citizens will be held Wednesday to bring them up to speed and keep them engaged as Sea Reach Ltd. and the Tolowa Cultural Committee prepare to conduct those interviews, Wier said.

A Tolowa interpretive trail is also part of the city’s Beachfront Park expansion and is being paid for through the $5 million Proposition 68 Statewide Park Program Grant it received in December 2021. Those dollars will build the actual trail in addition to expanding Kidtown, building a bike park and pump track and adding other amenities to the park, Wier said.

The $200,000 Coastal Stories grant will enhance that interpretive trail, he said.

“Part of this workshop will be to present some drafts as to what that experience will look like and feel like,” Wier told the Outpost. “Based on input from tomorrow’s meeting, we’ll be able to take a more complete picture and make sure it all works within the Beachfront Park project and we’ll know more about what it will actually look like.”

Reed is working with Elk Valley Rancheria Tribal Councilor Kevin Mealue and Charlene Storr, a storyteller of the Tolowa Nation, a separate group whose ancestors didn’t join the Tolowa Dee-ni’ Nation or Elk Valley Rancheria.

Since Tolowa history goes back to time immemorial, the Cultural Committee is focusing on the history specific to the Beachfront Park area. This history includes Elk Creek, the village of Taa-‘a-dvn, trade routes, Battery Point and Point St. George.

“We will have an overview video to start the trail that shares our genesis story at Yontocket and we may end up sharing some information about the Yontocket massacre in that video,” Reed said of the 1853 murder of more than 450 Tolowa by settlers. “Our hope is to share all aspects of Tolowa history even the parts that are sometimes hard to hear. It’s still important that the truth is told of how Crescent City came to be on the lands of the Tolowa Dee-ni’.”

According to Wier, the Tolowa interpretive trail will focus on historical and cultural values, land sustainability and stewardship as well as addressing the historical trauma. It will also tell of the Tolowa people’s resiliency and the tribal governments that call the area home.

“As you work your way through the park there will be stations or kiosks that tell you about the story of when the city was founded and the events that occurred at that time in regard to mining and timber and a lot of those historical facts,” he said. “Other key things we want to be able to articulate is the tsunami history. The Sister City is another big component and the story we have now and how it relates to emergency management. Fishing and logging are those early industries that were so influential to the town we are today.”

According to Wier, the interviews and video will be incorporated into the overall Tolowa interpretive trail and Beachfront Park design. He said he envisions the complete package to be ready for construction this winter. Construction is expected to begin “by this time next year,” Wier said.

Sea Reach Ltd. is the interpretive design team working with GreenWorks to design the interpretive elements at Beachfront Park. The Sheridan, Oregon-based company also redesigned Crescent City’s Tsunami Walking Tour.


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