The Mattole, including the Bear River Indians, are a group of Native Americans traditionally living on the Mattole and Bear rivers in the vicinity of Cape Mendocino, within the present Humboldt County, California.

The Mattole spoke an Athapaskan language that may have been closely related to that of their Eel River neighbors to the east.

Aboriginal Bear River villages included Tcalko', Chilsheck, Chilenche, Selsche'ech, Tlanko, Estakana, and Sehtla.


Estimates for the pre-contact populations of most native groups in California have varied substantially. (See Population of Native California.) Alfred L. Kroeber (1925:883) put the 1770 population of the Mattole at 500. Sherburne F. Cook (1976) estimated the combined populations of the Mattole, Whilkut, Nongatl, Sinkyone, Lassik, and Kato at 4,700, at least 50% higher than Kroeber's figure for the same groups. Martin A. Baumhoff (1958) estimated the aboriginal Mattole-Bear River population as 2,476.

The Mattole federal reservation, the Rohnerville Rancheria, located south of Eureka, reported a population of 29 in the 2000 census.


  • Baumhoff, Martin A. 1958. "California Athabascan Groups". Anthropological Records 16:157-238. University of California, Berkeley.
  • Cook, Sherburne F. 1976a. The Conflict between the California Indian and White Civilization. University of California Press, Berkeley.
  • Elsasser, Albert B. 1976. "Mattole, Nongatl, Sinkyone, Lassik, and Wailaki". In California, edited by Robert F. Heizer, pp. 190-204. Handbook of North American Indians, vol. 8, William C. Sturtevant, general editor. Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.
  • Kroeber, A. L. 1925. Handbook of the Indians of California. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin No. 78. Washington, D.C.

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