July/August 2022 Issue
Summers in far northern California look much different than they do in the rest of the Golden State: Picture refreshingly cool and foggy days on the Trinidad Coast, where the rocky coastline promises long walks through massive redwoods and views of offshore sea stacks. Spending the day at Sue-meg State Park in Trinidad, California, located about 30 miles north of Eureka, allows visitors to experience all that, as well as to explore up close a cherished cultural site for local Yurok community members who are raising awareness of Indigenous peoples in groundbreaking ways.
Formerly known as Patrick’s Point State Park, the one-square-mile spread was officially renamed in September 2021, the first project of the California legislature’s antiracism Reexamining Our Past Initiative. When announcing the change to the traditional Yurok name for this area (pronounced “soo-may”), California State Parks Director Armando Quintero called it “a momentous step to heal relationships with Native Americans and work together in recognition and honor of Indigenous cultural and linguistic relationships.”
Though the park name is new, cultural representation has been alive and well for visitors to the park for many years. Sumêg Village—a set of traditional Yurok buildings including plank house lodgings, a sweathouse, and a dance house with guest seating—was re-created on-site by Yurok craftspeople working with California State Park staff in the 1990s. It’s very much worth a five-minute wander from the visitor center to admire the architecture of the redwood plank houses, built with wood from fallen trees in nearby forests, as well as the adjacent native plant garden.
In summer, Yurok tribe members host ceremonial events in the park and guides offer free, open-to-all interpretive walks of the village multiple times a week. (See the California State Parks North Coast Facebook page for the most recent schedule.) Park interpreter Skip Lowry, who serves as the steward of the village, says these tours present “a fresh start to authentic and appropriate cultural, historical, and contemporary interpretation experiences” in the village and its surrounding area.