Nongatl was traditionally spoken in the territory around the Van Duzen River, from its outlet on the Eel River to its headwaters near Dinsmore, and along Yager and Larabee creeks (Elsasser 1978; Golla 2011). In pre-contact times, Nongatl was spoken by approximately 2300 people (Baumhoff 1958). As far as is known there are no first-language speakers remaining today (Golla 2011).

Map of Nongatl around Yager Creek, at tributary of the Van Duzen River
Map of Nongatl around Yager Creek, at tributary of the Van Duzen River (Martin A. Baumhoff. 1958. California Athabascan Groups. University of California Anthropological Records 16:157-237.)

Nongatl is a member of the Athabaskan language family, spoken across North America with concentrations in western Canada (Dëne Suliné, Sarsi, Slave), Alaska (Ahtna, Gwich'in, Koyukon), the southwest United States (Apache, Navajo), and coastal Oregon and northern California. Within Athabaskan, Nongatl is most closely related to the other Eel River dialects (Lassik, Sinkyone, and Wailaki) — and more distantly to Hupa, Kato, Mattole, and Tolowa.

Selected archival materials at Berkeley

Further reading

  • Elsasser, Albert B. 1978. Mattole, Nongatl, Sinkyone, Lassik, and Wailaki. In Robert F. Heizer, ed. California, pp. 190-204. (Handbook of North American Indians, Volume 8.) Washington: Smithsonian Institution.
  • Golla, Victor. 2011. California Indian languages. Berkeley: University of California Press.


We acknowledge with respect the Ohlone people on whose traditional, ancestral, and unceded land we work and whose historical relationships with that land continue to this day.