Installation of five signs commemorating the history of the First Nation people who lived in the Yachats area is complete, according to View the Future, a forward-looking organization based in Yachats. VtF raised over $6,000 in donations and also obtained a grant from the Oregon Community Foundation’s Oregon Parks Foundation Fund.
The last two signs were recently installed on the Amanda Trail, which starts just south of Yachats and connects to the trail to Cape Perpetua. The Ya’Xaik People lived in the Yachats area and were related to the Alsi to the north.
Joanne Kittel, chair of View the Future, has researched and written, with tribal assistance, about the Ya’Xaik people who lived in this area for thousands of years before Europeans arrived. “Their rich and enduring culture is a testament to their ingenuity, talent and sensitivity to the sustainability of their environment. I hope people will visit the Amanda and Ya’Xaik Trails and learn more about the Ya’Xaik People.” Kittel said.
Many of the donations were made in honor of Ben Christensen, a former professor of Spanish literature at the University of California at San Diego who retired in Yachats with his wife, Kathee. Ben was passionately involved in supporting trails in the Yachats area and educating locals and visitors about local First Nation history. On August 1, 2015, he was working with a crew on the Amanda Trail when he suffered a massive heart attack. Despite the efforts of the crew members and the EMTs from the Yachats Rural Fire Protection District, Ben died on the trail he so loved. Kathee and their family decided to carry on with the First Nation signs project in Ben’s memory.
Five signs were developed and designed through the collaborative efforts of Kittel, who co-authored The Yachats Indians Origins of the Yachats Name and at the Prison Camp Years; Diane Disse, a writer and graphics designer former educator at the Lincoln County Historical Society; Robert Kentta, cultural director and Tribal Council member of the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians; Phyllis Steeves, who served as archaeologist with the Siuslaw National Forest for many years; and artist Phillip Schuster, who created an image of Natives fishing for smelt for use on a sign. Additional images came from Kentta, the Siuslaw National Forest, the Lincoln County Historical Society, and the Little Log Church of Yachats.
Once the research was finished, the text written, the images selected, and the signs fabricated, they were installed by students in the masonry program at Angell Job Corps, under the supervision of instructor, Joel Hatzenbihler. Wally Orchard, trails leader with the Yachats Trails Committee helped.
The other three signs, installed by the Public Works Department of the City of Yachats, are on the Ya’Xaik Trail, which climbs through the coastal forest from the east end of Diversity Lane to the east side of the Gerdemann Botanical Preserve. From there, hikers can walk through the garden, emerging on Highway 101 at the Earthworks retail complex, and across Hwy. 101 and onto the Overleaf public footpath to the 804 North Trail. (Trail locations can be found on wwwyachatstrails.org. For more information about the Ya’Xaik People, visit