The Yurok Tribe is California’s largest Indian Tribe with nearly 5,000 enrolled members. The Yurok Tribe’s Territory consists of all Ancestral Lands, specifically including, but not limited to, the Yurok Reservation’s lands, which currently extend from one mile on each side from the mouth of the Klamath River and upriver for a distance of 44 miles. The Yurok Tribe’s people are also known historically as the Pohlik-la, Ner-er-er, Petch-ik-lah and Klamath River Indians. For millennia traditional Yurok religion and sovereignty was pervasive and practiced throughout all our historic villages along the Pacific Coast and inland on the Klamath River. The Yurok people carried on extensive trade and social relations through this region and beyond. Yurok commerce traditionally included a monetary system based on the use of dentalium shells, Terk-n-term and other items as currency. The Yurok traditional ceremonies include the Deerskin Dance, Doctor Dance, Jump Dance, Brush Dance, Kick Dance, Flower Dance, Boat Dance, and others, that have drawn Yurok people and neighboring Tribes together for renewal, healing and prayer. This whole land, this Yurok country, stayed in balance and was kept that way by our good stewardship, hard work, wise laws and constant prayers to the Creator.
KLAMATH >> Imagine the outcry that would be heard around the world if bandits broke into the Vatican (or into Mecca, or any other modern spiritual center), stripped precious metals from every surface, raided the tombs of the saints and sold their spoils to museums and private collectors for millions. A crime of this scale seems almost unimaginable in this day and age, but for hundreds of years it was common practice for unscrupulous traders to despoil Native American villages, burial sites and ceremonial centers, selling the artifacts and amassing huge personal collections.
While it's impossible to change the past, efforts have begun in recent years to "repatriate" purloined items to their rightful owners. On June 28, the Yurok Tribe hosted a Repatriation Ceremony (called Kwom-hle'-chey-ehl, meaning "They have come back") to celebrate the return of 128 ceremonial pieces used in the traditional Brush Dance.
"It is indescribably important that Yurok ceremonial items come back to the people and the land where they originated," said Cultural Resource Manager Rosie Clayburn in a news release about the event. "Not only do they belong with us, but they need to participate in ceremonies, which is their intended purpose. We are all out of balance until they are all home."
It took more than five years of negotiations with the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian to secure the release of these items, which are the second "installment" of artifacts described in a 2005 claim. The first batch was repatriated in 2010, bringing back 217 artifacts used in the White Deerskin Dance and the Jump Dance.
Tribal representatives said the majority of their items from the museum have now been returned, though the museum retains 15 caps that the tribe is working to reacquire. (The museum is conducting research to determine whether the caps qualify for repatriation under their definition of "sacred.")
"Our perspective is that those caps are ceremonial. They're used in dances, so to us they are sacred," said Clayburn. "When you're making something for a ceremony, a basket cap or a dress or anything else, you spend a lot of time gathering things. Everything on there is from the Earth — shells from the beach, bear grass from the hills and so on — and the materials have to be worked in the right frame of mind. The whole time you're making something, you're praying and bringing the object to life by putting your thoughts and prayers into it."
The most recent batch of returned items included a basket cap decorated with dentillium shells (also called 'dentalium' shells), dresses adorned with abalone, arrow quivers made with woodpecker scalps, "jump sticks" decorated with woodpecker heads and more.
"I'd like to thank tribal staff and the Smithsonian for working so hard to bring these ceremonial items home," said Thomas P. O'Rourke Sr., chairman of the Yurok Tribe. "This is where they belong. They are meant to be used in our ceremonies for healing and prayer."
According to the news release, "90 percent of the items were removed from Yurok territory by Grace Nicholson, an avid collector of Native American items in the early 1900s. The remaining 10 percent were collected by various non-Indian collectors throughout North America."
After Nicholson acquired the items, she sold some of them to wealthy private collectors Harmon Hendricks and George Gustav Heye, and they eventually became part of the Museum of the American Indian in New York. They remained there until a 1989 act of Congress created the National Museum of the American Indian and transferred stewardship of more than 800,000 objects to the Smithsonian Institution.
The act requires that Smithsonian museums create and carry out a repatriation policy "to inventory, identify, and consider for return — if requested by a Native community or individual — American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian human remains and funerary objects." The law was amended in 1996 to add provisions for "unassociated funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony." A similar law, the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, was passed in 1990, and it directs repatriation efforts for other federally-funded institutions.)
According to the NMAI website (http://nmai.si.edu), "One common misconception about the NMAI's repatriation program is that the majority of the NMAI's collections, at some point in the future, will be repatriated. In fact, less than 3 percent (about 25,000 items) of the NMAI's collections fall within the four primary categories of eligible items for repatriation: human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects, and objects of cultural patrimony."
Clayburn said that the tribe's main focus has been on repatriating human remains and funerary objects, and now that most of those items have been returned, they're beginning to focus on the other categories. They plan to file repatriation claims with three more museums soon, including one in Del Norte County, one in Portland, Oregon, and one at the University of Washington.
"It's a feeling of overwhelming joy to see these items come home. It's like welcoming somebody home who has been away for a long time, like a prisoner of war. They're finally back and doing what they are made to do," said Clayburn.
"A lot of the elders who started this work are no longer here, but this is their life's work that we're continuing, and we'll keep it up until all of our items have been returned so that we can make the Yurok people whole, and put the world back in balance."
Contact Clay McGlaughlin at 441-0516.
AT A GLANCE:
Items that can be 'repatriated' include:
Culturally affiliated human remains: The legislation defines these as human remains with whom a demonstrable relationship of shared group identity can be shown to an existing federally recognized American Indian tribe, Alaska Native Village or Regional Corporation or Native Hawaiian organization, based on a preponderance of evidence.
Associated and unassociated funerary objects: Funerary objects are items that, as part of the death rites of a culture, are believed to have been intentionally placed with an individual at the time of death or later. An object is considered to be "associated" if the human remains with which it was originally interred are present at the National Museum of Natural History.
Sacred objects: These are specific ceremonial objects that are needed by traditional Native American religious leaders for the practice of traditional Native American religions by their present-day adherents.
Objects of cultural patrimony: An object having ongoing historical, traditional or cultural importance central to the Native American group or culture itself, rather than property owned by an individual Native American, and which, therefore, cannot be alienated, appropriated, or conveyed by any individual regardless of whether or not the individual is a member of the Indian tribe or Native Hawaiian organization and such object shall have been considered inalienable by such Native American group at the time the object was separated from such group.
Remains of individuals whose identity is known: The return of the remains of named individuals to lineal descendants was an established priority for the National Museum of Natural History, even prior to the passage of the NMAI Act. This policy continues to be in effect. Very few of the individuals whose remains are in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History are known by name.
Objects acquired illegally: In accordance with long-standing Smithsonian policy, the National Museum of Natural History may repatriate any materials acquired by or transferred to the National Museum of Natural History illegally or under circumstances that render invalid the Museum's claim to them.
The clear winter sky deepens as night creeps upon Woodley Island, that marina-festooned dab of land in Humboldt Bay closest to Eureka's mainland. The calm water, catching the last light, grows stripes of gold, blue and orange. Against distant spits the ocean thrums. A pair of Canada geese honks by, a gull swoops with a sharp cough and cackling geese sweep over in squiggly formations, their ancient cries trailing south.
Nearby lies long, low, mostly uninhabited Indian Island, its isolated clumps of trees feathering the dark blue sky.
At the tip of Woodley, a layered circle of people gathers. The faces in the outer rings, of all colors and ancestries, brighten with the setting sun. The faces in the inner ring, of Wiyot people young and old, glow from the crackling ceremonial fire in their center. Wiyot elder Cheryl Seidner speaks quietly. "This is for cleansing," she says, dropping a bit of fir bough into the fire. She adds untreated tobacco leaves, a gift from a friend back east who told her to use them for something good. Lighting a cedar bough and wafting the smoke, she says, "This is how we used to cleanse our house. We'd fill it to the rafters with smoke."
Others take a turn singing, praying, drumming and giving thanks. Seidner, buoyed by the sort of tempered giddiness that follows a scrape with death and a long, hard recovery, moves easily from somber prayer to joy.
"Can we have a big 'yay'?" she yells at one point. "Yay!" responds the circle. "One more?" she urges. "YAY!" the circle yells even louder. "Now one more time!" Seidner cries. "YAYYYYY!" everybody shouts. "Yah-hooo!" Seidner yells, laughing. "Because this is our last one forever!"
It was Feb. 22, and it was indeed the Wiyot's last vigil. The tribe has held one every year since 1992, on the last Saturday in February, to memorialize the hundreds of ancestors killed by white men in a series of premeditated massacres in villages around Humboldt Bay in the last week of February 1860. As many as 100 of them, mostly women, children and elders, were murdered in their sleep at Tuluwat, on Indian Island — the center of the Wiyot world — where the tribe's annual World Renewal Ceremony was underway. The tribe was shattered, the people dispersed. Wiyot land became white people land. Tuluwat, over time and heavy use, became virtually a toxic waste dump.
Last year the tribe finished cleaning up Tuluwat. The land was ready. The tribe declared the mourning period over. It was time to dance again.
Next week, beginning March 28 on Tuluwat, for the first time since that terrible February 154 years ago, the tribe will once again hold its World Renewal Ceremony.The Wiyot, you might say, are back — though they've been here all along.
William Frank IV, dressed in a loose red long-sleeve shirt and blue jeans, sat at a long folding table inside the fluorescent-lit Wiyot Community Center on Table Bluff one recent Tuesday night. Head bent slightly, he stared intently at his hands as they threaded a long, white dentalium shell onto a string and slid it down to join a chain of small, bright blue beads.
The 18-year-old was making a necklace for his ceremonial dance regalia. Frank's mother is three-quarters Wiyot, and he was "raised in the culture," as he puts it, learning much from his Wiyot grandmother, Edna Seidner. But he's only been dancing for three years, in Brush Dances with the Yurok Tribe (he is also part Yurok, Hupa and Pomo).
"I was always the 'shy guy,'" he said, adding he used to rarely talk, not even to some of his own family. His elders drew him into dancing, and that drew the words from him; they come out slowly, deliberately, and often begin with "To be honest ..."
He was surprised when Cheryl Seidner asked him one day, recently, to take part in the Jump Dance, the main feature of the World Renewal Ceremony. But he was excited, too.
"To be honest," he said, "I really love what I do. I love to dance, I love to sing, I love to make regalia. It's just simple. I love my tribe and I love helping them. ... If you don't have family, culture and language, there's no point in saying you're 'from this tribe.'"
His grandmother, he said, would be happy to see everyone coming together, doing beadwork, dancing. It's what she wanted, he said.
"It means everything to me," he said. "To be honest, this whole reservation needs to be healed. There's too many egos here, too much hatred between families."
Frank is one of many people, mostly from the Table Bluff Wiyot Tribe and Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria (comprised mainly of Wiyot, Bear River and Mattole people), taking part in regalia-making classes in preparation for the upcoming World Renewal Ceremony. The Wiyot people lost nearly all of their cultural traditions in the short, brutal decline following contact with white settlers. Present-day Wiyot people have had to refashion their culture — language, songs, regalia-making and dancing — with help from the Yurok, Hoopa Valley and Karuk tribes, who share similar customs. For weeks now, the Table Bluff Wiyot Tribe has hosted the regalia-making classes weekly, specifically to prepare for the ceremony in March: necklace-making, taught by Michelle Hernandez, the tribe's 24-year-old treasurer and youth coordinator; dressmaking, taught to the women by Leona Wilkinson (Cheryl Seidner's sister); and dance-feather construction, taught to the men by Hoopa Valley Tribe member George Blake.
On this night, Hernandez worked on a necklace gleaming with white bivalve halves.
"If you're going to dance in a ceremony you have to have some kind of shell, because they make noise," she said. "It's singing. We believe our regalia is living. And so there's also rules to making it: You have to have good thoughts when going into it."
Hernandez said her goal is to bring culture back to her tribe "so our youth would never have that feeling of not having ceremonies."
Across from Hernandez, her 10-year-old sister, Joyce Hernandez, braided buff-colored strips of leather. They would become the soft backs of the necklaces. The Hernandez' brother, Matt, glanced over at her work and said, "They're not tight enough." He put down the necklace he was making and sat down by Joyce to re-braid the leathers. The 14-year-old, who perfected his braiding technique watching a YouTube video, is an expert regalia designer and maker; even the Hernandez patriarch, tribal chair Ted Hernandez, watching from a corner of the room, said as much.
Joyce, picking up a strand of pine nuts she was also working on, sighed a little.
"It's not the most fun thing to do," she said, smiling good-naturedly.
Michelle laughed. She said she and another sister, Lizzie (there are four girls and a boy in the family), "had to drill, like, 200 pine nuts" for her own regalia when she was getting ready for her coming of age ceremony in 2006 — the first ceremony the tribe had held in 120 years. Joyce, at home, had begun the same weary sanding and drilling for her own coming of age ceremony two years from now. She is too young for the Jump Dance — you have to be at least 12 — but she was helping with the regalia for the girls, boys, men and women who would be dancing.
Michelle described the Jump Dance as "a very heavy dance."
"You are dancing for two hours at a time, and mostly with your feet," she said.
Each dancer wears several necklaces, swapping in their nicest for the final day. Each ensemble can weigh as much as 20 pounds. For weeks the dancers have been praying and getting used to eating less: The ceremony will begin, for many, with up to seven days of fasting. Then for three more days there will be more fasting, and dancing. Traditionally, the dancing lasted 10 days; the tribe is starting small, said Michelle, and may add more days each year.
At the feather regalia table, where Blake presided, some men were sanding slender sticks and notching their tips, while others were wrapping deer-leg sinew around the ends of condor feathers — donated to the tribe by Sía, the Comanche Nation Ethno-Ornithological Initiative — then wrapping them onto the sticks.
Liobardo Lopez, 16, sat working with the feathers next to his grandfather Cecil Sherman Jr. Lopez is Wiyot, Hupa, Tolowa and Bear River. He was going to dance in the ceremony.
"It's going to be big," he said.
Sherman Jr, who was still on the fence about whether he'd dance, said he never did any of this cultural stuff with his elders.
"Except my grandpa, Hanson Sherman, who made eel hooks in the back yard," he said. "He was full-blooded Wiyot."
Before white settlers arrived, beginning in 1850, as many as 3,000 Wiyot people lived in about 20 villages sprinkled throughout the Humboldt Bay region, from the ocean to the front range of the coastal mountains and including the Mad and Eel River valleys. Their ancestral territory was bounded on the north by the Little River (at Moonstone Beach), on the south by Bear River Ridge (which overlooks the Eel River Valley) and on the east (inland) by Chalk Mountain in the south (near Carlotta) and Berry Summit in the north (just past Blue Lake).
There were (and are) numerous tribes in the region. The Wiyot are related by language (rooted in Algonquian) to the Yurok (north of Little River and along the lower Klamath River), and their dances and ceremonies were similar to those of the Yurok, Karuk (along the upper Klamath), Hoopa Valley (along the Trinity River) and Tolowa (in present-day Del Norte County). They all were impacted by the settlers' arrival, some more than others. The Chilula Tribe, for instance, ceased to be a tribe. And the Wiyot almost did, suffering deeply from the settlers' concerted effort to exterminate indigenous people. Wiyot were shot randomly and slaughtered en mass throughout the territory. After the 1860 massacres, survivors were herded into Fort Humboldt, presumably for their protection. Then, according to Seidner, who is one of the last three-quarter-blood Wiyot, the people were relocated to different territories and under hard conditions: to the North Spit, then north to Smith River, then east to the Hoopa Valley and finally south to Round Valley. Many died. By 1910, there were only about 100 full-blooded Wiyot left.
Their confiscated land, meanwhile, would endure more than a century of abuse. Indian Island, the center of the Wiyot world, was diked to drain the saltmarsh for agriculture. Later there were lumber mills. At Tuluwat village, on the northeast tip of the island, a dry dock boat-repair shop went in and, for 120 years, deposited toxic chemicals and waste. Collectors seeking Wiyot bones and artifacts ravaged burial grounds, digging holes in the 6-acre shell mound at Tuluwat that had built up over the thousand years Wiyot lived there.
Today, there are around 620 Wiyot people. Some live as far away as Germany. Many still live in their ancestral home and are enrolled in the Table Bluff Wiyot Tribe, the Bear River Band of Rohnerville Rancheria nearby, the Blue Lake Rancheria and the Cher-Ae Heights Indian Community of the Trinidad Rancheria. There are no fluent Wiyot speakers; the last one documented was Della Prince, who died in 1962, according to Wiyot Language Program Manager Lynnika Butler.
"However," said Butler, "in 1925, the linguist Gladys Reichard wrote that she was only able to find a few Wiyot speakers to interview, and that young people were not learning the language."
Reichard further reported that many adults between 40 and 50 years of age — thus born after the massacre — could understand but not speak the language. The Wiyot language, along with the making of regalia, singing of songs and dancing had been fading out for decades.
"We lost traditions, and a lot of traditions went silent," said Seidner. "People stopped talking about it."
In 1981, after the tribe sued, the federal government reinstated its tribe status. Steadily, the tribe has been restoring its culture, relying heavily on neighboring tribes as its teachers. The Wiyot language has been reconstructed using living adults' scant memories of phrases their parents and grandparents spoke, supplemented by audio clips of interviews of two native speakers, Della Prince and Nettie Rossig, by Harvard linguist Karl Teeter in the 1950s. The tribe periodically offers language classes, which some people living in the region attend off and on, said Butler. A few others, who live far away (including Della Prince's granddaughter), are using flash cards, audio and other materials available on the tribe's website to learn Wiyot.
"There are several very talented learners, especially among the tribe's youth," said Butler.
In the early 1900s, the tribe was given 20 acres on Table Bluff by a church group. The tribe moved to its present 88-acre reservation on the bluff in 1991. The tribe bought 40 acres of Cock Robin Island from private landowners. And now it owns some of Indian Island. In 1970, Seidner's uncle, Albert James, suggested his people get Tuluwat back. Seidner and a few others agreed. But it didn't happen until 30 years later, after Seidner became tribal chair and pushed harder for it. In 2000, after the tribe gathered enough money from donations and fundraisers, it bought the 1.5-acre village site on Indian Island. In 2004, the city of Eureka, which had owned much of Indian Island since about 1960, gave the tribe 60 more acres of it.
It took 13 years to clean up Tuluwat. Contractors removed nearly 70 tons of scrap metal and 17 cubic yards of soil contaminated with the highly toxic pentachlorophenol (PCP, used in wood treatment solutions back in the day) and dioxin. Most of the buildings were torn down, and a bulwark of leaking batteries was taken out. They shored up the eroding shell mound. And once the site was cleaned and the remaining contaminated soil neutralized, they capped it with layers of semi-permeable fabric, topsoil mixed with donated crushed oyster shell, and sprinkled it all with native grass seeds. Today, one lone metal shed, recently painted to mimic fresh-carved redwood, looms on the new, green grass, seemingly afloat in the watery, pickleweed-dense saltmarsh at the tip of the island.
Some errant, mud-stuck old dock floats remain to be removed, as well some invasive non-native plants. And someday there might be a dance house. But for now, the island is ready.
Cleanup at Tuluwat
Scenes from the cleanup and restoration at Tuluwat, a former Wiyot village site where settlers operated a dry dock boat repair shop for 120 years and where archeologists and others ravaged Wiyot gravesites for artifacts. One building remains, a large metal shed that’s been painted to resemble a redwood dance house. A real dance house may replace it in the future.
The morning of the last vigil, a Saturday, Brian and Rosie Mead's beat-up old Toyota Forerunner, which they just bought, bounced along the winding, dipping road through the dunes along the ocean south of Table Bluff. The tunes were cranked up, funky rap and hip hop jostling with slow-passing window-scenes of golden marsh, gray slough and bobbing ducks. Rosie lit a cigarette, took a drag, and passed it to Brian. The road was rough, with some jolts connecting tops of heads with hard ceiling. Brian, the Wiyot Tribe's administrator, said state Fish and Wildlife recently banned the use of quads to get to the beach, but the tribe was seeking an agreement to lift the prohibition for Wiyots.
When the couple finally arrived at the mouth of the Eel River, they were greeted by a jolly gathering of cousins, uncle, brother and friends standing around a campfire cooking hotdogs. Several guys were already down at the edge of the ocean, a few dozen yards from where the Eel poured out, their long eel hooks propped against their shoulders or held in front of them at the ready. It was nearing low tide, and the eel, smelling the fresh water of the river, were swimming closer to shore.
They're not real eel, actually, but Pacific lamprey — a traditional food of the Wiyot, Yurok, Hupa and Karuk people but pretty much ignored by local non-natives. They are called "jawless" fish and have sucker mouths ringed inside with needly teeth which they use to latch onto large hosts, such as whales, in the ocean. They feed on blood. And they're anadromous, spending up to seven of their early years as tiny larvae in the rivers, hunkered down in the sediment filter-feeding. Like salmon, they swim as adults to the ocean, and back up into the rivers to spawn. Eelers use long sticks tipped with a curving barb to catch them. Then they bring the rich, greasy creatures home to smoke, fry or barbecue on sticks over a fire.
Rosie Mead grabbed her hook — an elegant stick of pepperwood she found while hunting mushrooms in Weitchpec, near where she grew up. Vines had twisted around the branch and it had grown to look like a corkscrew. Rosie had peeled off the vines, polished the naturally turned wood and added a Yurok-style hook to one end, smaller than the large-looped Wiyot-style barb on Brian's eel hook.
Some guys complain whenever Rosie shows up to catch eel, said Brian; most women don't eel.
"But I always have, since I was a kid, because my dad had all girls," Rosie said. (He also had a boy, she added, but "he's an idiot and is always in prison.")
Rosie, who will turn 27 soon, is Wiyot and Yurok. She was the tomboy of the six-sister bunch — nicknamed "Guns" after the band Guns N' Roses ("You know, 'Guns N' Rosie'") but also because she was tough. She followed her dad around as he eeled and carved new eel hooks, hunted and fished. At the mouth of the Klamath, when she was little he'd tie a rope around her and let her jab at the water with the hooks she made. "I was always my dad's little partner," she said.
Moments after she planted her feet in the surf, Rosie spied an eel — a brownish curve flashing silver. She watched it swim past, then lunged. If you move too soon, she said, they'll see you and dart away. She swung the stick out of the water and, twirling it to keep the long, slippery creature from wriggling off, walked up the beach, dropped the eel and buried it in wet sand to keep it fresh.
It wasn't the best eeling day. Brian, whose nickname as a kid was "Eelskin," caught nothing. A few of the guys lined up at the surf had had a bit more success. But eeling, Brian said, isn't as good as it used to be. In fact, the tribe has an ongoing survey to learn more about lamprey in the Eel and Van Duzen rivers and figure out what their population needs to thrive.
Likewise, Wiyot eelers are scarce. Only five Wiyot adults know how to catch eel, said Brian, 34. He learned to eel from his uncle Willie Seidner (Cheryl Seidner's brother), who made baskets for catching them in the river. Down at the ocean that Saturday, many of the people lined up in the surf were from other tribes, or were non-Indian friends who'd picked up the skill. Brian, who runs a men's camp for Wiyot youth, said some kids are learning to eel, duck hunt, and clam down in the south bay. Some of them often join the Meads, who have four young boys of their own and also are raising a nephew.
"Alex Lopez, he's a diehard," said Rosie about one 12-year-old kid they're mentoring. "One time he even called his mom to get him out of school so he could go eeling with us."
The Meads weren't planning to go to the vigil that night; they were going night-eeling instead. As for the World Renewal Ceremony, a couple of their older boys might dance on the last day. They weren't sure yet. Brian wouldn't be dancing; it wasn't his thing.
"I'm more of a hunter and a fisherman than a dancer," said Brian. But he's proud, he added, to be Indian, to be Wiyot. "We live off the land. I was born and raised to respect everything. We've got all this beautiful territory."
On the sand-heaving way home through the dunes, the Meads stopped to dig out a mired Jeep and, at the same time, to call the Sheriff to report two teenagers wantonly shooting seagulls out of the sky to fall, dead, into the slough.
"I can't believe they're doing that," said Rosie, outraged.
So what is it to be Wiyot? To be a member of a tribe, that is, that has lost so much and yet retains the belief that, like a few other tribes on the north coast, its top task is to renew the world — to bring this great, spinning, churning, beautiful and chaotic mass into balance so everyone can carry on peacefully for another year?
It's a huge responsibility, said Michelle Hernandez. But it's not all she is. Once, she said, she told someone she was native and that person asked if she lived in a teepee.
"I said, 'No, I live in a house and go to school,'" she said. "It's not 'living in two worlds,' like some people say. It's living in my world."
She practices the Wiyot traditions of her father's family and the Mayan traditions of her mother's family. She also plans to go to graduate school to study filmmaking so she can produce narratives about indigenous cultures all over the world. Then she hopes to finish out her career as a university professor at Humboldt State University.
Brenda Bowie, treasurer of the Bear River Band and descended from Wiyot and Chilula people, wasn't raised with any native traditions. But she was the one who pushed her council to help with the World Renewal Ceremony (it donated $10,000 to buy regalia-making material), and now several Bear River dancers were preparing for the big ceremony.
"I once was told, 'You don't act like an Indian,'" Bowie said. "I am not sure what an Indian acts like, but I do know that I am proud of my heritage and I am getting blessed by being here at the right time and the right place to be a part of this awesome ceremony."
Cheryl Seidner said she thinks about what her parents told her one time: "You are our daughter, and you are Wiyot."
They didn't say to get all puffed about it, Seidner said. It's just who she is. "I'm a human being who happens to be Wiyot, and I think that's pretty cool."
You can learn more about the return of Tuluwat to the Wiyot, the massacre on Indian Island in 1860, and the cleanup at Tuluwat in previous Journal coverage:
Calif.—Before the 20th century, most Hupa, Yurok and Karuk women wore “111”
tattoos on their chins. The men had money tattoos on their upper arms to
measure accurately the strands of dentalia, juniper berries and other items
used then as currency.
traditional tattooing is making a comeback with some Northern California tribal
people. About two dozen women reportedly bear the 111 on their chins, and four
of them and three men—all California Indians—were part of a panel discussion on
traditional tattooing at the 20th annual California Indian Conference and
like wearing your culture on your face every day,” said Lyn Risling, a panelist
at the meeting last month at Humboldt State University.
said her transformation started years ago when she wanted a 111 tattoo but
dismissed the idea for various reasons. Later, she said, she learned about
Teresa Hendrix-Wright, a Yurok determined to become a tattoo artist and give
women traditional tattoos.
said Hendrix-Wright, a Nevada resident who comes from Pekwan and Wohtek
villages on the Yurok reservation in Northern California, traveled to Hawaii in
2000 to enlist Gary Tadao, a renowned Japanese artist, to tattoo the 111 on her
refused, hesitant to tattoo a woman’s face, Risling said.
did not give up. She spoke with Tadao many times on the phone, explaining the
ancient culture involving the tattoos and eventually persuading him to tattoo
her during a return trip to Hawaii in 2002.
then bought a machine and began to practice the art on herself and her husband.
Still not satisfied, she attended the 2002 Tattoo the Earth festival in
Oakland, Calif., to learn more from the world's greatest tattoo artists. There,
she met Inia Taylor, who used ancient Polynesian tapping methods of tattooing.
Soon, she traveled to New Zealand for a short apprenticeship with him to learn
brought home the knowledge needed to give women the 111 tattoo in a traditional
way. She set the outline for Risling’s tattoo, and Keone Nunes, another
traditional Polynesian tattooist in the area for a tattoo workshop at Potowat
Health Village in Arcata, completed it.
members of Risling’s family and several close friends were present for her
transformation. Writer Julian Lang described the moment in an article published
in the spring 2004 issue of the magazine News from Native California.
the tattoo slowly spread across Lyn’s chin, we all felt the exact moment when
the transformation occurred. It was a startling and beautiful moment that
brought tears to our eyes. The shared pain and joy reminded us all of a birth.
The painful bloody time had passed, and now there was a new person in our
midst,” Lang wrote.
was always there,” Risling said, speaking of her tattoos. “It’s just that now,
people can see it.”
Frank Manriquez, a Southern California native who bears the 111 tattoo, saw a
photo of a woman with the tattoo in News from Native California and was
intrigued. She began with what she calls her starter kit—two parallel lines on
each of her cheeks, followed by the 111 on her chin, the raven’s beak design on
her left leg, a mourning design around her neck and several other images, all
with symbolic meaning.
tribe has been deemed extinct by the federal government,” said Manriquez, a
Tongva/Ajachmem. “This is a way to hold hands with my sisters through time. I
just wanted that connection.”
tattoos have different meaning for each person, but the panelists agreed about
an element of responsibility that accompanies wearing them.
said she encounters questions every day about her 111 and always takes a minute
to explain its cultural significance and importance. In a positive way, she
said, the tattoos have bridged a gap for her between two worlds, her
traditional Native cultural life and her contemporary business life in today’s
to Lang’s article in News from Native California, there was no single reason
that women were marked with the 111. They were tattooed for beauty, for the
transformation from girl to woman, for spiritual reasons and as a way to
distinguish between the sexes in battle or in old age, he wrote.
receiving their tattoos, the panelists said, they experienced a deeper
connection with their traditional way of life.
panels at the conference discussed basket weaving and cultural arts and more
controversial topics facing California Natives. These included language, the
desire to preserve sacred sites like the San Francisco Bay Area shell mounds
and environmental concerns about Sudden Oak Death, Klamath River dams and
Hostler, Hoopa, attends Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif. She is a
graduate of the Freedom Forum's 2005 American Indian Journalism Institute.
Whenever you dance, wherever
you dance, dance to heal the earth!
Dancing is power. Dancing is
prayer. Some say that all is dance. Maybe. Now there's a big dance coming, a
dance to heal the earth. If you're reading this, you're probably part of it.
You take part whenever you do whatever you do to help heal the earth. When you
recycle. When you choose to show love, to fight for justice, to bring healing,
to bring out what is good in others. When you avoid cruelty and dishonesty and
waste. When you are outraged. When you speak out. When you give. When you
consider the generations to come. When you protest to the oppressors and
encourage those who feel the cutting edge of injustice. And, of course, when
you dance. There is a tree that all the prophets see, and whenever you let your
love show, you make the flowers grow.
Soon this dance will be done
in a big way, in the old way, on sacred ground. All living things will take
part. If you want to, you can take part. No one is twisting your arm. You can
stop any time you need to, and start up again whenever you're ready. If you've
read this far, you probably know what I'm talking about. You've probably been
doing it in one way or another for a good while. Soon will be the time to make
no bones about it! Cut loose!
Anytime you dance, anywhere,
whether at a party or in church, dance to heal the earth! Let your feet beat a
healing rhythm into the earth. Let your feet beat a strengthening rhythm for
those who struggle the hardest. Let your feet beat a life-giving rhythm for all
peoples, regardless of race or national boundary, regardless of whether we're
human or whether we're the trees, the air, the fish, the birds, the buffalo,
the bear, the crow. We come out of hiding, we come back from the dead, and we
dance, and our dance is a prayer, and our songs and our rhythms and our breath
Is the music they're playing
some mindless jingle? Never mind, as long as it's not bad music, and you can
dance to the beat! Make your own words, and make the words a prayer. A prayer
for the end of exploitation, a prayer for the end of lies, a prayer for
healing, for justice, for life. Remember your prayer-song, feed it and let it
get strong and pass it along. Dance and pray, whenever you dance, dance to heal
Have you seen anything? Wear
it out! Make it so that all can see what you see! Take a white T-shirt and mark
it with your dreams. Is there anything you'd like to tell the world? Take your
shirt and mark it with your song! This is the way it has been done, so you can
do it too. Use any color except black (there are reasons for that that will
become clearer later), and you'll probably find that a loose, pure cotton T is
most comfortable for dancing in. Cos this is an actual dance, you dance hard,
you sing and breathe hard and sweat. Wear it when you plan to go out dancing,
to dance to heal the earth.
Some people do this dance
while fasting, and dance for several days straight. But even a few minutes of
dancing helps, and joins with all the other dancing going on, everywhere on
Earth. Not everyone can fast these days. Besides, you never know when you're
gonna dance, and you have to eat sometimes! But if you plan to dance, hold off
eating till later, or just have a little. It's easier to dance if you don't
have a hotdog weighing you down.
Some people say, do not do
sacred things where people are drinking and partying. But all the universe is a
sacred place. It really doesn't matter what others are doing, you can make a
place sacred wherever you are, with your intention and your prayers. Some
people use smoke to make a place sacred; a cigarette or incense stick will do
fine. You can dance to heal the earth anywhere, even a party or a bar! The
earth is everywhere, so you can dance anywhere to heal her. Only one thing.
Please hold off drinking or using any other intoxicants till you're done. It
works better that way
The Lie has gone far enough.
It spreads and makes everyone sick. Now is the time for this dance to begin.
It, too, will spread, and it will bring healing to all. In the beginning, they
say, God put a rainbow in the sky, to let us know that Spirit never forgets.
Now is the time for us to put a rainbow across the earth, to let God know that
we, too, remember.
Dance to heal the earth. Not
just when you're dancing, but always. Live the dance, whenever you move, in all
you do, dance to heal the earth.
Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy, and Interior Sign Memorandum to Collaborate to Protect Indian Sacred Sites
Four cabinet-level departments joined the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation December 6, 2012, in signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to improve the protection of Indian sacred sites. The MOU also calls for improving tribal access to the sites. It was signed by cabinet secretaries from the U.S. Departments of Agriculture, Defense, Energy and Interior. It was also signed by the chairman of the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation.
Additionally, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack released a Sacred Sited report on December 6, 2012, calling for USDA and the U.S. Forest Service to work more closely with tribal governments in the protection, respectful interpretation and appropriate access to Indian sacred sites.
The Report is available for review or collaborative discussion at
For centuries the Karuk fished, gathered food, and made medicine in the fertile watershed of the Klamath River. Contact with European Americans and their zeal for resource extraction nearly eliminated California native peoples, leaving only a handful of Karuk families on their land. Despite efforts to suppress them, Karuk traditions were carefully passed from one generation to the next. Today these traditions are hampered by governmental policies that rarely take into consideration the native view, or their historical role as land managers. As the Karuk people slowly return, the struggle to reclaim the physical and cultural landscape becomes their greatest challenge -- to heal the landscape as well as the people who call it their home. For more information go to: http://www.kqed.org/arts/programs/trulyca/episode.jsp?epid=160079
Ceremonial Fisheries Culturally Important To NW Tribes
DALLESPORT, Wash. – Columbia River Indian tribes are keeping their ancient traditions alive in the coming weeks with ceremonies to open their spring fisheries. Predictions of strong salmon runs are giving the tribes extra reason to celebrate.
To get to the Dallesport Treaty Access Fishing Site, you have to drive through town and wind down a bumpy gravel road. Eventually you’ll end up on the banks of the Columbia River. This time of year the fishery is quiet – some sturgeon swim through the waters.