The following photos and statements are a sampling of the folks residing in the Karuk Ancestral Territories.

Leaf Hillman Leaf Hillman

“We've experienced generations upon generations of tribal people disempowered from their land. That's the legacy given to us... I was born here on this river, in the heart of our country and the legacy I've been handed is being homeless in my own country, being landless, powerless, not having access to resources but being taught that these resources are still ours. Those resources were put here by the Creator to sustain us as a people and to sustain our lives in this, our country. We have a responsibility to those resources that we utilize and need to sustain us. It is our responsibility to make sure that those resources don't disappear and that they are managed in a way to provide sustenance for the people. Yet, at the same time, the society we live in today recognizes no claim that Karuk people have to those resources or the land - to sustain them. It's like you have to be a felon to be an Indian - to fish, to hunt, to gather foods - this all requires someone else's permission. But, by being handed this legacy - to maintain the responsibility of caring for these resources overshadows what we've inherited from society. Our bond here can never be broken. I have this responsibility to protect and defend this place.”

    Jacup JohnnieJeanerette Jacup Johnnie

“Observing and learning the ways of nature has taught us how to survive. The creation stories tell us this…that man was just one of the many life forms inhabiting this world. Other stories say that man was given a different form of intelligence that could guide and help all of these beings in the environment, ensuring their sustained renewal. We should respect all things nonhuman while maintaining the practices necessary to safeguard the vitality of all species.”

April Conrad Gayle April Conrad Gayle

“As long as we continue to tell our stories and we have the landscape to give them back to us, then we'll always have this definition of ourselves. And if we have this definition, we'll have our culture and identity. Stories are resources too, like the plants, the forest, the animals, the water. It stays in the landscape because it gets passed from person to person.”

Violet Super (Auntie Vi) Violet Super (Auntie Vi)

“A long time ago, they tell me, "What did you do in your young days?" What can you do when there's no neighbors - only trails, no roads - just have to stay right here, plant our own garden, kill our own deer. So we had everything, so we didn't think we were in bad shape. It was quiet here, so peaceful. Was that way all the time.”

Josephine Peters Josephine Peters

“I don't know if I'll ever see the day the Forest Service lets us go about in these woods without having to control us. And that control costs them so much money! They're pretty stubborn sometimes. Long time ago… our protein was the nut, the acorn, the hazelnut, the pinenut. We used to go out and gather buckets full. Now the fir trees they've put in have overtaken most of them and fire is no longer used for our materials, it's a shame. It's still all out there, though.”

Chook Chook Hillman Chook Chook Hillman

“Before the white man moved in, this forest was our garden. When they came here, they looked up into these mountains and didn't see the gathering sites, people tending that hillside for that plant, for that basket material, for that edible food, for that animal. These were our relations - for us, it was all a relationship and any relationship has to be equal for it to work. We'll take care of you, you'll take care of us. We'll be cool together, love and happiness.”

Laverne Glaze Laverne Glaze

“…We couldn't wait to go down there - my grandmother would have stories about basket-weaving - what it was like when she was a young girl - and then, every once in a while she'd sing a basket song for us. It was wonderful. She also told us kids that she needed to have good thoughts because if she has good thoughts, it shows in the baskets. Baskets really are living things, and they'll be here from now on…with all the gals that are weaving now, the Karuk baskets will never be gone.”

Norman Goodwin Norman Goodwin

“We'd put an organization together to get a constitution and of course we had to have some help so the BIA [Bureau of Indian Affairs] came out here to help us a little bit. They sent a fellow out, his name was Myers, and he said "Do you folks have any type of documentation or photographs of the Pikyawishs that you've been doing here, that you did, that you're doing today? That would go a long way to getting you to becom[e] federally recognized…" So we get together right here on this spot, we did a deerskin dance right here when we first brought it back. We had photos of that. And we had boat dances up the river - we had war dances there, we had medicine dances. We had newspaper articles about Katimin and Inam. We got that all together… People came in with photos and newspaper clippings and stuff - we put it all together and it was surprising how many people had this, what we needed. Next meeting the BIA came out and we put out all of our documentation and the BIA says "You folks won't have any problem becoming federally recognized. Its obvious you have a form of government that never ceased, it never stopped. These ceremonies are a form of government.”

Ronnie Reed Ronnie Reed

“We need, first of all, to try and get along in this modern society. All of the negative aspects of the modern world and the Karuk world, it's just such a conflict. We have diabetes that is overwhelming our tribal population, too much heart disease, drugs and alcohol running rampant because we've lost who we are… We don't live and support our families in these lands the way our ancestors did, we don't live that way now. I strongly believe my generation has the ability to bring what we know back together before it's lost. People think there's chaos now, but we still have this chance, this knowledge of who we are is still living, still breathing, still walking this earth.”

Ronnie Pierce Ronnie Pierce

“The fortunate thing about the Klamath - because of the size of it, the federal ownership, the marginal hydroelectric - it's one of the few systems on the west coast that can be fixed, if people agree to go forward. The fortunate thing for tribal people here is that land and water use practices have to change in order to fix it. The whole system can't survive the way it is. Money is what it's all about. To make money, you have to use resources - amply demonstrated by the commercial use of the fish, the commercial use of the forest, the commercial use of the water. The Indian economy, the subsistence economy, needs to perpetuate the resources. The irony is that tribal people are forced to enter this other economy and live by its standards. Indians couldn't subsist even if it was legal, there's so few resources left. The Karuk see this. Their hope is not to earn dollars by the continued exploitation of resources but by repairing them.”

Kathy McCovey Kathy McCovey

“A lot of times I'm out in the forest with young kids and I want them to know what can help them in the woods - that everything has a spirit, that its all alive, and that its there to help [them], edibly, medicinally, ceremonially, spiritually. You can live in harmony with it and off it, and that's what we do. It's a part of us, it's our hearts, it's what we're meant to do - we have an instinct to do it. The Karuk tribe is a good example of 'sustainability' - they went from being a tribe and having this whole area for their people to being kicked off the river and made to live on the outskirts of what was once their own towns. And they've come back - if you look at this area now, the strongest thing going on is the Karuk tribe. Now that's sustainability! I always say the miners came and took the gold and left. The timber people came and took the trees until there was nothing and left. The Indian people are still here, and they'll always be here, and they'll continue to adapt to whatever happens.”

Harold Tripp Harold Tripp

“We can't just not do it because you say no. You've got to understand, if we're going to have a government-to-government relationship here…what does that mean? Does that mean you're gonna write us a letter and tell us what you're doing? Or does it mean you sit down with us here and try and work something out to make it work for us, the tribe? Are they going to work with us from our perspective or do we just keep going out there to implement their projects? That's what usually winds up happening. And that's why you gotta have somebody like me to get angry about it - to get the message across: There's still Indians out there, that we still have a value and a presence in this ancestral territory. There's Karuk people out there we're concerned about. We just have to maintain that positive focus.”

Grant Hillman Grant Hillman

“Every animal prepares for winter, and if they don't, they ain't gonna make it through… You watch the squirrels gathering their nuts and acorns and stuff like that in the fall, and I think they really enjoy doing it. I think people enjoy sustaining themselves too. I used to see the old Indian women going out to pick acorns up here with their big baskets in the fall, and they're all chattering away, walking along the road. I knew where they were going, and one of them, Nettie Reubens, she would tell me "Well when you want to go hunting, come up and I'll make medicine. I'll tell you right where to go, what time of the day to go, to get your deer." Took me a long time to figure out how come they could make such strong medicine and well, I went in the service and I lay there in my bunk thinking about this… and finally I figured it out. They were up there every day gathering their acorns, these deer, they don't like buggy acorns either, so they were right there eating the good ones, while these old women were there gathering. They knew what time to come in, where they'd be, and what kind of deer. This was their medicine. It was their knowledge, just common knowledge.”

Frankie LakeFrankie Lake

“As we define our culture, as we define ourselves, it's very much a product of our landscape. When we talk about what are our natural resources, they're our cultural resources - when you foster the health of a watershed and a community and all the services it provides, you foster yourself, and with that, how you see yourself. That's why I continue to stress the point that in today's day and age, restoration is very important because to restore both the physical and biological properties of a particular habitat or ecosystem, you have to add the social component to it. There has to be the culture and society within that. There's really not much distinction between the social and biological community when your social community, in all its diverse forms of essence, depends on the health and integrity of the natural environment - the biological community.”

© 2008 Andrew Chambers