Mouth of the Klamath - where the Pacific joins the Klamath River in far northwestern California Photo © Steve Olson
ABOUT THE WEBSITE
who, what, where, when, why & how
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Charlie Thom (1928-2013) explains the meanings of "Walking Backwards" to his grandson Ron Griffman
Photo © Marguerite Lorimer
ABOUT THE WEBSITE
This project is dedicated to káruk áraar'túviiv, the children of the Káruk "upriver" people. The Káruk, once called the Kah-rah-ko-hah or Károk, have lived since time immemorial along the shores and steep mountain areas of the Klamath River, in a beautiful, incredibly bountiful region of what is now far northwestern California. On the brink of extinction after the California Gold Rush (1848–1855) the Káruk Tribe is today one of the largest Native American tribes in the state of California.
This project was initiated by Káruk ceremonial leader-medicine man Charles R Thom (1928-2013) (also known as Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom) who, in 1980, asked his friend, filmmaker-photographer John Veltri, to begin photographing and filming interviews his friends and relatives, some who are featured on this website. Charlie felt that it was important to record and then release to the world their stories, songs, wisdom and insights, to create bridges of understanding between cultures and bring greater respect to the Native peoples of this specific, little-known part of Native America.
It was Charlie Thom's hope that the videos and information on this website would be of special interest to the young people of his Káruk tribe. As descendants of a proud, accomplished people, may they be inspired to learn about their heritage, become strong community leaders, and pass their cultural knowledge and wisdom onto future generations.
In 1980, when New York photographer-filmmaker John Veltri was on sabbatical at the remote and rustic Stewart Mineral Springs resort near Mount Shasta, California, he met Káruk medicine man Charlie Thom. A few weeks later, Charlie asked John to photograph the diversity of people who were attending his purification sweat lodge ceremonies. Soon after that, Charlie and John began traveling together. After almost nine years of working together, they began interviewing some of Charlie's relatives, friends and neighbors, recording their stories and songs, documenting certain aspects of their cultures that Charlie felt were important to preserve and share with the world.
Media included in this Walking Backwards project was produced by John Veltri in New York and Northern California, with contributions by Káruk medicine man - ceremonial leader Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom, Káruk language teacher Franklin R Thom, Native cultural activist Ronald Griffman (Karuk/Rogue River/Modoc/Pit River/Shasta/Yurok), and others. The website was created in Mount Shasta by Marguerite Lorimer.
Although some who are featured on this site have long since passed, their messages about health and healing, the importance of community, ceremony, language and Native cultural revival, caring for the Earth, teaching the young people, and the need for justice for the Káruk people - as well as Native peoples around the world - are especially timely today.
This website has been organized according to the different meanings of Charlie Thom's Káruk medicine name, Walking Backwards, as he explained it to filmmaker John Veltri.
Images (above) by Káruk artist Jimmy "Running Deer" Thom