Majestic Mount Shasta, far northern California Photo © John Veltri
JOHN VINCENT VELTRI
FILMMAKER / PHOTOGRAPHER / PROJECT DIRECTOR
Filmmaker John Veltri is the founder-co-owner of EarthAlive Communications , an independent multimedia production company located in Mount Shasta, California. EarthAlive produces documentary films, educational and promotional media, photography, world music CDs, and books with Earth-related and indigenous themes.
With over 50 years of expertise in professional photography and filmmaking, Veltri has worked with renowned artists, famous architects, archaeological teams, respected indigenous leaders, healers and educators from cultures around the world. He has photographed numerous books and published several of his own. His experience in working with Native peoples and his deep respect and understanding of the indigenous perspective is the foundation of his work.
In 1980, after ten years of success as a professional photographer with his own photography studio in Manhattan and work travel throughout the US and Europe, John received a commission to write a book on photography. He packed up all his belongings, left what had become a stressful life in New York, and flew to San Francisco for a sabbatical of writing and meditation. A friend suggested that he might like to write his book in a rustic little cabin at an old mineral springs resort - Stewart Mineral Springs, near Mount Shasta, California. The next day he was in his car, driving north to check things out.
After arriving at the Springs and meandering along the resort's beautiful Parks Creek, John came across what looked like a large bonfire. When he saw an old man with a long white beard crawl out of a rounded tent-like structure near the fire, he crossed the shallow creek to take a closer look. The man walked over to John with an outstretched hand, introduced himself as Karuk medicine man Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom, and invited John into his sweat lodge ceremony. That auspicious meeting between Charlie and John began 33-years of friendship, adventures, ceremonial experiences, and documentary film recordings.
Shortly after that first day, Charlie asked John to begin documenting the diversity of people who he said would be coming "from all over the world" to participate in his sweat lodge. John reluctantly agreed, thinking that - in those days of no cell phones or internet - no one would ever find the place, let alone come to the ceremony. But sure enough, that next weekend, just as Charlie had predicted, people of English, African, and Japanese heritages, and from many places in the US, arrived for the purification sweat lodge ceremony. Nine years later, after working with Charlie for some time, he and Hupa medicine woman Thelma Thom, his wife at that time, requested that John film some of Charlie's relatives and Káruk elders, to record their stories about the old days (some are included on this site). John agreed, and began filming people in the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation, in homes along the Klamath River, and in the Marble Mountains.
Nine months later, John returned to New York. Soon after, he flew Charlie out to Manhattan so that he could lead purification sweat lodge ceremonies in New York and throughout the Eastern US. During those special days of ceremony and adventures, John also helped Charlie "discover" a storeroom of "lost" Káruk regalia in New York's Natural History Museum and, after several years of trying, finally succeeded in helping Charlie get into the United Nations so that he could share his concerns about the environment and his tribe.
When John and his wife Marguerite moved to Mount Shasta in 2008, he continued his friendship with Charlie, as well as their documentary filmings. The media archive he has produced of Charlie Thom and others, spanning 33-years, is now being used to create several projects. This cultural-educational website is the first.
Filmmaker John Veltri with Káruk medicine man Charlie Thom, 2012