White Deerskin Dance, Káruk, 1910
KLAMATH RIVER NATIVE
Honoring the Elders and the Ancestors, those who walked before us
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- Filmmaker John Vincent Veltri
The INDIGENOUS ELDERS
As record keepers of Natural Law and ancient wisdom that has been passed down for generations through language, song, dance, art, environmental practices and ceremony, Native elders hold a special key to the survival of humanity.
When they tell us how deeply troubled our modern world is and what it is we need to do to create lasting change, when they cry out for help to save the water, ancient ceremonial sites, age-old practices, sacred songs, healing dances and stories, it is imperative that we listen.
Throughout the world, indigenous teachers are bravely reaching out to share ancient knowledge and practices that have enabled their peoples to live sustainably for thousands of years.
Each of us must do our part to honor the elders of the oldest cultures, our world’s most valuable, endangered cultural resource. If we truly listen to them, we can learn how to respectfully incorporate their ancient ways into our modern lives, practices and technologies, to heal our communities, our families, and ourselves, and preserve our natural world for the children of tomorrow.
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whose videos are featured throughout this site
Old Ned, mending his net, Clear Creek, California, 1911. Photo: Grace Nicholson Collection
The following biographical information was respectfully submitted by Franklin Thom
CHARLIE "RED HAWK" THOM - legendary Káruk medicine man Charles R Thom (1928-2013) was born in Quartz Valley, California. Orphaned when he was a young boy, Charlie became a notorious yet widely-respected ceremonial leader, knowledgable culture bearer, sacred site protector and environmental advocate for over 50 years. Thousands of people from religions and cultures around the world fondly remember Charlie's "coyote" humor, wisdom, and his healing purification sweat lodge ceremonies.
Káruk medicine man Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom
ELIZABETH CASE - a respected Káruk elder, Elizabeth was was born in a small Káruk village on the Salmon River in Northern California that, in 1875, became Somes Bar. She later moved to the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation where she was a major contributor in rejuvenating the Karuk language, culture and history. Throughout her life, Elizabeth was a teacher for young girls. It was very important to her that girls learn to respect themselves and others in the traditional ways. As they entered womanhood, she guided them through the Flower Dance coming-of-age ceremonies. During the early 1970s, Elizabeth worked alongside other elders to bring back one of the ancient ceremonial healing dances, the Brush Dance. She was considered to be a medicine woman from that point on and continued with her work until the early 1990s.
SARA NESSBITT BARNEY - a renowned basketmaker, Sara was also a collector of many Káruk baskets and ceremonial regalia. She took pride in her culture and enjoyed sharing stories about her childhood, which was spent on the Klamath River. Her love for family was exhibited in the traditional patterns and designs that were woven into her baskets. A private and quiet woman, Sara’s personality shined when she shared her stories, baskets and other handiwork with the public.
Káruk medicine woman Elizabeth Case
Káruk basketmaker Sara Nesbitt Barney
LESTER ALFORD, Sr - one of Charlie Thom's older brothers, Lester was a respected elder of Karuk and Shasta heritages who was instrumental in forming the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation (which is flourishing today). Even though he was sent to Indian Boarding School, which prevented him from learning the Káruk language, he spent much of his adult life contributing his knowledge of the Karuk and Shasta cultures for the people in his communities. A strict disciplinarian with a big heart, Lester influenced many younger people with his moral values, wisdom, encouragement and good will. His legacy continues through his children, who work in various departments with the Káruk Tribe and in other California Native communities.
Káruk elder Lester Alford, Jr
TERESA SARGENT - a respected Káruk elder, Teresa was raised in traditional ways by her Káruk mother on the Quartz Valley Indian Reservation. When her life path took her into the nonNative world, Teresa eventually became a Christian minister. She returned to the reservation in her elder years and spent the remainder of her life sharing the love of her Native culture, stories and wisdom with the young people in her family.
Káruk elder Teresa Sergent
ANTHONY (TONY) JERRY, Sr - devoted to his children and his wife, Tony was a carrier of many feathers which gave him medicine to guide his Káruk people. Tony’s younger years were very tough. Because so few jobs were available to Native people, he had to travel from place to place to seek employment. But in the mid-1980s, he returned to the Quartz Valley Reservation to became Chairman. A strict disciplinarian, Tony was proud of his numerous children, many who inherited his drive and dedicated work ethic. Several of Tony's children are employed by the Káruk tribe.
Káruk elder Anthony Jerry
THELMA THOM - a knowledgable Hupa elder, Thelma was respected by many as medicine woman - but she never wanted to be called that. Formerly married to Káruk medicine man Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom, she supported him for years in his cultural and spiritual endeavors. Devoted to the traditions and values of her Native culture, Thelma was as gentle a teacher as she was a powerful seer. She was revered and loved by many people.
Hupa medicine woman Thelma Thom
FANNY FISHER - Káruk elder Fanny Fisher was raised on the Salmon River, in Scott Valley, California, at the foot of the Marble Mountain Wilderness. A quiet, knowledgable cultural practitioner, Fanny's greatest joy was talking with the people of the Klamath and Salmon Rivers, sharing stories about the old Káruk ways. A proficient basketweaver, she also enjoyed collecting acorns and pine nuts. Blessed with a smile that was “worth more than anything”, Fanny was loved by all who knew her.
Káruk elder Fanny Fisher
JACK "WALKING EAGLE" THOM - a widely-known, beloved Káruk ceremonial leader and nephew of Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom, Walking Eagle (Hün-Na-îtch) has led purification sweat lodges and sun dance ceremonies in Siskiyou County, California, for many years. A devoted advocate of healthy, sober living, he supports the spiritual growth and healing of people from a diversity of cultures and backgrounds around the world.
Káruk medicine man Jack "Walking Eagle" Thom
JULIAN LANG - spiritual leader of the Káruk Tribe, Julian is a traditional storyteller, poet, Káruk language teacher, respected tribal scholar and ceremonial leader. His wife and cultural work partner is renowned northern California Native artist - spiritual leader Lyn Risling Lang.
Káruk tribal scholar Julian Lang
TELA LAKE - a respected Yurok medicine woman, Tela is a beloved ceremonial leader and a healer. She is also the author of "Hawk Woman Dancing with the Moon" (pub. M. Evans and Co. New York).
Yurok medicine woman Tela Lake
BRIAN TRIPP - Northern California Káruk artist Brian Tripp lives in Orleans, California, where he creates his award-winning art and poetry.
Káruk Artist Brian Tripp
FRANKLIN R THOM - Northern California Káruk language teacher - Káruk ceremonial dance instructor - culture bearer Franklin Thom is a self-taught Native language speaker and the son of Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom. His greatest joy is praying in ceremony, teaching the Káruk oral language to young people, and "speaking the language to just about anyone who will listen".
Káruk Language Teacher Franklin Thom
PATRICK CASE - son of Káruk medicine woman Elizabeth and Fred Case, Káruk elder Patrick Case lives in the Quartz Valley Reservation in far Northern California.
Káruk elder Patrick Case
RON GRIFFMAN - Born in 1976 in far Northern California, Ronald Griffman (Káruk/Shasta/Yurok/Rogue River/Modoc/Pit River) is a Native cultural activist, ceremonial participant and leader, spiritual poet, environmental advocate and lover of Mother Earth. Undaunted by his physical limitations (from a brain injury at age 13) Ron graduated Humboldt State University with not one but three B.A. degrees (Political Science, Native American Studies and Anthropology). Today, while traveling the Native ceremonial circuit, he participates in and leads traditional Native ceremonies, helps people from all walks of life, while continuing to learn about religions and indigenous cultures around the world.
Native cultural activist Ronald Griffman
THE NEXT GENERATION - Frankie Thom (front center), Joel Croy Thom, William Griffith, Patrick "Hooty" Croy, Ron Griffman, Vince Croy, Ken Hansen and Norman Croy meet for a Káruk Men's Drum Group in Yreka, California, to discuss the value of listening to and honoring the elders, remembering the old Káruk spiritual traditions, and participating in the ceremonies to help with healing and the recovery from addictions.
Káruk Drum Group in Yreka Park
The motivating force that directs some Natives to share their ancestral ways with non-Indians is this. Many people believe that traditional Native wisdom elders can help modern society learn how to live sustainably and with more peace. They see that greed, industrialism and commercialism are creating disasters on many fronts - in global politics, in our communities, in our families, and in the hearts and minds of individuals throughout the world. When Native wisdom elders share their beliefs and knowledge, they do so because they want their own people - as well as people everywhere in this world - to survive.
- Ronald Griffman (Káruk/Shasta/Yurok/Rogue River/Modoc/Pit River)