Healing Families to Heal Communities

Members of the community participated in a walk through the Hoopa Valley with signs and banners with anti-drug messages. The walk was part of the Family Camp put on by Hoopa Human Services. / Photo by Allie Hostler, Two Rivers Tribune.

Inaugural Family Camp Cures Through Cultures

By Scottie Lee Meyers, Two Rivers Tribune

Joe Marshall can’t find his brain. Curious kids huddle around him as he stretches a pungent deer hide over a wooden log. When he’s all through, Marshall’s daughter will have a new Indian dress. But for now, Marshall’s demonstration is interrupted because he can’t find the deer brain to tan the hide.

Marshall was one of several cultural demonstrators at last week’s Family Camp. The camp welcomed Hoopa, Karuk and Yurok Tribal families at Pookey’s Park in Hoopa from August 8 to 11. For four days, families camped out to embrace traditional culture and heal families and the community from drug and alcohol abuse.

The camp provided group activities, guest speakers and three meals a day. It culminated on Thursday morning with a walk from Vista Point to Norton Field to pray for healing and awareness. Walkers carried sign promoting sobriety and drug free lifestyles. Every walker got a t-shirt and sat down afterward for a traditional meal of sturgeon, deer meat and acorn soup.

“We got to go back to our culture,” said Tonya Bussell-Linderman, the camp’s co-organizer. “If you want to get to healing, you got to heal the family as a whole,” she said.

Hoopa’s Human Services department secured two grants from drug and alcohol awareness and suicide prevention charities to fund the camp. Family Camp organizers looked at Hoopa’s Acorn and Warrior Youth Camps as a model for their own.

Boyd Ferris, the camp’s other co-organizer, said hundreds of tribal members from numerous tribes participated in the inaugural camp’s cultural activities over the week. He hopes the camp will grow into an annual event and not be dependent upon grants. He also envisions that the camp host be rotated between the Hoopa, Karuk and Yurok tribes each year.

Joe Marshall takes the hair off a deer hide he’s using to make an Indian dress for his daughter. Marshall’s new to tanning hides but he said he’s getting better each time. Marshall took the time to teach the skill to youth at last week’s Family Camp at Pookey’s Park in Hoopa. / Photo by Scottie Lee Meyers, Two Rivers Tribune.

Dozens of tents were setup in Pookey’s Park throughout the week and campers were encouraged to leave their cell phones at home. Tuesday’s how-to demonstrations included making drums, leather medicine pouches, gillnets and playing traditional card games.

“It’s something I’ve always wanted to do,” said Hoopa Tribal member Curtis Kane as he tightened the stitching on his box-framed deerskin drum. The young father and Hoopa Warrior Youth Football coach came to camp after practice to learn the art of drum making. Each family was invited to take home the drum they made. “This one is for my boy,” Kane said, which excited his nearby son.

Humboldt State University professor Dr. Michael Yellow Bird was one of several guest lecturers to wrap Tuesday night up. The message of the speakers focused around mindfulness and being aware of the environment currently being lived in.

Campers continued to engage in cultural activities Wednesday, including basketweaving and bracelet making – in addition to continued drum and tan hide making sessions. Eight-year-old Jasmine Kinney made three bracelets with matching ear rings (the turquoise set was her favorite). She was all smiles as she showed them off.

On the other side of the park, Margo Robbins is helping four kids crush acorns with rocks. Their basket fills quickly. Each of the kids takes a turn filling the grinder with a handful of acorns to make acorn flour to be used for Thursday’s big traditional meal. The kids lift the powdered flour to their lips, the bitterness scrunches their faces.

Joe Marshall hangs up his tan hide to aerate and grabs a new one that’s been soaking in water for three days. The flies scurry as he lifts if from the bucket. A young man that was huddled next to Marshall earlier is now scalping the hair off the hide himself–a culturally empowering metamorphosis.

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