Karuk Food Workshops and Youth Groups

Stormy Polmateer and Blanche Moore preparing the Xuun (Acorn mush) / Photo courtesy of Julie Burcell and Sibyl Dive

By LISA HILLMAN, Karuk Department of Natural Resources

Ten different agencies, among which are the Yurok, Karuk, and Klamath Basin Tribes, as well as UC Berkeley and the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council, have joined forces to combat what is deemed by the USDA as our “food insecurity,” that is, the shortage of physical and economical access to nutritional foods at all times.

The fires and icy roads of late drive home the difficulties local people face throughout the year in accessing at best, high-priced groceries.

“People don’t realize how expensive and how difficult it is to buy groceries here. The local market is high-priced and limited in its selection. I’ve got a family of six,” said Carley Whitecrane of Orleans. She points out that she doesn’t have a choice: “There no ‘quick trips’ to another market.”

The overall goal of the Food Security Program is to revive traditional means of preserving of local and traditional foods, which in turn will help promote healthy lifestyles, healthy relationships among youth, adults, and elders, and healthy communities.

Within the framework of the USDA Klamath Basin Food Security, the Karuk Tribe has been busy developing and refining several programs that revolve around Native Foods. Part of its contributions to a successful program is the Karuk

Tribe’s Native Food Workshops and its Seasonal Youth Camps, which will engage and educate multi-generational tribal and non-tribal community members, particularly economically disadvantaged families, about Native cultural food traditions.

Re-connecting the community with its physical environment through better understanding of its bounty will benefit the Tribe’s goal of combating the intergenerational historic trauma that afflicts tribal people. An agreement between

Department of Natural Resources and the Karuk Tribe’s Temporary Aid to Needy Families (TANF) has been recently signed that will allow for a greater scope of reach to project activities and employment opportunities.

“We are confident that this agreement will benefit the entire Tribe,” said Leaf Hillman, director of the Karuk Department of Natural Resources.

While icy and rocky roads are topics of concern today, it was fire and smoke that accompanied the Karuk Tribe’s program events the beginning of August: the impacts of the Orleans and Butler fires made adjusting the itineraries of the Ti Creek Traditional Foods Youth Camp and Native Foods Workshop. The programs were led by Ron Reed, Karuk Tribe Cultural Biologist, and Sibyl Diver, Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative member.

More than thirty youth from Orleans, Happy Camp, and Yreka met on August 1 for a day of community service at Ti Bar flat, located north of Somes Bar.  The group came together as a force to remove invasive scotch broom plants, which can quickly crowd out desired native plants.  Team building activities and a traditional foods discussion followed in preparation for the workshop.

Daniel Goodwin demonstrates how to trim Salmon filets in preparation for stripping./Photo courtesy of Julie Burcell, Karuk

An extended yôotva (thank you) go to Grant Gilkison and others, who organized a community benefit dinner for local resident Zona Ferris who lost her home to the Orleans fire.  To express its solidarity with impacted families, the Charles Wentz Carter Foundation Memorial donated a benefit dinner to the Orleans community.

Foundation CEO Sibyl Diver said it “is exactly in line with the intent of the (Wentz) grant.”  By redirecting these workshop food purchases to the dinner that night, the local community helped raise over $2500 as a contribution towards rebuilding Mrs. Ferris’ home.

The tribal and local community reconvened at Ti Bar on August 2 for the workshop, beginning with a cultural plants session led by Kathy McCovey Barger and Brian Colegrove. The senses were engaged – tasting pahiip (pepperwood) nuts, smelling káat (wormwood) plants, and feeling weaving materials.

“What an experience,” said 19 year-old Karuk tribal member Lena Neuner. Sensory discovery was followed by a participatory mapping demonstration, led by Karuk-UC Berkeley Collaborative members.

For the Youth Camp, the Karuk Department of Fisheries members helped guide place-based explorations of Ti Bar flat with the local and tribal youth.  The demonstration exercise provided youth with easy-to-use multimedia tools for documenting their experiences and learning.  The Berkeley team then combined multiple observations from all youth participants on a single interactive map of Ti Creek flat.

The program culminated with a salmon cook out hosted by Riverkeepers’ Konrad Fischer at Stanshaw Creek and were entertained and educated by Phil and Lucille Albers, a Karuk elder who grew up at Stanshaw who shared some of her life experiences. Traditional Karuk gambling prefaced the meal, followed by a blessing by Sonny Davis. Both the workshop participants and the youth group feasted on áama (salmon) cooked on sticks by Kenneth “Binks” Brink and Jason Reed, xuun (acorn soup) prepared by Stormy Polmateer and family, and other traditional foods.

In November, the weekend’s activities began with tours of the People’s Center Museum and Library and were followed by a discussion group focusing on the need to reintroduce fire to local ecosystems. Will Harling from the Mid-Klamath Watershed Council led the workshop discussion group, whose participants included Bill Tripp and Ron Reed from the Karuk Department of Natural Resources, UC Berkeley Ph.D. candidate and researcher Arielle Halpern, and Kathy McCovey and Dr. Frank Lake from the United   States Forest Service. The message of the group discussion was reinforced by the Catching Fire documentary which was viewed by the workshop participants.  Dinner that evening included púufich (deer) stew.

Saturday’s activities were enjoyed by over 60 participants.

“The turn-out was greater than we had anticipated,” said People’s Center Coordinator Julie Burcell. “Fortunately, we had enthusiastic and able volunteers to help with cooking more and providing for our guests.”

From Chiloquin, Oregon, a group of Klamath Tribal youth and their parents brought púufich meat to share with the Karuk, Yurok, and local community.  Daniel Goodwin (Karuk) demonstrated how to remove the entrails of and filet salmon, and how to prepare it for canning – from smokehouse to table.

Blanche Moore and Stormy Polmateer (both Karuk) laid bare the art of acorn processing: cracking, grinding, leaching, and finally cooking. At the end of the day, all participants – including the Klamath Tribal guests – went home with canned salmon and a wealth of knowledge on Native Foods.

These programs were generously supported by the Charles Wentz Carter Memorial Foundation and a USDA-National Institute of Food and Agriculture-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative Food Security Grant.

Upcoming events on the Food Security Calendar are subject to change, but have been planned as follows:

Winter Seasonal Youth Camp, late January or early February, location to be decided (TBD): This camp will revolve around topics such as artisan, regalia, and oral history.

Basket Material Workshop, March 29, location TBD: Workshops are intended for all Tribal members, descendants and for interested community members. Western Science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK) practitioners will give background information, and Karuk Basketweavers will lead the participants in a hands-on experience. Content for this workshop will be the sticks and roots needed for basic basket structure: Willow, Hazel, and Pine.

Spring Seasonal Youth Camp, April 25-26, location TBD: This TEK-based field trip will focus on traditional management, harvest, procurement, storage and distribution of salmon, eel, and basket materials.

Early Greens Workshop, April 13 or 20, pending weather conditions, location TBD: All interested parties and their families are invited to this workshop which will focus on the Indian potato flowers, onions and wild carrots and turnips.

This project was funded by the USDA-Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute for Food and Agriculture Grant #2012-68004-20018.

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