Nipped in the Bud

More than 600 marijuana plants were seized from Tishawnik Village in Orleans, a Karuk Ceremonial site, where a McKinleyville man was caught planting./Photo courtesy of Maymi Preston-Donahue.

More than 600 marijuana plants were seized from Tishawnik Village in Orleans, a Karuk Ceremonial site, where a McKinleyville man was caught planting./Photo courtesy of Maymi Preston-Donahue.

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Pot Bust on Karuk Ceremonial Grounds in Orleans

TWO RIVERS TRIBUNE

On Monday, April 28, Karuk Tribal members investigated suspicious behavior at a traditional ceremonial area while attempting to check their eel traps. River access roads were blocked with newly installed cables and they found a stranger to the area setting up camp; he was strongly advised to remove the cables immediately. The area, known as Tishawnik, is a sacred dance ground where the Karuk People have held the annual Pikyavish, or World Renewal Ceremonies, since the beginning of time.

By early next morning, a half dozen vigilant tribal people acted to protect the sacred site and detained one of the men until the police could arrive. Tribal members were angry, upset, and mortified at what had been discovered. The fact that the two suspects on site claimed to be members of the Native American Church only deepened their alarm.

“We were all pretty shocked to find someone in the process of planting 600 pot plants,” said Josh Saxon, Karuk Tribal member.

When deputies arrived they met with these Tribal Members and the 38 year-old male suspect, Scott Baters, from McKinleyville; his 22 year old son had already fled the scene.

Bates said he was in the process of purchasing the land, and that he is a part of Oklevueha Native American Church (ONA).

The ONA Church is an organization that promotes the use of hallucinogenic and medicinal pot smoking. They claim the properties of the plants help them get closer to their Creator.

James Warren Flaming Eagle Mooney, co-founder of the local ONA, spoke up on the behalf of his organization, stating the land would have been protected by the church.

Humboldt County Sheriff Lieutenant, Steve Knight, said, “It’s rather unfortunate that individuals would try to grow marijuana on Ceremonial grounds.”

He also said that they are in the process of obtaining arrests warrants for the suspects.

Karuk Tribal leaders and several members of the tribe and community are adamant about protecting Tishawnik Village.

For many years, the Tribe has sought to acquire the property and has offered to purchase it at fair market value. The owners have refused. The shock of this latest outrage cannot swell the resources available for purchase, but the hope is high that one day the Tribe will be able to hold its age-old ceremonies without the threat of defilement.

The Tribe is concerned that new age religions or the false claims of associations with established religions could be used to desecrate Karuk sacred sites.

“While we acknowledge that peyote is considered a sacrament by the Native American Church, Marijuana has never been sacred to the Karuk People,” explained Leaf Hillman, Karuk Ceremonial Leader. “I find it particularly ironic that we have to fight for our spiritual rights against those allegedly associated with the Native American Church, a forerunner for religious freedom.”

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