Hundreds Attend Memorial for Basket Weaver and Organizer in Orleans
Women’s March and Standing Rock Fundraiser Keep Orleans Busy
By Malcolm Terence, Two Rivers Tribune
Published January 24, 2017 Volume 23, Issue 3
People gathered in large numbers in Orleans over the last week at three events. Each of them—a story-telling dinner with Standing Rock veterans, the memorial for a well-known Karuk organizer and a local version of the women’s marches held around the world—signaled the community rallying in the face of an uncertain political future.
The Standing Rock event drew 120 people, a third of them had traveled to encampments started by Sioux natives in North Dakota to resist the completion of an oil pipeline that threatens their water supply.
Thomas H. Joseph, from Hoopa, told the crowd at the MKWC community space, “When the Sioux chairman gave the call for tribes to come it started a gathering unlike any in the world. Thousands responded. Indigenous country has changed and will never again be the same.”
He and the other speakers paid special thanks for the outpouring of support from people in California. He recounted how North Dakota police had brutalized elders and said, “It shows the state this nation is in. Corporate America rules.”
He said Standing Rock supporters in California planned to continue their campaign to have people close their accounts from the banks that have made large investments in the pipeline.
BeaVi McCovey said, “I went there to pray. I found it to be a spiritual experience unlike any other.” Then she added, “I just came to the conclusion that I would always be cold.”
Patricia Joseph, from Hoopa, also thanked Californians for their support and especially mentioned the pallet-loads of home-canned produce from Hoopa and Orleans areas.
Matika Wilbur, a Swinomish and Tulalip woman on a photographing tour of tribes around the country, told the Orleans dinner crowd that she was often drawn to the Klamath kitchen, which later became the California kitchen. She said, “I’d get so sick of eating buffalo stew, but you at the California kitchen were serving vegetables and fish. I told my relatives about your food and your teaching. All throughout Indian Country we see division, but I also see direction and strength emerging.”
Onna Joseph, from Orleans, echoed that gratitude and confessed that she had brought home two jars of Klamath Basin applesauce when she returned from North Dakota. She said she plans to return there for the cleanup and urged others to join her.
Nah-Tez Jackson, from Hoopa, said, “Our ancestors are preparing us for what’s coming. This is a spiritual movement. This is spiritual warfare. It will get worse before it gets better.”
At Standing Rock, Jackson recalled that prayer was nearly continuous. “People there would sing you to sleep, and an elder would go up to Facebook Hill every morning and sing you awake. I still hear that song.”
Two days later an even bigger crowd gathered in Orleans for the memorial for LaVerne Glaze, the Karuk elder who built networks of basket weavers and use used them to lobby the U.S. Forest Service against the use of herbicides and for a restoration of traditional burning.
An estimated 300 people attended the memorial at the Orleans Elementary School gym and then shifted to the MKWC community space for a luncheon. A feature article on Glaze’s work with weavers and her role in capturing federal recognition for the Karuk Tribe appeared in the Two Rivers Tribune two years ago and is available online. See: https://goo.gl/hahiAq.
Brian Tripp, the Karuk artist, poet and ceremonial singer, prefaced his song with a story. He said, “LaVerne was my next-door neighbor and I heard stories when I first moved in that made me kind of scared. I heard she was a good crib player, but I’m not bad myself and I even beat her in a couple of hands. When I did that, she looked me over and said, “I think you better leave.” The hall filled with laughter.
Several Forest Service employees paid tribute to her work. John Larson, a former district ranger in Orleans, said that Glaze helped him understand the federal responsibility to the Karuk Tribe and to tribes across the country.
Nolan Colegrove, the current Orleans ranger, said she left a legacy. He credited her with the Forest Service beginning major projects to use fire to maintain areas of hazel, bear grass and willow, all basket materials. She was against commercial harvesting of wild mushrooms in certain areas and Colegrove said he’d always thought it was agency policy. “Turns out it was a LaVerne Policy,” he said.
BeaVi McCovey recalled listening to her mother, Mavis McCovey, and Glaze trading stories when she was a child, and Tom Horn said he remembered a skit in the town’s Caper’s talent show when he was a kid, staged by Laverne and her husband. “It was so good that I still remember it from beginning to end,” he said.
Neal Latt, now an attorney in Eureka, thanked her for helping him find space to grow vegetables commercially in the mid-1990s and Shelly Slusser, the Orleans teacher, thanked her for her work sharing basket weaving and pottery with the school’s students.
Merlin Tripp, another Karuk elder and her neighbor, said they had shared lots of laughs over the years and added, “All those good times; I’m sure going to miss her.”
The same day as the LaVerne Glaze memorial, millions of people around the world joined in Women’s Marches, but organizers in Orleans put their Women’s March off for a day out of respect to Glaze’s family.
So, Sunday afternoon, in a light rainfall, 90 people assembled at Orleans school with signs and umbrellas and marched to the Orleans Bridge across the Klamath River, which was running full and gray-green. Towering above them was Somes Mountain, capped with fresh snow, at the head of Pearch Creek drainage.
The marchers lingered at the bridge. They were enjoying the chance to be outside without a punishing downpour and took the chance to walk their dogs, talk to their neighbors, shoot group photos and, maybe, to brace themselves for the expected shift of political weather with the incoming Republican presidency and Republican congress.
Afterward about half of the marchers seated themselves in a big circle at the MKWC community space, shared coffee and pastry and discussed what moves they could take as a community to survive the expected political changes.
One of the first speakers was Chook Chook Hillman who warned people of the attacks on Planned Parenthood and noted that the United States has only five percent of the world’s population but incarcerates 30% of the world’s prisoners.
He said that the actions against the Affordable Care Act, called Obamacare, would have an “incredibly important impact” on the welfare of women. “The treatment of women is a mirror of the treatment of all people in our society.”
Carley Whitecrane warned of the threats to funding for native healthcare, which she said was already under funded.
Several people spoke of the possibility of economic hardships during the incoming administration and urged community unity and reduced racial segregation to increase self-sufficiency.
One speaker said native youth in Orleans were often sidetracked by use of alcohol and other drugs and not getting education they needed. They and their families eat the “junk” food available in the local store while Orleans farms grow healthy food that is trucked to other locales.
One person mentioned a mobile kitchen organized by Sammy Gensaw, a young Yurok organizer, which could be moved to a harvest site. From there produce could be preserved and then shared in a community kitchen.
Another person noted that the large amount of trees downed by the recent snow events created an opportunity for wood cutters to cut firewood for local elders while cleaning up the landscape.
Plans were made to renew community work and food exchanges at Amayav, a small community plot adjacent to the grocery in Orleans.