Our People, Traditional Materials, and Designs - Karuk, Hupa, Yurok

 

Our People, Traditional Materials and Designs - Karuk, Yurok, Hupa

Our Tribal People
Abalonehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget1-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget1-frameshapeimage_6_link_0
Dentalium Shellshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget3-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget3-frameshapeimage_7_link_0
Porcupine Quills/Needleshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget2-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget2-frameshapeimage_8_link_0
Pine Nutshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget4-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget4-frameshapeimage_9_link_0
Cedar or Juniper Berrieshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget5-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget5-frameshapeimage_10_link_0
Bear Grasshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget7-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget7-frameshapeimage_11_link_0
Deer Leatherhttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget8-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget8-frameshapeimage_12_link_0
Clam Shellshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget0-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget0-frameshapeimage_14_link_0
Olivella Shellshttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget6-framehttp://www.fromtherivercollective.com/Our_People.html#widget6-frameshapeimage_15_link_0

THEN

Clam Shells- Are just that, the shell of a clam. In my Karuk language they were called “xanvaat” meaning a small clam shell used for ornament. They can be seen in the old pictures on the top of the man’s chest piece and covering the women’s ceremonial dress. The clams that are native to our area can range in size from larger than a quarter to smaller than a dime. They are used on ceremonial prayer items/regalia but are also used on traditional and contemporary jewelry such as on the necklaces and earrings shown below.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Abalone- The abalone used in our area is called the Red Abalone which is a large edible sea snail and can be found primarily in the northern part of California but also lives from Oregon to Mexico. Abalone can be seen in the old pictures below on the Woman’s necklace (left) and also on the Woman’s ceremonial dress hanging off the leather in the front. The Red Abalone as well as other types of abalone are used for contemporary pieces such as on the abalone button necklace and the bracelet shown below. The earrings on the far right are made from traditional Red Abalone.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Dentalium Shells- Are a kind of tooth or tusk shell that were historically harvested from deep waters around the Pacific Northwest coast of North America. They were highly valued by many First Nations peoples as an international trade item. To our people they were our money, traditionally the most important unit of exchange. In my Karuk language the word for money is “ishpuk” meaning dentalium shells or gold. In the old photos shown below you can see them on the little girls chest piece and also the older woman’s necklaces. Today, depending on size they are still valued at about one dollar each for small ones and the larger ones can be up to 7 dollars a piece according to a local trader. Dentalium are used on ceremonial prayer items/regalia as well as more contemporary pieces such as the necklace, bracelet, and earrings shown below.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Porcupine Quills/Needles- Porcupines are mammals that are indigenous to the Americas, southern Asia, and Africa. They have quills that they use to defend and camouflage themselves from predators. The quills of the North American porcupine are what our people use to make a women’s ceremonial “headband” that can be seen in this old photo on the woman dancer on the very left. It wraps around her head and rests in the middle of her forehead. The quills for this piece prayer item/regalia was died yellow (with moss or other types of plant) similar to the quills on the bracelet in the middle picture under “Now”. Other contemporary items being made out of the quills are hair sticks, earrings, and added as elements to necklaces.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Pine Nuts- Our people gather pine nuts from the Grey Pine tree or sometimes called Bull Pine. Pine nuts are commonly known for the edible inside that you can buy at the store. A long time ago we did eat the inside but we also use the hard shelled nut for a type of “bead” that is on women’s dresses and necklaces as well as on other items. In my Karuk language there are words for “pine-nut apron” and “pine-nut dress” both referring to the ceremonial dresses women made. In the old photos shown below the black “lines” on the front of the women’s dresses are pine nuts strung between beargrass. In the photo on the far left the woman is only wearing the “apron” of the dress which is the front piece. The pine nuts we use are generally brown in color but can be “cooked” to make them black. Even today most people have to collect the pine cones themselves and process them for use which involves drilling a hole and extensively cleaning the inside. The “Now” photos are examples of necklaces sold recently by the Collective that are made primarily with pine nuts.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Cedar or Juniper Berries- These are similar berries and used for similar purposes such as medicine and beads. A long time ago juniper berries and cedar berries were more prevalent in California. In my Karuk language the word for juniper berry is “ip” and “ipa” is the juniper berry being used in prayer items/regalia. The distinguishing difference between them is juniper berries tend to be smaller and darker than cedar berries which are larger and brown. Both can be “cooked” to black as shown in the old pictures below. The black triangles on the women’s dresses are juniper. The Collective has had and continue to have several items featuring cedar berries such as the necklace and earrings shown below.

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THEN

Olivella Shells- Are shells of small predatory sea snails that are found in the Pacific Ocean. The ones we use can be whitish, tan, or brown. In the old photos below they make up the man’s necklace and can be on ceremonial dresses such as the woman is wearing in the photograph on the right. Some contemporary pieces are shown below in the “NOW” section. A necklace with olivella shells incorporated in to the design as well as earrings.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Beargrass- Beargrass looks like a type of grass but belongs to the lily family. It has to be gathered in special places in the mountains and during certain times of the year. Beargrass is used in traditional basket making as well as by itself to create “braids” or wraps. In my Karuk language there is a specific word “aptínihich” meaning, “braided beargrass leaves, from which aprons are made.” Aprons are referring to the front of a women’s ceremonial dress as pictured in the “Then” photo on the left. The beargrass is the white material on the front of her skirt. You can see up close how beargrass is braided in the “Now” photos by Collective artists who makes earrings, hair sticks and other items using beargrass.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Deer Leather- In our culture the Mule Deer was used as a primary source of food but also for all the items we made using the hide, hooves, bone, sinew, horn, etc. We made blankets, drums, women’s ceremonial dresses as well as other items from the hide. In my Karuk language we have over 100 words involving deer. In the old photos below the deer hides can be seen wrapped around men’s waists in the picture on the left as well as on poles for the anthropologist-named “White Deer Skin Dance”. The other photo is of a deer skin drum also seen in the “Now” pictures along with a necklace and earrings.

NOW: From the Collective

THEN

Traditional Designs- The traditional designs of the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa people are similar, with geometric patterns that were generally woven into baskets. Traditional designs are also seen on ceremonial prayer items/regalia and made using the items above. The color differences and shapes were used to create the pattern. All of our designs have meaning behind them to learn and make a part of life. Now our traditional designs are the inspiration for so many other creative projects including the items shown below in the “Now” section: beading, jewelry, monotype prints and paintings, carving, pottery and so many other items the Collective’s artist make to celebrate our traditional designs with modern contemporary work.

NOW: From the Collective

All of the materials explained below are very meaningful to our people both for there practical use but also for their spiritual significance. To see more pictures from the early 1900’s check out our Facebook album “Our People, Our Places”. Click on any of the “NOW” photos below to find out who the Artist is.

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