Karuk Nation



Karuk Literature


Karok (karuk, ‘upstream’; they have no name for themselves other than that for ‘men’ or ‘people’, arar, whence Arra-arra, Ara-ara, etc.). The name by which the Indians of the Quoratean family have, as a tribe, been generally called. They lived on Klamath river from Redcap creek to Indian creek, north west California. Below them on the river were the Yurok, above them the Shasta, to their east were other Shasta tribes, while on the west they were separated by a spur of the Siskiyou mountains from the Yurok and the Athapascan Tolowa. Salmon river, a tributary of the Klamath, was not Karok territory except for about 5 miles from its mouth,-but was held mainly by Shastan tribes. While the Karok language is fundamentally different front the languages of the adjacent Hupa and Yurok, the Karok people closely resemble these two tribes in mode of life and culture, and any description given of the latter will apply to the Karok. They differ from the Yurok principally in two points: One, that owing to the absence of redwood they do not make canoes but buy them from the Yurok; the other, that they celebrate a series of annual ceremonies called “making the world,” which are held at Panamenik, Katimin, and Inam, with a similar observance at Amaikiara, while the Yurok possess no strictly analogousperformances.

The Karok (or Karuk) live on the Orleans Karok Reservation and the Quartz Valley Rancheria. (Eargle: 1986)
The Karok gave the Shasta tobacco seeds, baskets, dentalia, salt, seaweed, tan oak acorns, canoes, pepperwood, abalone shells and ornaments and olivella shells. They got juniper beads, basketry caps, salt, dentalia, white deer skins, woodpecker scalps, whole Olivella shells, large obsidian blades, obsidian, deer skins, sugar pine nuts, wolf skins and horn for spoons. From the Wailaki they got dentalia. They gave the Tolowa soaproot and pine nut beads, and they got smelt and dentalia. They gave the Konomihu dentalia and baskets, and they got furs and deer-skin clothing. They gave the Yurok dentalia and got from them whole Olivella Shells, tobacco seeds, dugout canoes, clam shells, pipes and bows. They got whole clam shells from the Coast Yuki, and salt from the Nongatl.(Davis: 1966)

Coyote Steals Fire

Devil Who Died Laughing
Efforts Under Way to Preserve Karuk Language
Fable of the Animals
Fire Race

A long time ago, only the three Yellow Jacket sisters had fire. Even though other animals froze, the fire was kept from them. Wise Old Coyote, however, devises a plan to steal the fire, and enlists the other animals to help. Coyote diverts the yellow jackets, seizes a burning stick, and runs away. As the yellow jackets chase him, he hands it off to Eagle, who hands it to Mountain Lion. Several hand-offs later, Frog hides a hot coal in his mouth on a river bottom, and the yellow jackets give up. When Frog spits the coal out, Willow Tree swallows it, and Coyote shows the animals how to extract it: by rubbing two sticks together over dry moss. Now that the animals have fire, each night they gather in a circle while the elders tell stories. An meaningful tale which stresses the importance of the natural world and our need to live cooperatively with it.

Greed, Pollution and Genocide
Karuk Baskets
Karok houses at Soames Bar
Karuk Acorn Soup Cooking Basket
Karuk Constitution

Karuk, The People of the Klamath

Karuk Dance Cap
Karuk Elder Keeps Culture Live Through Coyote’s Tales

Karuk Language Resources
Karuk Tribe of California
Redistributing the Wealth
Traditional Karuk Dress (Photo Gallery)
Traditional Karuk Songs

Creation Story

Many, many years ago there was a GOD named Eel-with -a-Swollen-Belly, who grew up at the downstream end of the world in the earliest days when the world was new. His mother lived at the upriver edge of the world. One day Eel decided that he wanted to return home to visit his mother. The path to his mother’s home took him along the river bed. As he traveled upstream he overturned rocks and piled them into shrines. At each one of these places where he put a shrine he knew that humans would eventually appear. “When the people appear these shrines will help them remember that I was here. And they will place a rock on the shrine to honor me.”

Eel traveled further up the Klamath River until he reached “The Center of the World”. When he reached this special place he decided to create a different shrine. He made two shrines, one on each side of the river. He said to himself,” The Center of the World will be filled with many people. They will need extra shrines to help them remember me.” Eel traveled on the way for many days; placing shrines along the Klamath River. The river flowed downriver from the beginning of the Klamanth River. One day Eel arrived at the “Inaam World Renewal Site”. After placing a shrine at Inaam he traveled further upstream . After many days he reach the upriver end of the world and his mother’s birthplace. After reaching his final destination he turned into the lamprey eel that we know today. Eel was once a man long ago. And that is how Eel-with-a-swollen -belly turned into lamprey eel a long, long time ago.


Karuk Resources on the Web
Karuk Section of William Bright’s Site


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