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Bill would place federal land into trust for the Karuk Tribe

Proposed boundary of Karuk managed land
Office of Jared Huffman
Proposed boundary of Karuk managed land

New legislation is being introduced that would return just over 1,000 acres of land located in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties to the Karuk Tribe.

Last week, U.S Representative Jared Huffman (D - San Rafael) requested that the sacred grounds of Katimiin, a historical village and ceremonial site, be placed into trust for the Karuk Tribe. The land is located along the Klamath River in the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests. It is often used for important ceremonies for the Karuk Tribe.

Joshua Saxton is the Executive Director of the tribe. He says that ceremonies held on federal land can be vulnerable to disruption from the public.

“We have had experiences in the past of intrusions, both across land and in the air where helicopters were flying directly over ceremonial participants and disturbing ceremonies and that was just within the last few years,” says Saxton.

The Karuk people describe the land in question as the center of the world. Saxton says that returning the land will allow them to exercise traditional land management practices on it.

“Indigenous people have been not only managing the landscape but really seeing our tie to the land as a responsibility to these places and getting away from the fact that anybody owns them,” he says.

The land is the site of a traditional 10-day ceremony called Pik-ya-vish. Pik-ya-vish means “to fix it” and it is performed by the Karuk Tribe as a world renewal celebration.

“When we have our regalia on and we are performing a ceremony, it really reminds us of our responsibility to these places,” says Saxton. “And promises we made as our ancestors did to take care of the fish and take care of the animals and take care of our flora and fauna and all the things that need active management from us in order to be healthy.”

Sophia Prince is a reporter and producer for JPR News. She began as JPR’s 2021 summer intern through the Charles Snowden Program for Excellence in Journalism. She graduated from the University of Oregon with a BA in journalism and international studies.