Huffman Introduces Bill to Restore Sacred Land to Karuk Tribe

November 18, 2021

Washington, D.C. – Today, Representative Jared Huffman (CA-02) introduced legislation to place federal lands located in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties in California into trust for the Karuk Tribe.

“This bill seeks to return sacred ground to the Karuk Tribe, correcting an historic injustice. I’ve had the immense privilege and honor of visiting Katimiin and its surrounding acres.  These places are not only majestic, they are central to Karuk history, religion, culture and identity.  Placing them in trust ensures that the Karuk culture and way of life can endure for future generations,” Rep. Jared Huffman said. “Natural resource stewardship of land, wildlife, plants, and water is at the core of the Karuk people’s culture and identity.  Yet 95% of their aboriginal territory is currently under federal management, undermining the tribe’s ability to exercise traditional practices that have been passed down since time immemorial.”

Background

For Karuk people, the land identified in this legislation is the center of the world. The historical village and ceremonial site of Katimiîn is the location of a final series of annual Pik-ya-vish world renewal ceremonies. Pik-ya-vish translates as “to fix it,” how Karuk people approach their responsibility to keeping these places in balance with their cultural and spiritual values. Ameekyáaraam, just down river from Katimiîn, is the site of Jump Dance and First Salmon Ceremony – both vital components of world renewal ceremonies and for pre-contact inter-tribal coordination of fish harvest up and down the river to ensure long-term sustainability of salmon runs. These ceremonies were also ways to keep the world in balance between individuals and families. This area is essential to inter-generational teaching and learning needed to ensure future generations of Karuk people know and understand Karuk culture and customs. 

Currently the tribe has a Special Use Permit with the United States Forest Service (USFS) that allows access to the grounds for ceremony. This access is not guaranteed and in some years the tribe is interrupted by public intrusions during private and sacred components of the world renewal ceremonies. Only USFS lands will transfer to the tribe; all private lands, allotments and existing rights associated with those will be excluded.  

A copy of the legislation can be found here. A map of the Katimiîn area can be found here.