Huffman, Padilla, Feinstein Introduce Legislation to Transfer Sacred Land from the Forest Service to the Karuk Tribe
WASHINGTON, D.C. June 22, 2022 — Today, U.S. Senators Alex Padilla and Dianne Feinstein (both D-Calif.) introduced the Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam Sacred Lands Act to transfer ownership of sacred lands from the United States Forest Service (USFS) to the Interior Department to place those lands into trust for the benefit of the Karuk Tribe, a federally recognized Tribe. This bill would place roughly 1,000 acres of federal land located in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties into trust for the Karuk to allow for uninterrupted access to the sites, which the Karuk have used for ancestral ceremonies for centuries. These lands are considered to be the center of the Karuk world and sit at the heart of the tribe’s culture, religion, and identity. Representative Jared Huffman (D-Calif.) has previously introduced the legislation in the House.
“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,” Rep. Jared Huffman said. “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 Katimiîn 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.”
“The cultural and spiritual significance of the sacred Katimiîn lands is central to the Kaurk tribe’s history and identity,” said Senator Padilla. “The Karuk people deserve unrestricted access to these ancestral sites in order to practice and preserve their customs for future generations. Restoring these lands to the stewardship of the Karuk Tribe is a long overdue moral imperative.”
“The Karuk have conducted ceremonies on the Katimiin sacred land for many generations – these areas are integral to their customs and culture,” said Senator Feinstein. “While the tribe has a federal permit to access the lands for ceremonies, that access isn’t guaranteed. This bill will ensure the tribe maintains access to these lands into the future.”
“The Karuk Tribe truly appreciates the efforts of Senator Feinstein and Padilla to protect our sacred sites. The return of these lands will ensure that future generations of Karuk People are free to exercise their religious freedoms as their ancestors have since the beginning of time,” said Karuk Chairman Russell ‘Buster’ Attebery.
- The Karuk Tribe has lived and conducted ceremonies on the ancestral lands known as Katimiîn for time immemorial. According to Karuk tradition, Katimiîn is the center of the world and is where the Tribes’ annual World Renewal Ceremonies conclude. 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.
- The majority of the of Karuk aboriginal territory is presently occupied by the Six Rivers and Klamath National Forests. Currently, the tribe has a Special Use Permit with the USFS that allows access to Katimiîn for the ceremony, but the access is not guaranteed and the tribe has often been disturbed during private ceremonies in recent years.
- The Karuk deserve to have these lands restored to tribal ownership so the tribe can steward the land’s natural resources, practice religious ceremonies uninterrupted, and preserve the tribe’s culture for generations to come.
In addition to the Karuk Tribe, the bill is supported by Humboldt County, the Northern California Tribal Chairpersons Association, Western Klamath Restoration Partnership, California Native Plant Society, and Sierra Forest Legacy.
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