Karuk Tribe

Happy Camp, CA

Pamukunyafusayêepsha vúra uum yâamach ukyâahahitih “Their Good Dresses Were Made Pretty” Project

The Karuk Tribe’s Phase 1 project provided tribal girls with a year-long apprenticeship to teach them the skills necessary to create ceremonial regalia dresses, which usually take two years to make. As Karuk communities are spread 120 miles along the Klamath River, activities were offered in the Tribe’s three main hubs to reach as many people as possible. To participate in the program, the apprentices applied for a special grant made available with CRF funds to work with a mentor and a cultural expert to complete a dress. Youth and mentors were taken on field trips to gather seasonal materials, attended classes and workshops in their communities, and visited local museums to study and learn from historic examples. Classes emphasized the importance of dress regalia and the stories associated with them. Mentors and cultural experts received stipends for sharing their time, knowledge, and expertise. Each apprentice received an iPad mini to create a publicly available visual journal of their passage from novice to proficient dressmaker. Funds for dressmaking supplies — including deerskins, beads, and abalone — were made available to each apprentice, augmenting seasonal materials gathered and processed with their mentors and cultural experts. A major outcome was the bonding that took place among the three communities, as well as with other tribes, including the Yurok, Cow Creek Band of Umpqua, and the Klamath Tribe, who shared information about dressmaking. Community members were excited and inspired by the project and joined the girls and mentors in gathering bear grass in the high country. The Tribe received a $2,500 StoryCorps grant to travel to Ft. Bragg to gather abalone shells with a special use permit. Local museums offered docent services to allow the girls to see, up close, the fine work on older dresses. The group created a closed Facebook group. Two teams presented their dresses at the annual Tribal Reunion. Upon completion of all the dresses, awards will be given during at a special reception at the Karuk Tribe People’s Center.

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