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Old growth forest near Orleans, California





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Jimmy4 titles.jpg

Respecting nature, preserving and protecting the sacred sites, the plants, the animals and fish in their natural environments, keeping the waters and air clean, and "cleaning up our own back yards" 

Click to see PEOPLE

Click for the different MEANINGS of the name Walking Backwards

Click to see VIDEOS

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"Many years ago our people lived close to nature. Nature not only provided an adequate abundance of resources but it also brought the people something to do. Káruk men would get up early, jump in the river and start the day, whether it was the building of a sweat house, the making of arrows, the stretching of bows, fishing, hunting and trapping, dressing and smoking meat, mending, or preparing for ceremonies. They understood their family’s boundaries and would conduct most of their hunting, fishing, trapping, and the collecting of medicinal herbs and plants, within those areas. 

"Women and children brought water up from the river and collected firewood. The women also cooked, took care of the children and the elders, picked herbs, berries, iris, hazel sticks, acorns, made clothing and ceremonial regalia, footwear and baskets. Baskets always needed mending.

"Today, the children have little knowledge about how their ancestors used the natural environment in their daily lives - without destroying it! That’s why it is so important that we teach them about their culture, about how our people lived in the 'old days'. We need to take the children out into the mountains, help them to learn about the plants and the animals, teach them their ancestral language, sacred songs and dances, and share the creation stories with them. We need to show them that it's possible to live in balance with the natural environment. Once they understand this, they'll bring this knowledge forward into the future, for their own children. They can be proud that this is their heritage." 


- Frank Thom, Káruk Language Teacher



Sacramento River, California  Photo © John Veltri


With easy access to an ample bounty of salmon, eel, wildlife, berries, nuts and medicinal plants from the bays, rivers, valleys, high deserts, wetlands and surrounding mountains, the indigenous peoples of what is now far Northern California and Southern Oregon were blessed with very simple, healthy, relatively peaceful lifestyles. Ancient Native forest management practices included the use of control fires to burn brush and promote the healthy regrowth of forests.

Traditional cedar plank house

Port Orford Cedar

Káruk families traditionally lived in plank houses that were made from Port Orford Cedar and dug into the ground. Known for its strength and resistance to disease and decay, Port Orford Cedar is found in Oregon 

and throughout the valleys of California's Klamath Mountains. Houses of “planks” were (are) also made for ceremonies, such as in the construction a Káruk sweat house, or to be used during sickness or death. The tops of these houses are often removed during various healing rituals.  -  Frank Thom


Roots such as keesh-wuuf (above) were chewed, smoked, used in medicinal teas, in ceremony, and used for everyday smudging 


Cedar takes away negativity as it burns, sage purifies and lifts the spirit, sweet grass helps people feel rooted, and the burning of kish-wuff, also called ich-nish [above], brings positivity and promotes balance.         

- Ronald Griffman 

(Káruk/Shasta/Yurok/Rogue River/Modoc/Pit River)

Listen to nature...

Talk to the water 

Talk to the wind...

The water and the wind 

are listening. 

Sing them your song!

They can hear you! 

Listen to what they say. 

- Káruk medicine man 

Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom

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South Fork of the Sacramento River (above) looking east to Mount Shasta, California, 

Charlie Thom's legendary purification sweat lodge ceremonial site  Photo © John Veltri

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Dip net fishing on the Klamath River at Ishi Pishi Falls with Káruk brothers Jerry & Ken Brink   Photo by Terray Sylvester 

• The Káruk once fished for salmon and other fish at over 120 village sites along the Klamath and Salmon Rivers. Today, Káruk dip net salmon fishing is limited to a single site, Ishi Pishi Falls, near present day Somes Bar, California.

• Dip net fishermen use 12 foot long poles with a net attached to scoop fish out of the water. It is dangerous, difficult work! 

• Historically, twine dip fishing nets were made from vines and iris stems. After

twisting and curing, the twine becomes strong enough to hold large, heavy fish.

• Chinook or King Salmon is the largest species of salmon in the Pacific. Adult fish range in size from 24 to 58 inches, averaging 10 to 50 pounds.

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Sandy Bar Bob with his net (Káruk),1913  Photo: Grace Nicholson Collection

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Klamath River wilderness, home to the "káruk áraar", the Káruk UpRiver People  Photo © Marguerite Lorimer



Songs from the rivers flow within my heart. My ancestors sang like that, when it was their time. They taught me to sing and dance for all the world, to keep the old ways of living alive.


Sitting quietly, ever listening, the winds bring melody to help my present days flow. I hear a riffle that makes a beat. Then comes an eagle, hawk, or blue jay, birds that balance the orchestra with their song. The four-legged, brushing by in a nearby tree, hears my song from long ago.


I sing to bring forth our beautiful káruk language, I sing songs of prayer for today’s people of the rivers called Home. Our songs will never die!


Oh, Great Spirit, guide me, as you guide the river wild. Yôotva, yôotva, yôotva...   


-  Franklin R Thom, Káruk language teacher

The following WATER MEDITATION VIDEOS were created to exemplify the precious, life-giving beauty of water in Mount Shasta's incredibly rich - and constantly threatened - bioregion.

Káruk medicine man Charlie "Red Hawk" Thom (1928-2013) shares his prayer for the Whole World

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