Skip to main content

As with American Indians in other areas, the Northern California Indians traditionally viewed human beings, plants, animals, and objects as living things—"people"—who were basically equals. The relationship between human beings and animals, for example, was not one of exploitation but of reciprocity. Human beings respected the animal people and performed certain rites for them while the animals provided human beings with food and skins.

The non-human people—the trees, the rocks, the animals, the mountains, the springs, and others—are not only alive, but they have certain special powers and these powers can be shared with human beings when humans form a spiritual friendship and alliance with these other people. Traditionally, it was (and often, still is) the job of each individual to seek out and establish relations with the spiritual forces that were to become his or her special ally.

Among the Indian people of Northern California, dreams are the key to the spiritual world. It is in dreams that people meet the supernaturals and the spirits of birds and animals who can give them special gifts of knowledge and power. In some instances young people would go through special training and then seek a vision with the sponsorship of an elder. In other instances, the vision would simply come to people while swimming in a lake, river, or ocean.

The things that happen in dreams are just as important as those things which happen when one is awake. From the perspective of the California Indians, dreaming does not take place entirely in the mind, but is a type of communication, a way of gaining knowledge. Dreams are often more important than the events that happen when one is awake: dreams are the direct contact with the spirit world.

With regard to the ceremonies of the Northern California Indian nations, one of the most important was the World Renewal or Big Time. Among the Indians of Northern California – Karuk, Yurok, Hupa, Tolowa, Wiyot – this ceremony involved a series of complex dances, speeches, and displays of high status items. The purpose of this ceremony was to renew the world and to assure stability between the annual ceremonies. The death and rebirth of the world can be seen in the ceremonial rebuilding of ceremonial structures such as the sweathouse, ceremonial house, and dance areas.  

Among the Yurok, the World Renewal ceremony was traditionally carried out each spring and each fall. The ceremonies were held at specific historic spots along the Klamath River. As a part of the ceremony, the Wogé Spirits (the pre-human inhabitants of the earth) were given tobacco and angelica root which were thrown into the fire as offerings. The World Renewal rites were held to insure bountiful crops, abundant salmon and deer, and to prevent disasters such as earthquakes, falling stars, illness, floods, and the end of the world.

Among the Yurok, the Hupa, and the Karuk the White Deerskin Dance was an occasion for displaying antique obsidian blades and albino deerskins. During this dance albino or oddly colored deerskins were held aloft on wooden poles. Among the Hupa, the carefully prepared and decorated deerskins used in the ten-day ceremony are considered to be tribal rather than personal property.    

The Karok would traditionally hold their Jumping Dance at the place where the salmon had been created. The dance is held to prevent sickness, to bring happiness, and to bring good weather. According to one elder:

"When man and the world become unbalanced, then we must dance the great dances, rhythmically stamping upon the earth, exchanging with it and balancing all that brings health, strength, food, honor, good luck, and happiness for all."

For the Jumping Dance, the dancers wear elaborate outfits, including headdresses with woodpecker scalps attached to the forehead band and topped with a feathered plume. Among the Yurok the participants would wear a headdress containing about 70 redheaded woodpecker scalps. In addition to the headdress, the dancers also wear dentalia shell necklaces and a deerskin skirt and they carry a Jump Dance basket in the right hand.

The Brush Dance was an important curing ceremony and was given for curing a sick child. During this ceremony, the roof planks were removed from the house during the dance so that people could watch from the outside (houses were dug down into the ground). The Brush Dance is also an occasion for community entertainment and courtship.

An important element in the curing is the waving of sticks of burning sugar pine pitchwood over the baby while singing. This helps the baby grow stronger.  

Yurok House

Native American Netroots Web BadgeCross Posted at Native American Netroots

 An ongoing series sponsored by the Native American Netroots team focusing on the current issues faced by American Indian Tribes and current solutions to those issues.


Originally posted to Ojibwa on Sat Sep 11, 2010 at 07:38 AM PDT.

Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags


More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site