Bill To Restore Sacred Land to Karuk Tribe Passes Natural Resources Committee

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Rep. Jared Huffman’s (D-San Rafael) legislation H.R. 6032, the Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam Sacred Lands Act, passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee. The legislation would place federal lands located in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties in California into trust for the Karuk Tribe.

“Katimiîn and its surrounding acres are not only majestic, they are central to Karuk history, religion, traditions, and identity,” said Rep. Huffman. “Placing them in trust ensures that the Karuk culture and way of life can endure for future generations. Natural resource stewardship of land, wildlife, plants, and water is at the core of the Karuk people’s culture and identity. Yet, 95 percent 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. By passing this legislation out of the Natural Resources Committee, we are one step closer to returning sacred ground to the Karuk Tribe, correcting a historic injustice.”

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.  

Senators Padilla and Feinstein have sponsored a companion bill in the Senate (S.4439).