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/ A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
8 / A W A R E N E S S M A G A Z I N E
J A N U A R Y / F E B R U A R Y 2 0 1 1
his aorta that caused him to
lose half his blood. Evidently
though, the prayers were able
to `change the face' of the
haunting vision of death that
shadowed Mavis for months.
The Karuk have a saying,
`Life is good, but it isn't easy.'
The clash of cultures that be-
gan with the gold rush one
hundred and sixty years ago
changed their way of life for-
ever. It has taken a lot of for-
titude to rebuild since their
tribe was decimated from both
outright slaughtering attacks
to immune deficiencies that
caused a significant die off of
their small population.
The main diseases proving
to be most deadly after initial
contact with the new settlers
were measles and chicken pox.
The Karuk in the area didn't
have good defenses to ward
off the influx of gold prospec-
tors or the diseases they car-
ried, and between the 1880's
and 1920, their population
dipped down to a low of about
800 from earlier estimates of
1500-2700 in the 1850's. The
Natives who lived have been
intermingling with the settlers
since the European influx.
While it proved a good thing
for both populations to share
their genes in terms of immu-
nity, it has been more precari-
ous for the Karuk to maintain
the continuity of their tribal
ways while living in Klamath
River country. Along with the
European infusion came a lot
of judgment that Native ways
were inferior.
"With drugs and stuff that
started in the 1970's and the
drinking that started when the
miners came, it's been a strug-
gle to keep the culture alive."
The Karuk have had their prob-
lems, like other people, but
the temptations of the white
world have posed a particular
threat to maintaining balance
in the Karuk way of life from
the perspective of this elder
tribal member.
While the original plan for
Mavis' medicine-woman train-
Mavis...
(Continued from page 7)
ing wasn't realized, her broad-
er role of picking up her pow-
er was, and she came into her
purpose to help make the
world a happy place, a much
needed offering to the Karuk
community. When asked what
this looks like, Mavis offers,
"All I do is just talk to people.
They come in and visit like
ordinary people. Some are
looking for something like
peace of mind from what is
distracting them, and I spend
more time with them."
This humble heroine de-
murs when recounting her
contributions. As a medicine
person, she has spiritual pow-
er that she uses to help others
become more focused in their
lives because she sees that
they can use some support.
While Mavis often works in
subtle ways as a medicine
woman, she has also been out-
spoken about injustice where
she felt the need was calling
her. The local Indian wisdom is
to `live very carefully,' yet at
times Mavis stepped out be-
cause she felt much harm was
being done, even though she
was warned it could be quite
dangerous to her own life.
In the 70's there was a time
when the Forest Service began
spraying herbicides on broad-
leaf plants as part of a plan to
make more room for conifers.
At the time Mavis worked as a
community health representa-
tive at the tribal clinic, and her
role shifted to become an en-
vironmental activist in favor of
the community's health as she
realized what was happening.
Mavis' husband Darrell used
to call her `Earth Mama' and it
particularly suited her role in
this situation.
She got to witness directly
the evidence that herbicides
were having a dramatic ef-
fect; "It came to our attention
that they were spraying the
hillsides and in the morning
it would come down into the
valley." Odd symptoms be-
gan cropping up in copious
ways. "I was telling the doctor,
something's going on -- three
hundred bladder infections?
Then mothers and pre-school
kids started getting these little
sores with pustules.