by Camille Delany
On Thursday, Jan. 5 the Karuk Tribe’s Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam Sacred Lands (KASL) Act was signed into law, reestablishing the Karuk Tribe as the steward of about 1,000 acres of public land in Humboldt and Siskiyou counties.
The Karuk Tribe’s ancestral lands encompass over 1.48 million acres of Northern California and Southern Oregon. Currently, 95 percent of this territory is occupied by the United States Forest Service. This has resulted in the curtailing of Karuk cultural practices and traditions. Until now, Karuk people have had to request access through a Special Use Permit to perform ceremonies on their sacred lands. Even so, their private ceremonies have been interrupted by individuals passing through the sacred areas on days of listed closure. Under the new legislation, the Karuk Tribe will have uninterrupted land access to hold their ceremonies.
The land returned Jan. 5 includes many sacred sites. Á’uuyich, a mountain at the confluence of the Salmon and Klamath rivers, is the center of the world for the Karuk people. The Act’s namesakes, Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam, are also sites of celebration and worship. The historic village of Katimiîn is the site of the Tribe’s world renewal ceremony, and Ameekyáaraam is where multiple sacred dances continue to be performed as they have been for time immemorial.
“We never again have to fight federal and state agencies for the right to hold our sacred ceremonies without disturbance at Katimiîn and Ameekyáaraam,” Karuk Executive Director Josh Saxon said in a Jan. 6 press release. “Returning our center of the world protects our inherent responsibility to pass Karuk culture and customs down to the next generation.”