Monday, January 10, 2005

Coming Home: Medicine returns

Julian Lang, who was introducing the speakers, then commented that he recently heard of a Yurok elder who remembered the Wiyot jump dance as being very much like the Yurok's, with a small difference that she demonstrated. "So I wanted to share that with the Wiyot people," Julian said, "to let you know that there are people who know how those dances went. There are people who can help in that way."

Next was Melody George, Hupa prayer-maker, who sang a beautiful song and offered a prayer in Hupa and then in English. "May the Wiyot begin to remember that which they need to remember, and do that which they need to do. May the acorn eaters in this room be able to help them learn again to do that which they need to do, and to teach their young that which they need to teach them. They are home, and medicine returns to the island."

Alme Allen spoke on behalf of the Karuk, congratulating the Wiyot on a special and historic day, and "a very proud day for Indian people." Then state assembly representative Patty Berg spoke, a group of Tolowa children from Crescent City danced in honor of the day, and then the official moment came as Cheryl and Mayor La Vallee signed the documents, with members of Eureka City Council and the Wiyot Tribal Council assembled around them. The crowd stood and cheered in a hail of flashbulbs. There were a lot of cameras of all kinds.

Then gifts were exchanged: the Mayor presented Cheryl with a clay pot of earth from Indian Island, while Cheryl gave him and each member of City Council several small gifts, including canned salmon (the salmon supplied by the Yurok and canned by Leona Wilkinson), and a medicine pouch containing periwinkle, which the Wiyot used as money ("'penny-winkle' we called it when we were kids," Cheryl recalled), an acorn ("so you never go hungry"), sacred tobacco and "Wiyot medicine to keep you strong."

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