Spirit River

An idea took hold of me and wouldn’t let go, and in 2016, I began researching and writing SPIRIT RIVER. The fictional story was first inspired by a collection of poems about the Klamath region written by my maternal grandfather. Once the characters introduced themselves more fully, it was their story, and they guided me. I conducted research in Yreka, Happy Camp, and Somes Bar, California, the central locations in the novel. Since May 2020, I have worked with the Karuk Tribe to move the manuscript through its review process. The Karuk people’s story and connection to the Klamath River are crucial to the lives of Lahda, Weitchpec, and the other Karuk characters in SPIRIT RIVER. 

Excerpts

“Finally, Mount Shasta loomed above them as they rode down from the mountains into the valley and toward Yreka. The clouds had amassed, shrouding the top of Úytaahkoo as the Karuk called Shasta. Their word meant ‘White Mountain.’

At the moment, they could see the slopes warmed pink in the setting sun. Bill had never grown tired of this view. It was a beacon that reminded him he was almost home.”

“The Three-Brothers-Weitchpec, Sal, Eddy, and Buck, along with Cousin George were waiting at the family cabin as Bill and Weitchpec sauntered into Ka’tim’íin. The dozen or so surrounding houses made of wide, hand-planed wood planks, gray from exposure, blended into the rain, adding to the mono-colored scene. Each small cabin-like structure supported a stone fireplace on one outside wall. Clouds hunkered down like a low ceiling above the rooftops as the storm railed. The Salmon River was running high, and Bill predicted it would soon hit flood stage.”  

“The Klamath: Sacred

            Ka’tim’íin, the most sacred Karuk village, is also called Thivthaneen-áachip, ‘the center of the world.’ Near where my river sister, The Salmon, joined me, I watched the busy hamlet. Above my rapids, I looked on as they hosted the World Renewal Ceremony around the time before the leaves fall.

           It was there that I heard the prayers of the Karuk-arara’ ‘Upriver People’ from my shores. They appealed to the ancient ones to give them abundance, healing for the sick, and protection. Through prayer, tribute, and song, they thanked the immortals for the salmon, eel, and plants for medicine. They prayed to heal the earth and their sacred lands, lands they’ve known since before I was born a river. 

           Out of respect for my river spirit, they named me Ishkêesh–Klamath River. Trails and mountains also harbor souls. Their spirits, too, were honored by the Karuk and named. The path called ‘Ishipishihavniinach’ which means ‘where it comes down from above.’ Another path, called Iníinach’ ‘little river crossing place.’ 

           Each sacred trail held meaning and offered gifts – bountiful berries, a place to rest on a mountainside, a river crossing. For providing transport, these trails were blessed, like Karuk-arara blessed the salmon for giving its life so the people might eat. The ancient ones had provided each route, each plant, and animal for a reason. 

           The chúkchuuk, ‘osprey,’ respected me for the bestowal of fish as did the Karuk, who honored me for the same. To not acknowledge these offerings, not name them, and be thankful was to disrespect the Ikxaréeyav, ‘the immortals.’”