Following the Smoke
Basket Camp 2001

Orleans, California June 4-8, 2001

Hanging Out in Camp

Finally, I am getting my pictures and a few words up here about Basket Camp.

Basket Camp, more officially called Following the Smoke, is part of the United States Department of Agriculture's Passport in Time (PIT) -- a volunteer program. This program is run in partnership with the Karuk Indigenous Basket Weavers, the Six Rivers National Forest, the Bureau of Land Management, the Karuk Tribe and the California Department of Transportation. If you have ever had any experience working with government agencies, you will share my amazement that this program ever got off the ground.

Ken Wilson is the "Heritage Resources Program Manager" (say that 10 times fast) for the Six Rivers National Forest and is the main coordinator for this project. He told us that 3 out of 4 years this has been the most popular project with over 100 applicants. The weavers choose the participants. Someone said there were 30 volunteers plus another 20-30 "extras" meaning people like me tagging along.

Downtown Orleans I'm not sure how to classify my role. I'm not a weaver. Mom, Auntie, BG and Erin weave. Lots of us have gathered and/or processed. Erin is also a botany student and working on hazel and burning for her research project. I'm the note taker. I have a lot of notes. Someday I will translate these notes into something. Well, something other than this. Stand by until then.

On Monday morning we sat around the campfire. The smoke kept drifting into my eyes and I finally gave up and moved to the side. Verna teased me for giving up but I will forever associate camping with dry, red eyes and a scratchy throat.

Brush Dance House Erin told Verna that if you spread your arms at the smoke and intone, "white rabbit" it will blow the other way. Verna made Erin demonstrate for her. Verna moved to the edge of her seat to wait for the smoke to move towards her. We all went back to visiting and doing our thing around camp.

Not too long later the smoke finally shifted and Verna stood up and shouted "white elephant!" and then looked at Erin to see if she did it right. Everybody laughed but the smoke did move.

Later we went to the Brush Dance House and Leaf Hillman talked to us about the ceremony and the dance grounds -- which is a recent land to trust acquisition for the Tribe. He talked about a lot of different things -- the problems of being a tribe without a land base, access to ceremonial resources, such as the Port Orford Cedar, the controversy over conducting a ceremony regardless of obstacles vs. conducting a ceremony "authentically." It's tough to summarize these discussions briefly without making them sound trivial.

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Posted: 10.07.01