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Interview with Franklin Thom
~ Samantha Anglen
This year I had the honor of meeting with
Franklin Thom Karuk elder in culture, and
language. We met at the Double Tree Hotel
on October 28th, 2017 outside of a California
Rural Indian Health Board Inc. (CRIHB)
conference. If you would like to learn more
about these conferences, or are thinking about
attending please visit the website at https://crihb.org/events/action~agenda/page_offset~-1/request_format~html/.
I asked Franklin what had happened here, and he responded:
Franklin: We danced a demonstration healing brush dance with fifteen children last night, and the CRIHB conference happening this morning. We do this dance to stomp out evil, and help heal the sick we fallow by the thirteen moons on how we do our ceremony. We dance before the Pomo Tribe http://www.mendorailhistory.org/1_redwoods/pomo.htm, and the higher ups in the different nations gathering.
Samantha: How did you come to learn your language and culture?
Franklin: I was fourteen years old and Alcatraz encouraged me to learn my language. Before the occupation of Alcatraz, they didn’t allow us to learn our language. I didn’t start learning until the late 70’s mid 80’s. You would get into trouble before that, if you were learning the language. The language is beauty, and when you can describe it around you it is so beautiful and it becomes real.
Shortly before dawn on November 20, 1969, 89 American Indians boarded boats in Sausalito, California, and made a five-mile trip across foggy San Francisco Bay to Alcatraz Island. Upon landing, they declared the former prison Indian land “by right of discovery” and demanded the U.S. government provide funding to turn it into a Native American cultural center and university. When their terms were ignored, the activists spent more than 19 months occupying the island in defiance of the authorities. Federal officials finally removed the last of the protestors from “the Rock” in June 1971, but not before the occupation had started a national dialogue about the plight of American Indians. (E. Andrews 2014).
Samantha: Tell me about the children you teach within the Karuk Tribe https://www.ihs.gov/california/index.cfm/health-programs/northern-california/karuk-tribe/
Franklin: Now we are trying to catch the kids ears to get them involved. It makes you feel like you are overseeing what they are doing. I love giving them instruction, and they love doing exactly what I asked them to do. The children are so enthusiastic about taking in the scene of the area. There are medicine woman and men. Fasting starts weeks before the dance. A young man gets picked from the mountain. Then he must dance with the girl, and she must fast. Both must be isolated during the fasting time before the dance.
Now we are getting involved with the mountain dance. It’s a stomping dance. It is called the Salmon ceremony. They fast for thirty days. Everyone involved with the dance fasts for ten days prior and ten days after. Each person has an important role in the dance, and it is all natural. (Franklin has a comity and he created a lodge to do this dance.)
I’ve been involved with the native American culture since 1970 I became curious because of the occupation of Alcatraz island. We have a Karuk Language Revitalization team to keep our infancies to get to the young people as fast as we can. When I see Ivan caring the torch when he is only seven years old a five and three-year-old singing it makes me so happy. I’ve been doing demonstrations for 20 years now about four generations of kids.
I care for the terminally ill I reach out to them and try to bring them hope. This is our fourth year in Sacramento with CRIHB. We perform for head start, and we are now going to Happy Camp, California, Saturday. My community spoils me they bought me a nice little laptop. I am 61 years young, so I like to walk trails. I fell on a trail recently, and slide down some rocks. My face was bleeding, my head, my body was cut up, but that doesn’t stop me. I’m working for balance in the community. People are in the world for money, so I must be here for spirituality. My wealth are my people, our knowledge, and ways!
Here are some words and a song from our elder Franklin Thom:
Image Courtesy the Author & Franklin Thom