Saturday, August 3, 2013

Yurok Spirituality

The Yurok people, living in their ancestral homes from Trinidad to the mouth of the Klamath, have retained, revitalized and reclaimed their indigenous religion and language. They dwelled along the coast of Northern California in harmony with the bountiful redwoods, Sitka spruce, and Douglas fir. A sense of animism pervades their  world--an animism that both endows personhood to individual crags, locations, trees and rivers and spurs a relational ethos to these spirited beings. The "New Animism", a term that encompasses a multitude of spiritual beliefs and rituals, from some Neopagans to Pantheists to adherents of African Traditional Religions, fits with the notion that relations among beings, broadly understood, has traction over a monistic worldview--the local precedes the global. So it is a wonderful thing that the Yurok are teaching their language in public schools in Northern California. A striking example of the Yurok relational way is the carving of redwood dugout canoes. The canoe displayed here is from the reconstructed Yurok village of Sumeg at Patrick's Point State Park. It was carved by the Yurok elder, Dewey George, and has carved ornaments depicting the heart, the two kidneys and the two lungs of the tree spirit.

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