Traditional practices that have been passed down for thousands of years. Today, the Yurok youth learn the skills of their ancestors through their tribal elders. Two workshops were set up in the Aawok Bonnie Green building in Eureka this Wednesday for the event labelled the Winter Break Workshop. The workshops included a mini bark skirt station and an acorn paddle station.
“There’s a number of different benefits to why we decided to have these workshops,” Shoshoni Gensaw-Hostler, the Youth Suicide Prevention Manager for the Yurok Tribe, said. “We want to really involve our youth within our culture. We want to be able to help them build a community, to acquire the skills that they need to be successful and promote wellness in their life.”
When the youth participate in these activities, they not only benefit their own tribe in the continuation of its traditional skills and resources. But also benefit themselves through building community and their own sense of identity.
“Our bark skirts are used in ceremony and everyday wear also,” Shoshoni explains. “There’s a significance, specifically with the girl’s coming-of-age ceremonies. So, it’s giving them skills so that [we hope] they apply in their own personal lives when it’s that time for them.”
“For the acorn paddles,” she said. “Our acorns feed our people. It’s a very staple part of who we are. The acorn paddle helps to create the acorns that will feed our community. It’s a gift and a skill that keeps giving back.”
We spoke to a few of the youth present. Zabrina and Nia, who worked the bark skirt station, had this to say.
“We were learning how to put [the bark] in water and getting it wet.” Zabrina said, excitedly.
“And we were learning about the ceremony.” Nia quiped.
“And we were learning to scrap [the bark] with scissors.” Zabrina added.
I asked Nia to elaborate on what they learned about the ceremony.
“A girl has to spend a few days away from her family,” she said. “She gets marked on her heart for having a strong heart and on her back for strong shoulder blades. She had one on her head too to be connected to the animal world or spirit world.”
This has been Matthew Taylor with Redwood News.