Leland Donahue

Karuk dip net making

We at ACTA were saddened to hear of the passing of Leland “Junie” Donahue in January of 2008.

In the region of the upper Klamath River, local families maintain Karuk culture.  Some of the traditions that manifest culture include the brush dance, world renewal, and other ceremonies around the salmon fishery cycle.  Salmon fishing is essential to livelihood and is tied to the Karuk understanding of creation.  Dip net poles are constructed of 15 to 18 foot long stripped branches from local fir trees, and four by eight-foot nets are woven into twine woven from wild iris.  One must learn the appropriate prayers and songs for harvesting salmon.

Leland “Junie” Donahue learned Karuk fishing traditions from his grandparents when he was a boy.  Now he is one of the last tribal elders who make traditional fishing nets and who speak the old style of Karuk language.

In 2000, Leland was a master artist in ACTA’s Apprenticeship Program with his apprentice and great-nephew David “Levi” Tripp.  During the apprenticehsip, Leland instructed Levi in dip net making.  Levi, a cultural consultant to a Karuk youth group, teaching language, stories, ceremonies, singing, and regalia making, says, “As long as fish are running, I will always be a fisherman… I will continue to pass on the lessons of dip net making through my family traditions.”  Leland says of Levi, “Under my direction, Levi can learn this art and master dip making at an early age.  With a couple of years of experience to develop the necessary skills, Levi can be a valuable resource for future generations.”