[…] The Karuk, whose name means "upriver" Indians, hold a stretch of the central course of the Klamath, the most like the Columbia River of any of California's streams. Along the banks of the central Klamath lived the Karuks, their villages of rows of well-built plank houses hugging the stream. Here they knew and named every rock and pool by the river, every gully and fallen tree upslope. With customs leaning on those of the downriver Indians, the Yuruk, and the somewhat more inaccessible Hupa, and with language on the other hand distantly related to that of the upriver Indians, the Shasta, neither of these relationships impressed the Karuk as it does the white investigator, and they regarded themselves as something quite sui generis, the one tribe who held the middle of the world and which followed rigidly the mandates of the Ikxareyavs, the Indians who lived in the country before the Karuk came and who have turned into birds, beasts, rocks, and ceremonies. Karuk myths have as their dramatis personae largely these same Ikxareyavs. The time that the Karuk came into the country and that the Ikxareyavs withdrew is imagined to be only a few generations ago, and those myths which do not deal with this ancient Ikxareyav status of the world usher in with no less imagination mythic animals that still exist; […] Every little detail of nature was apt to be explained by myth.
Acorns Have Hats
"The Acorn Maidens"
Once acorns were Ikxareyavs ("spirit people").
Then they told them:
"Ye are going to go, ye must all have nice hats, ye must weave them."
Then they started in to weave their hats.
"Ye must all wear good-looking hats."
Then all at once they told them suddenly:
"Ye would better go! Human is being raised."
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Black Oak Acorn did not finish her hat.
She picked up her big bowl basket.
And Tan Oak Acorn did not clean her hat
[did not clean off the projecting straws from the inside].
She just wore it, she turned it wrong side out. She finished it.
But Post Oak Acorn just finished her hat out good.
She cleaned it.
Then Tan Oak Acorn said:
"Would that I be the best acorn soup, though my hat is not cleaned!"
Then they went.
They spilled [from the Heavens] into Human's place.
Then they said: "Human will spoon us up."
They were Ikxareyavs too, they were Heavenly Ikxareyavs.
They shut their eyes and then they turned their faces into their hats when they came to this earth here.
That is the way the Acorns did.
Tan Oak Acorn wished bad luck toward Post Oak Acorn and Maul Oak Acorn, just because they had nice hats.
She was jealous of them. They wished her to be black. Nobody likes to eat Post Oak Acorn.
And Maul Oak Acorn does not taste good either, and is hard.
They [Post Oak Acorn and Maul Oak Acorn] do not taste good, [their] soups are black.
And Maul Oak Acorn is hard to pound.
They were all painted when they first spilled down.
Black Oak Acorn was striped.
When one picks it up on the ground it is still striped nowadays. It is still striped.
She was striped all over, that girl was.
But Tan Oak Acorn did not paint herself much,
because she was mad, because "my hat is not finished."
When they spilled down,
they turned their faces into their hats.
And nowadays they still have their faces inside their hats.
Harrington, J. Peabody. (1932).
Karuk Indian Myths. Washington:
U.S. Govt. print. off., Bureau of American Ethnology,
Bulletin 107, 1-2, 5.
Mona Kim is the Founder and Editor of Moowon, and the Creative Director of award-winning multidisciplinary design studio, Mona Kim Projects. The Moowon project is an extension of her background in co-curating and designing thematic museums and exhibitions for cultural institutions. Her work has been featured in The New York Times, WWD(Women's Wear Daily), The Creative Review, and in publications by Gestalten and The Art Institute of Chicago.