Featured Project

Ka’m-t’em: A Journey Toward Healing

Dr. Kishan Lara-Cooper

Many generations ago, along the Klamath River, there lived a wise woman who wove the most beautiful baskets known to humankind. Her baskets were woven so tightly that water could not penetrate them. She was aging and had many experiences to share. Through prayer, she began to weave a basket for the people. The wise woman worked day after day, weaving, praying, and singing. As her strong hands moved gracefully over her materials, she shared a story to be retold, a song to be sung again, and a lesson to be learned. When she finished, she had created a large beautiful basket bowl. She called this basket Ka’m-te’m1 because it held the treasures of the people.

In a Yurok village at Bluff Creek, the woman placed the basket in the water where two rivers join together, and stood silent as the basket began its journey. The basket seemed to tip-toe across the gentle breakers; it moved along more quickly as it hit the swift currents and swirled ever so purposeful into the eddies. Round and round, the basket turned through the trials and tribulations of the water and then burst free into the swift, shallow flow of the river. All life that swam below watched with great interest.

Although the villagers lived within their own unique environment, each village anticipated the basket’s presence, for they knew the old woman understood the human need for knowledge and contribution. As such, the people picked up the basket, rejoiced in the lessons, and then they too added prayers and allowed the basket to continue its journey. After many stops, the basket reached Requa, the mouth of the Klamath River. It made three final spins, reflecting a ceremonial journey, and drifted its way over the rough water of the river’s mouth and into the belly of the Pacific Ocean. All that the basket had to offer made its final journey into the sunset, where it exists eternally.

K’am-te’m: A Journey toward Healing was inspired by this piece of history. Just as the woven basket was made to share knowledge, one purpose of this book is to expose you, the reader, to Indigenous knowledge, the journey to protect it, and the healing that occurs through transmitting it to younger generations. The roots of this book began when I interviewed my 84-year-old father as part of my dissertation, and he suggested I make a book. I thought he meant simply a transcription of our interview, but what he intended was far greater. He meant a book, one that could be used in classrooms, in trainings, or as a mirror of goodness and knowledge in which Indigenous people could see themselves reflected in true, healing, and positive ways. That idea planted the seeds for this book, a project involving almost two dozen authors and written from an Indigenous perspective.

So often, Indigenous children and communities are plagued with a dominant narrative that depicts Indigenous people as deficient, unhealthy, or inadequate. Professionals who work with Indigenous children and families are often inundated with discussions of the alarming social indicators of Indigenous communities, including increased rates of suicide, alcoholism, and violence. Inhaling the social indicators of Indigenous communities and spitting out these statistics as characteristics of Indigenous identity minimizes the worth of Indigenous children and families and often negatively influences their own self-identity.

This book presents Indigenous testimonials of resistance, renewal, advocacy, resilience, beauty, and awakening. For example, a lead plaintiff in Lyng v. NICPA, a case that went to the Supreme Court, shares in-depth Indigenous knowledge and “behind the scenes” influences of the case; a fluent Tolowa speaker describes the impact of colonial education on language loss and his personal journey as a first-language English speaker learning to speak his heritage language; and a regalia maker describes the impact of genocide on communal relationships, the natural environment, and Indigenous spirituality, while relating the journey of reclaiming Indigenous identity through the process of regalia-making. In the sharing and in the listening of Indigenous testimonials, we are reminded of the beauty and the strength within us. The precious knowledge shared in this book inspires reclamation of identity and encourages readers to seek, search, embrace, and value their own truth.

All of the royalties from this book will be forwarded to the Ka’m-t’em scholarship for Indigenous California youth.

[1] Kishan Lara. “Pick up the Basket”. Wicazo Sa Review 23, no. 2 (2008): 103.

What People Are Saying

  • Woman walking beach

Ka'm-t'em: A Journey Toward Healing

Book
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This book incorporates the testimonials of 27 California Indigenous leaders. The precious knowledge shared in this book inspires reclamation of identity and encourages readers to seek, search, embrace, and value their own truth.

Ka'm-t'em: A Journey Toward Healing

Ka’m-t’em Video Project- A team of youth will be interviewing Ka’m-t’em authors and developing a 20 minute video that highlights the key messages from their testimonials. The video will be launched at an event in May 2020 and then posted to the Kamtem-IndigenousKnowledge.com website.