A Dictionary and Text Corpus of the Karuk Language

Julia Starritt


The biography of Julia Starritt (nee Pearch) below is based on a conversation with her granddaughter Claudette Rogers (nee Starritt; Indian name kêeshkakara) and great granddaughter Dixie Rogers recorded by Line Mikkelsen at the CA State Indian Museum in Sacramento, CA on March 4th, 2017. The recording is 64 minutes and has many details not included in the written summary below.

Claudette and Dixie identify the people in the 1948 family photo as follows (missing in the photo is sister Nadine Starritt; right-click on image to view it in full sixe):

Top row: Julia Ann Starritt (JuJu); unknown adult; Ramona Starritt (nee Tripp); Claudette Starritt (Detsy) Middle row: Roberta Starritt (Birdy); Grandma Julia Starritt (nee Pearch); Robert P. Starritt (Daddy) Bottom row: Walter Starritt (Wally, cousin); Harwood Starritt (Woody); Barthel Starritt (Bart) Front row: Tippy; Victor Starritt (Vic)

Back of photo: Identifying notes by Ramona Starritt.

Julia Starritt was born in 1874 and she passed away in July of 1958. Her Indian name was hánuun. Her mother was Emma Pearch, a Karuk woman from Ka’tim’îin whose Indian name was sárukhinva, and her father was John Pearch. John Pearch grew up in Ohio, and came to California during the gold rush. He did a lot of mining at Pearch Creek, which is named after him.

Julia was probably born at Chîinach Flat, near Orleans. Emma Pearch moved there when she married Mr. John Pearch. Julia had four siblings: her older sister, Elsie Young (nee Pearch), her sister Dolly Nelson (nee Pearch), her younger brother Eli Pearch, and a sibling that passed away as an infant. They grew up at Chîinach Flat and stayed living there after they married. Chîinach Flat was an early mining claim and Chîinach Creek runs through it. Julia married Robert Starritt, who was a gold miner from Little Bass River, Nova Scotia. They built a home below Mr. and Mrs. Pearch at Chîinach Flat. After some years of gold mining in Karuk country, Robert Starritt started a sawmill in Orleans. Julia would cook for the workers in the camp. She was a very hard worker, from early morn to dusk.

Julia and Robert had seven sons and two daughters. Their sons were Ben, Calvin, Charles (Charlie), Ed, Paul, Percy, and Robert. Their daughters were Elsie, who was named after her aunt, and a child who passed away early. The children all grew up in the home at Chîinach Flat.

Claudette is the daughter of Robert Starritt Jr. and Ramona Starritt (nee Tripp). Robert Jr. was a master carpenter. Claudette too grew up at Chîinach Flat in a house below Julia and Robert Sr.'s house. Robert Sr. died when Claudette was a baby (around 1940), so Claudette doesn't remember him very well. After her husband passed away, Julia Starritt lived by herself in the home at Chîinach Flat until shortly before her death. She never remarried. She passed away at her daughter Elsie’s house in Arcata in July of 1958 at the age of 84.

As a child Claudette would often go visit her grandmother Julia, as would her brothers and sisters. This was the mid-1940s and Julia was an Elder by then. When her grandchildren came to visit, Julia would often be busy in her garden. She had both a flower and a vegetable garden. She had built a rock wall around the flower garden. In her flower garden she had violets and all sorts of beautiful flowers. She loved her garden very much and spent a lot of time in it. There was a huge redwood tree in her garden surrounded by daffodils. When the daffodils were blooming she sat on her back porch and would admire them. She had a chicken house and Claudette would gather eggs there for her grandmother. She would also help her in the garden. Julia always had a dog at the house. Julia had other grandchildren on the other side of the creek and they would also visit her. It was a nice place to grow up.

Julia was a homebody. She didn’t travel much; few people did back then. She enjoyed cooking. She made fresh lemonade every day during the summer. She would butcher her own chickens, pluck the feathers off, singe it with a piece of burning paper, clean, and cook it. That was the way the families up there did it. After her husband died, Julia received a small old-age pension, but she was mostly self-sufficient with garden and chickens and her sons and grandsons fishing and hunting and sharing their game (mostly deer) and catch (mostly steelhead) with her.

Julia would work in her house and garden till about 3 o’clock. Then she would put on a dress and earrings and sit on her back porch. Julia was literate. We don’t know where she went to school; her older sister Elsie went to school back East.

The miners had brought in modern things like pots and pans, and Julia had those at her house along with other conveniences including running water, a gas washing machine, a radio, and an icebox. Her sons would bring her ice from the store in Orleans. Later in life, she got a refrigerator. She did not have a car. Her sister's Elsie’s husband P.L. Young had a car, one of the few cars in Orleans at the time.

Julia’s son Ben became a football player. He played for the Green Bay Packers in Wisconsin in the late 30s and early 40s, so wasn’t around to help her, but her other children were. On Sundays when the Packers were playing, Julia would have her radio on and she would say “That’s my son Ben!”. When he was older, Ben came back to his home area. That was after his mother had passed.

Julia’s mother, Emma, was a weaver. Claudette doesn’t remember seeing Julia weave, but it could simply be because Julia was busy raising children and cooking in the logging camp. Emma Pearch also outlived her husband and Claudette remembers Emma as an elderly lady living in a small cabin close to her daughter Elsie and son-in-law P.L. Young’s house.

Julia grew up speaking Karuk. Even though her father didn’t speak the language, Karuk was still spoken all around her, including by her maternal grandmother, her mother Emma and her older sister Elsie. Julia’s husband and children did not speak Karuk, but her daughter-in-law, Ramona Starritt (Claudette’s mother), did. She grew up with the language and Ramona and Julia spoke Karuk together. Especially as Julia got older and was going back to her childhood, she appreciated speaking Karuk with her daughter-in-law. Early on, Ramona worked with Julia cooking in the logging camp and the two of them remained very close up until Julia passed away.

After Julia passed away, her house burned down - no fire department at Chîinach Flat! Later on CalTrans built a road through Chîinach Flat, which changed the area for good. Robert Jr. and Ramona built a new house at Chîinach, below the old one.

Julia was a nice, sweet lady. She had a Karuk mother and a white father and grew up speaking both Karuk and English. She loved her tribal heritage.

Texts associated with Julia Starritt

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Year Title Text ID
1957   "Swearing" WB_KL-0
1957   "Coyote's Journey" WB_KL-04
1957   "Coyote Goes to a War Dance" WB_KL-06
1957   "Coyote Goes to the Sky" WB_KL-08
1957   "Coyote Steals Fire" WB_KL-10
1957   "Coyote Marries His Own Daughter" WB_KL-16
1957   "The Hair in the Soup" WB_KL-21
1957   "The Bear and the Deer" WB_KL-32
1957   "How the Rube Family Was Named" WB_KL-66
1957   "A Quack Doctor" WB_KL-67
1957   "Salmon Fishing" WB_KL-69
1957   "Making Acorn Soup" WB_KL-73
1957   "Soaking Acorns" WB_KL-75
1957   "The Sweathouse" WB_KL-76
1957   "The Living-house" WB_KL-77
1957   "The Shinny Game" WB_KL-78
1957   "The Sucking Doctor" WB_KL-80
1957   "The Sweating Doctor" WB_KL-81
1957   "Indian Clothes" WB_KL-86
1957   "Tattoos" WB_KL-87
1957   "A Birthday Party" WB_KL-89
1957   "Smoke" WB_KL-90
1957   "A Blow-out" WB_KL-91
1957   "Responses to Pictures" WB_KL-92