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In 1908, two young women traveled from New Jersey to Northern California, where they spent the next two years living with the Karoks, “bow-and-arrow Indians [who] had no knowledge of textiles or pottery.” They kept a written record of their days there, and their appreciation for the customs of the native population is an antidote to the prejudice they met among the white descendants of the 1852 gold rush. They were extremely brave, often risking their lives, yet their account is delightful in its self-deprecating humor and, above all, their deep attachment to the individuals with whom they lived.
In 1908 two young women—the authors of this book—accepted Indian Service appointments as field matrons for the Karok Indians in the Klamath and Salmon River country of northern California. Although the area had been the scene of a gold rush some fifty years earlier, they write in the foreword, "the social life of the Indian—what he believed and the way he felt about things—was very little affected by white influence. The older Indians still had the spaced tatoo marks on their forearms, by which they could measure the length of the string of wampum required to buy a wife. . . . The white men we knew on the Rivers were pioneers of the Old West. . . . All around us was gold country, the land of the saloon and of the six-shooter. Our friends and neighbors carried guns as a matter of course, and used them on occasion. But the account given in these pages is not of these occurrences but of everyday life on the frontier in an Indian village, and what Indians and badmen did and said when they were not engaged in wiping out their friends and neighbors. It is also the account of our own two years in Indian country where, in the sixty-mile stretch between Happy Camp and Orleans, we were the only white women, and most of the time quite scared enough to satisfy anybody."