Karen Young-Lenk's Karuk / Klamath River Baskets 

This website is dedicated to my great-great-grandmother, Emma Pearch, a Karuk basket weaver.  She was a young girl when the first miners appeared on the Klamath River.  She later married miner John Pearch, after whom Pearch Creek and the Forest Service campground near Orleans, were named.

The Karuk villages stretched from the Orleans area upriver to the Happy Camp area, but their ancestral lands went into the Marble Mountains to the South and then up into Southern Oregon.

Historians say the Karuk People have lived in that area for 10,000 years, but the People's stories say they've been there since the Beginning.

It's taken an immense amount of respect and appreciation of their land for the Karuk people to be able to sustain themselves for so long in such a small geographical area.

Karen Young-Lenk is a Karuk basket weaver.  She uses the traditional methods and materials of the three Klamath River tribes: the Karuk, Yurok, and Hupa.



If you're looking for the Karuk Tribe, please use this link www.karuk.us


Please visit my blogs at:


Portfolio of Work - Click on the images for additional pages. 

    Baby Baskets


    Baby Rattles

    Tobacco / Trinket Baskets


    Hair Sticks


Recent Projects


This is a Jump Dance Basket.  This uniquely shaped basket is used exclusively in the Jump Dance which the Karuk's do once every year.  Few of these baskets are being made in these modern times with most of the baskets used today being generations - or even over a hundred years old.

This basket is made using willow sticks with spruce root weavers and then overlayed with black fern, white bear grass, and woodwardia fern dyed red with alder bark. 

Completed July 2013

click the images for larger versions





This is a Woman's Ceremonial Cap.  Like the Jump Dance Basket, few are being made today because of the complexity. 

My mentor, Wilverna Reece, and I received a Master/Apprentice grant from the Oregon Folklife Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program to help do this project. 

Completed July 2013

You can read more about this project on my blog at karukweavers.blogspot.com.

click the images for larger versions



Medallions are a favorite for making "wearables" including necklaces, hair ties, pins, and bolo ties.

These are made using hazel or willow sticks with spruce root weavers and then overlayed with black fern, white bear grass, and woodwardia fern dyed red with alder bark. 
Posted 6/7/2012.

Pair of hair-tie medallions




This baby basket is made from hazel sticks and wrapped with spruce root.   It's special because of the band of bear grass and woodwardia fern overlay.  This basket measures about 26" tall, 13" wide, and 6"-8" deep.     Posted 6/7/2012

click the images for larger versions





This baby basket is made from hazel sticks and wrapped with spruce root.    The life line for this basket is made using pine nuts, abalone shells, white quartz, clam shells, and colorful glass and plastic beads.  The baby is held in the basket by using strips of leather (or other material) wrapped through the basket weavings and tied in the front.  This basket measures about 27" tall, 15" wide, and 7" deep.  Of course, baby should always be watched because these decorations are small and could be swallowed.    Posted 11/22/2011

click the images for larger versions



This is a basket medallion necklace.  The basket is made from willow sticks and spruce root with white bear grass and reddish woodwardia fern overlayed.  The necklace is decorated with abalone shells, bear grass braids,pine nuts, and black obsidian beads.  The backing on the medallion and the neck strap are made from deer hide. 

click the images for larger versions





Karen with her great grandmother Elsie Pearch Young in 1962.  Elsie was the daughter of Emma Pearch and the original collector of the family basket collection, which is now called the Hover Collection at the Clarke Historical Museum in Eureka, California.


At least half the time involved in making a basket comes before the basket is even started.  This includes the gathering and preparation of materials.  Also, Karen prefers that the materials come from the ancestral gathering areas, so there are usually hundreds of miles to drive.

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Baby baskets come in all different sizes.

Karen with the baby basket she showcased
at the California Indian Basket Weavers
Conference, June 2011.

Gathering hazel sticks spring 2011

Working on a project at the California Indian
Basket Weavers gathering in Summer 2011.
Working on a lidded tobacco basket.

This is the start of a baby basket
 and the finished basket.

Gathering woodwardia fern and pieces of alder bark for dying the woodwardia the reddish color.
Collecting juniper tree berries above the Little Applegate River.  

We use pine nuts from the cones of the Bull Pine tree for baby basket decorations and traditional jewelry.

Karen has baskets on display at the Clarke Memorial Museum (Eureka, CA) as part of the two-year Karuk Art and Culture exhibit.

Collecting Spruce Root along the Pacific Ocean early in 2012.
A colorful basket of materials.
May 2012 hazel trip.
2012 Hazel

2011 California Indian Conference
Karuk Basketry Exhibition Display



WILLOW STICKS are gathered in the spring and then stripped of the skin and leaves.  The best sticks are long and straight.  After drying in the sun for a number of days, the sticks are sorted by both diameter and length.  Our gray willow typically grows along waterways.  Some areas are managed by cutting the willow to the ground in the fall so many new shoots can come from the ground the next season.  Before being woven, they must be soaked in water to make them again pliable.

SPRUCE ROOT is gathered on the Pacific Coast near the mouth of the Klamath River.  The bark is removed and then is split multiple times to create thin weavers or the flat ribbon-like material used as a wrapping for baby baskets and baby rattles.  It also is left in the sun to dry and must be soaked before using.

BEAR GRASS is gathered during the summer.  The best bear grass is found in high mountain areas that have been burnt over, making the grass, straight, and especially pliable.  Only the new center section is taken from the plant so that it is not harmed.  The grass is dried to its pretty white color and then soaked before using.

WOODWARDIA FERN is gathered anytime of year except the spring.  The stems are processed by pounding with a rock then stripping the outer layer of skin to expose two long strands within.  The strands can be hung to dry or rolled into circles to dry and store.  After completely drying, the strands are soaked in a dye made from boiled alter (tree) bark to get the reddish coloring.

JUNIPER BERRY SEEDS are usually gathered in the summer or fall, depending on the location.  Our berries were gathered in the Siskiyou and Cascade mountains of Northern California and Southern Oregon and in the mountainous San Rafael Reef of Central Utah.  After gathering, the berries must be boiled multiple times to release the pulp and clean the sticky residue from the seeds, which are then drilled and dried.


Karen lives in Ashland, Oregon and you can contact her at (541) 603-0092 or email karen2012@karuk.net

karukweavers.blogspot.com Making a Basket Cap

karukbasketmaterials.blogspot.com  Gathering and Processing Materials 



All Pages Copyright © 2013 by Karen Young-Lenk