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Karuk funded for ‘path to prosperity’

By Brad Smith, Siskiyou Daily News  February 16, 2007

HAPPY CAMP—The Karuk tribe has received a grant for more than $900,000 to fund the Paths to Prosperity project, a three-year social development project designed to enhance educational and employment opportunities for the Karuk.

Project leader Rosie Bley said that the money was awarded by the Administration for Native Americans.

The $900,000 will be given to the tribe over a period of three years, in sums of $300,000 apiece, Bley stated.

Bley reported that the grant will fund new equipment acquisition, computer center staff and annual operating expenses.

SUBMITTED PHOTO - Karuk Paths to Prosperity key personnel, left to right, Bari Talley, Student Services Coordinator, Orleans; Gerry Canning, IT Technician for Karuk Tribe; Rosie Bley, HCCC Director & Project Coordinator; Kelly Worcester, HCCC Technician/Instructor; Jim Berry, KCDC CFO & Project Director; James Burcell, Student Services Coordinator, Happy Camp; Sara Spence, Karuk Tribe Human Resources Manager.

One part of the project the grant will fund is the conversion of local community computer centers to distance learning centers “virtual college campuses.”

Each distance learning center will have a new student services coordinator, who will provide project participants with career counseling, academic advising, financial aid advising, mentoring and job placement services.

“With these virtual college campuses, the project will help high school students, unemployed or underemployed community members and tribal employees to get a better education that previously required relocation outside our ancestral homelands,” Bley said.

At least, she acknowledged, it will be a good start.

For the Karuk tribe to grow and prosper, Bley said, new jobs and businesses must be created to attract young people and entice them to stay.

To achieve his and other goals, Bley said that the tribe will utilize available computer technology to increase public awareness of the wide array of occupational opportunities that exist within the ancestral territory.

Individual community members will then be supported in their pursuit of essential vocational and professional training through distance learning programs.

“Through Paths to Prosperity, our (the tribe’s) human resources department will create a public-access web site that features 100 different jobs,” Bley said.

Jobs will include entry-level clerical positions, para-professional health, education, family services and natural resources positions, and both licensed professional and executive management positions, she explained.

“The Karuk people have suffered some disruptions of social and economic systems,” Bley said.

She noted the loss of traditional village subsistence life ways in the late 1800s and the loss of the timber industry.

“Two years ago, a survey revealed that 89 percent of the targeted labor force now lives in poverty, despite the tribe’s efforts to do otherwise,” Bley said.

She cited one underlying cause of poverty as low educational attainment, due to both financial and geographic barriers.

“The Karuk Paths to Prosperity Project aims to remove the barriers to education, creating a renewed sense of hope among the tribe for a future of their own choosing and their own making,” Bley said.

Bley said that since Happy Camp’s last sawmill closed in 1994, numbers of unemployed timber workers have moved away in search of a better life.

She added that a sense of “gloom fell over the community.”

“A few years ago, there was a community survey. The results weren’t optimistic,” Bley said. “There was a strong feeling among remaining residents that our young people would have to leave this area to find employment because there's no future here.”

That belief resulted in many young adults and their children leaving not only Happy Camp but Siskiyou County as well, Bley said.

“That’s a devastating loss to the tribe. Our future is in our younger generations,” Bley said.

Bley is excited about the Paths to Prosperity project.

“This is an incredible opportunity for the entire tribe,” she said. "Thanks to technology and this grant, we have the means to improve our way of life and strengthen our tribal heritage in the process.”

For more information, contact Rosie Bley at 493-5213.


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