For hundreds of years native peoples have been gathering on these lands. It was a place of peace and healing. Groups numbering around fifty came from Native American Tribes both distant and local. Most of the parties were warriors and medicine men and women. Each Tribe brought their tools, knowledge, medicine, foods, techniques, and goods to trade and learn from one another. Weapons were left on the surrounding hills and all came together to celebrate. Several healers would accompany the groups to learn healing arts from other sages and to learn from the mineral waters here.
In 1841, the Wilks Expedition set out to survey land for a new railroad to run through the rich lands of Northern California. The railroad purchased the land from the federal government who had taken it from the Native Americans.
Work on the railroad continued for the next forty-five years. During this time there was severe hostility from whites towards Native Americans.
From the Yreka Herald in 1853:
We hope to carry on a war of extermination until the last red skin of these tribes has been killed. Extermination is no longer a question of time…the time has arrived, the work has commenced and let the first man who says treaty or peace be regarded as a traitor.
Many massacres occurred in Siskiyou County, one here at the springs. Another peaceful gathering was taking place. A nearby crew working on the railroad thought the drumming and chanting was war cries and attacked the unarmed party. Those who evaded the initial attack were chased on foot to Castle Lake where they were killed and thrown into the lake.
The only survivors of this slaughter were those who were camping in the hills to escape the heat of the valley. Native American people continued to return to the land. They celebrated in silence to carry on the traditions set forth by their ancestors.
Henry Stewart emigrated from Pennsylvania in 1851 in a covered wagon. His wagon and horse got stuck in the mud. He toiled to free himself, but was unsuccessful. Members of the Karuk Tribe found him and introduced him and his horse to the mineral waters here. The waters helped to mend Stewart quickly and he became an advocate for their healing powers.
An entrepreneurial man, Stewart operated several small businesses in Siskiyou County, including farms, ranches, sawmills, and the first flour mill in the area. He remained connected to the springs and the Native Peoples who brought him here. Some say he warned the Native Americans when the railroad party was about to attack.
In the 1870s Stewart purchased this land from the railroad. His intentions were to make the waters available to all who needed them. Stewart and his family operated Stewart Mineral Springs for the next seventy-eight years.
A Clean Slate
Ownership changed hands many times after Henry Stewart’s daughter gave the land away in 1948. The shadow cast by the late 1800s massacre loomed over the land. Nightmares featuring revengeful souls plagued caretakers of the land. They knew these souls needed peace.
On September 5, 2007, a purification ceremony was performed here to help these souls move on. Karuk Elder, Charlie Thom “Red Hawk”, performed the ceremony. It is of special significance that Red Hawk led this ceremony. His father, Reece Thom, was a boy camping with his father when his people were attacked and killed on this land. They survived because they camped on the hill instead of in the valley.
Red Hawk and a Karuk Medicine Woman built a fire by the creek. They began chanting and praying and burning tree boughs from four different kinds of trees in the fire. All those present picked up a branch, set intentions and invitations to those that perished in the massacre to cross over, and placed the branch on the fire. The smoke stayed low to the ground and followed the flow of the water, just above the surface. Those present could see the spirits in the vortex of smoke, move along with the creek.
The land and waters are once again open to all who need their healing powers.