Two Women In the Klamath River Country: From 1908 Two Women In the Klamath River Country: From 1908
26 July 2021

Two Women In the Klamath River Country: From 1908 to 2021

Written by: Courtney Randik

The story of two women working for the Department of the Interior - set out to explore the Klamath River in one of the most remote locations in the United States. Travelling from a home in New Jersey and starting their journey from Eureka to Yreka, California. Speaking with locals and the native Karuk tribe to learn about the natural and cultural history of the region. This is my story working for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service through the Directorate Fellowship Program in 2021 surveying for Western Pond Turtles along the Klamath River with my fellow cohort. And yet, another very different story begins the exact same way. Change the setting back 113 years to 1908 and you now have the story of Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed working as field matrons with the Karuk tribe along the Klamath River.


As my fellow cohort, Stephanie, and I were wandering about the town of Ashland, Oregon, we stumbled upon a little book store and were drawn to the “Women in the West” section. There, Stephanie saw a book titled “In the Land of the Grasshopper Song: Two Women in the Klamath River Indian Country in 1908-1909” by Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed. We each acquired a copy of the book and upon reading, we soon realized how similar our story was with this novel from 113 years ago. Some parallels were significant such as the course of our journey taking us to Happy Camp, California to speak with the native Karuk tribe. Other parallels were such small intricacies that were too wild to believe, such as a fascination with cowboy hats. Of course with the difference of a century comes many differences in technology, and we are certainly grateful to have the luxury of travelling via car rather than by horse.

Grasshopper Song

Cover image of the novel "In the Land of the Grasshopper Song" by Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed.


Our goals for exploring the region were entirely different, with myself and Stephanie conducting research on the Western Pond Turtle for a species status assessment versus Mary and Mabel working to teach the Karuk tribe the ways of civilization. Despite our professional goals contrasting, in the end all four of us learned the same lessons from our time here. We’ve learned how sacred the Klamath River is, including all of its amazing creatures like the Western Pond Turtle, a beloved symbol of the Karuk tribe. We’ve learned the importance of diversity and how special it is to preserve unique cultures. We’ve learned how to navigate the professional field as women. And most importantly, we’ve learned the importance of friendship and making connections with people from all walks of life. We have many more lessons to learn with the program only halfway complete, and I look forward to completing both my journey and this inspirational novel.

Turtle Flag

Street flags in Happy Camp, California displaying native Klamath River species with Karuk translations.

Agency: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

Program: US Fish & Wildlife Service - DFP

Location: Yreka Fish and Wildlife Office

MANO Project
is an initiative of Hispanic 
Access Foundation.

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