In 1908 easterners Mary Ellicott Arnold and Mabel Reed accepted appointments as field matrons in Karuk tribal communities in the Klamath and Salmon River country of northern California. In doing so, they joined a handful of white women in a rugged region that retained the frontier mentality of the gold rush some fifty years earlier. Hired to promote the federal governmentâ€™s assimilation of American Indians, Arnold and Reed instead found themselves adapting to the world they entered, a complex and contentious territory of Anglo miners and Karuk families.
In the Land of the Grasshopper Song, Arnold and Reedâ€™s account of their experiences, shows their irreverence towards Victorian ideals of womanhood, recounts their respect toward and friendship with Karuks, and offers a rare portrait of womenâ€™s western experiences in this era. Writing with self-deprecating humor, the women recall their misadventures as women â€œin a white manâ€™s countryâ€ and as whites in Indian country. A story about crossing cultural divides, In the Land of the Grasshopper Song also documents Karuk resilience despite seemingly insurmountable odds.
New material by Susan Bernardin, AndrÃ© Cramblit, and Terry Supahan provides rich biographical, cultural, and historical contexts for understanding the continuing importance of this story for Karuk people and other readers.