Brook  M Thompson

Native American Scholar 

My Grandfather, My Hero

The following is from his obituary...

Archie Thompson, the oldest living member of California's Yurok tribe and the last known active speaker raised in the tribal language, has died. He was 93.

Thompson died March 26 at a Crescent City, Calif., hospital after an apparent stroke, according to his daughter Sherry O'Rourke.

"It's our language that truly gives us our identity as Yurok people," said Thomas P. O'Rourke Sr., the tribal chairman and Thompson's son-in-law. "He is very much responsible for preserving not just a way of life, but the identity of a people."

Thompson was one of a handful of remaining full-blooded members of the Yurok tribe, which numbers nearly 6,000 members and is California's largest.. He was also the last of about 20 elders who helped revitalize the language over the last few decades, after academics in the 1990s predicted it would be extinct by 2010.

He made recordings of the language that were archived by UC Berkeley linguists and the tribe, spent hours helping to teach Yurok in community and school classrooms, and welcomed apprentice speakers to probe his knowledge.

It paid off: A recent tally by the tribe's language program indicated there are more than 300 basic Yurok speakers, 60 with intermediate skills, 37 who are advanced and 17 who are considered conversationally fluent.

Yurok is now taught in public schools across Humboldt and Del Norte counties, including in five high schools, and the revitalization effort is widely considered the most successful in the state. Linguists say the Yurok language will be considered fully out of danger, however, only when tribal members begin speaking it to their children in the home.

Thompson "took his time to mentor, he let people come into his home, he traveled on behalf of our language and felt an obligation to revive" it, the tribal chairman said.

"I don't think there was a better example of what an elder should be," he said. "I never once heard him raise his voice in anger. I never heard him speak negative words. Even when people probably deserved them, he found positive words to try to pick them up."

Linguist Andrew Garrett, who directs UC Berkeley's Yurok Language Project, said Thompson was a go-to resource for those reclaiming the tribe's tongue.

"Any gaps in their knowledge will now be much harder to fill in," he said. "It has to be done through recordings."

Thompson was born May 26, 1919, in a smokehouse in Wa'tek Village, now known as Johnsons, on the Klamath River. At age 5, he was sent to a government-run boarding school in Hoopa, about 30 miles to the southeast, where he was discouraged from speaking Yurok or engaging in cultural practices.

He would open and close the school gates for visitors, often receiving a penny or a nickel in return, he recalled in a January interview with The Times. He returned home at age 8, and after his mother attempted to put him up for adoption, his grandmother, Rosie Jack Hoppell, took him in, according to his daughter.

Hoppell spoke only Yurok and Thompson lived a traditional life with her and an uncle, hooking eels, harvesting seaweed and clams, catching candlefish and salmon, and hunting elk.

Before school, he would rise early to trap ducks, catching enough for his grandmother to fill 10 feather mattresses, his daughter said.

In 1939 he graduated from Del Norte High School, where he earned varsity letters in football, basketball, baseball and track. He was the first Native American to have his name on the high school's Coach's Cup, an annual award for excellence in multiple sports, and was recently inducted into the school's athletic hall of fame.

He learned welding at another Indian boarding school, Riverside's Sherman Institute, and served in the Navy in the South Pacific during World War II.

In 1959, he moved to Crescent City with his wife, Alta McCash, a member of the neighboring Karuk tribe. The couple had eight children before she died in 1968 after a fall.

After he was pinned between two redwood trees while logging in 1966, Thompson was told he would never walk again. He recovered not only to walk, but to play until he was well into his 70s in a baseball game on his birthday each year against a family from the town of Klamath, his daughter said.

He raised his children alone.

A devout Christian, he took his kids to church every Sunday. If they also went on Wednesday evenings, his daughter recalled, he'd buy them each a root beer float.

Known for his beaming smile, he said farewell to most visitors with a "You be good now."

He is survived by seven of his eight children, 29 grandchildren, 72 great-grandchildren and four great-great-grandchildren.

At his memorial at the Del Norte County Fairgrounds, a traditional Yurok feast of eel and salmon cooked on outdoor grills was served to a crowd of more than 400.


My grandfather is, and always will be my hero and inspiration to "Be good now". I had the opportunity to be with him before he passed by a miracle. He is loved. He is missed.

My Role Model and my Peechowos (Grandfather)

Stormy Joy

Stormy was a vibrant and loving person who always shared her positive energy and light with everyone. She greeted the world with her bright smile and warm hugs, and always filled any room that she entered (usually arriving late!) with joy and happiness. She never missed an opportunity to tell people that she loved them, and all of us who were loved by her, will never forget those moments. She was not only generous with her love, but this generosity carried over into the way she lived her life, as she spent countless hours fishing, gathering and canning traditional foods to share with her community. She lived her values and also gave her time, hard work and heart to all she did. Many have mentioned that her smile often came to them at unplanned and unexpected times, and she always seemed to know when people needed her love. She had a healing spirit and shared her medicine with the world.

We all know that Stormy loved to travel and roam from place to place, but home was where her family was and she always remembered that. She traveled in many circles – she had her canning and fishing crew, her crew who she loved to dance with at reggae shows, those who she loved to heal with through massage and essential oils, her snowboarding cousins and so many more … that was part of her beauty, she made everyone feel like her best friend.

Stormy was very close to ‘ue-peech, her grandpa and best friend. She spent many hours by his side and he was her first road buddy. She always made sure to go and pick him up and take him with her wherever she went – to dances, games and family events. He was also her teacher, introducing her to the joys of Yurok culture—the adventures of fishing, the importance of language, and the value of family. He taught her how to treat people with kindness. It was these qualities that she brought with her into her most important role—as a mother to her two boys.

She wanted her boys to be kind, gentle and loving. She made the most of every moment in life and this carried over into how she raised her boys. She grew up picking blackberries, taking trips to the beach and attending family events with her mom and she loved to do those same things with Ishakom and Ma-kaych. She taught them by example and wanted them to experience and live life to its fullest.

Stormy also lived her life as a dance person. She first began dancing as a little girl, practicing during summer JOM when she was just 3 or 4 years old and once she started she never stopped. She loved to dance and later became a beautiful singer. She always danced with strength and had a deep love for her culture. She danced for so long that she had the opportunity to wear many dresses and caps in her life, and she understood that she was carrying the prayers and medicine of her people. This provided a strong foundation for how she chose to walk in life, and she carried that strength and light within her. She always returned to the dances to find her center and she made sure her boys were being raised within that circle.

She truly lived and exemplified one love. After losing her brothers she seemed to understand even more so that you need to take every opportunity to live the one love spirit. In the words of a good friend, our Stormy Joy was one of a kind and because of her there will always be appreciation in our words, patience in our prayers, love in our thoughts and joy in our hearts.


'Aawok  (alas) 
Stormy has always been there for me and has helped me in countless ways growing up. She was one of my best friends, a mentor, and an inspiration and I will continue to take the advice she has given me.  There are no words to express how much she has changed my life and how important she is to me. The photos below are from her wedding and when we went to Hawaii for my graduation.