More than 20 years after local artists Brian Tripp and Alme Allen painted Eureka’s first Native mural, entitled “The Sun Set Twice on the People That Day,” the piece is moving to a new home for display on the side of the Clarke Museum and will be restored during the upcoming Eureka Street Art Festival.
The mural takes its name from a line in a poem written by Tripp about the 1860 massacre of Wiyot people on their sacred island, Tuluwat.
An excerpt from Tripp’s poem:
Out on an island in the middle of the bay
The sun set twice on the people that day
The world they were making
Someone else was taking
Saying ‘Eureka, I found it’
Claiming it’s mine to own
Out on the island in the middle of the bay
Surrounded by greed
That had come and planted its seed
The sun set twice on the people that day
Tripp and Allen painted the large mural — which is about 40 feet long by about 12 feet high at its tallest part — in the summer of 2000 for display on the side of the Eureka Theatre building. The mural was painted on wooden boards and was taken down in 2019 for restorations to the theater.
Drawing inspiration from Tripp’s poem, the mural depicts Tuluwat, with the image in the center representing the island, Allen told the Outpost in a recent phone interview. The symbol is also in the shape of an obsidian blade — a traditional tool used as part of the tribes’ world renewal ceremonies.
“It’s all about balance and renewal,” Allen said. “Basically the mural is paying homage to the original occupants, the original people of Humboldt Bay — the Wiyot.”
Though the mural is primarily focused on Wiyot people, he said, it also pays respects to the other tribes of the area. Each one of the redwood trees in the mural represents one of the other local tribes, he said, and the image on the left side of a basket in the water carrying three figures represents the struggles of tribes.
“That’s us as a people making it through turbulent waters,” he said. “That’s the experience of Native people today.”
Allen, born and raised in Orleans, is of both Karuk and Yurok descent and has contributed many pieces of art to the Humboldt County scenery, including a large mural on the side of the Discovery Shop in Henderson Center, which he painted as a part of last year’s Eureka Street Art Festival and concrete cast replicas of traditional wood stools that were used by local tribes, which can be found at HSU’s Native Forum, Potowat Community Gardens and along the Eureka Waterfront Trail.
Of course, Tripp is well known by many community members as a respected Karuk poet, artist, educator and a ceremonial singer and dancer. Tripp is also known for playing a role in the revival of traditional Native ceremonies and is a recipient of the California Living Heritage award.
Tripp’s work and influence can be seen all around Humboldt and is very recognizable for its bold lines, bright colors and use of traditional Karuk imagery.
“I’m definitely a student of that,” Allen said of his friend and mentor Tripp’s style. “I enjoy the way Brian’s work always balances in some way.”
Tripp is currently in Hospice care and will not be helping Allen to restore the mural, but Allen did say he is hoping Tripp will be able to come out and be present for some of the process. Allen will have help from a crew of other Native artists, including Julian Lang, Lyn Risling, Ahtyirahm Allen, Karamachay Tripp, and Eli Hensher-Aubrey — many of whom are Tripp’s contemporaries. Also helping Allen with the restoration is Danielle Briscoe, who was connected with Allen through a new Mural Apprentice Program, hosted by the Eureka Street Art Festival and supported by Humboldt Area Foundation.
The restoration will take place on August 7 through 14, during the Eureka Street Art Festival and Allen said he is very excited for the mural’s new home at the Clarke, which is a little closer to the bay and Tuluwat than the mural’s previous location. He is also so happy to have a chance to work with his community to restore the piece, to celebrate the Native people of the area and to honor the work of his friend and mentor, Tripp.
“I’m really happy we’re doing this project starting next week,” Allen said. “I think this is coming at a really beautiful time, when Brian still can be there.”