Acclaimed artist and revered Karuk singer and dancer Brian D. Tripp began his journey home on May 13, 2022, at the age of 77. Born April 6, 1945 in Eureka, the third son of Amos Tripp and Violet (Donahue) Tripp, he was raised in Klamath, where he and his brothers talked fondly about all their boyhood adventures at the Klamath Glen and at Terwer Creek, camping, fishing, swimming and maybe a little mischief. Although raised in Klamath, their parents always took them back home to their family place at Ike’s to stay with their gram, and this is where he learned the tradition he shared with many Karuks about drinking the water from your home place so you always remember to return.
“I am from the Spawning Grounds …
That’s when my Father spoke
He said when I was young, I was told
Know how the water tastes
Know which way it flows
Learn from the animals, the birds and the bees
Say a prayer for the Homeground
The Rivers, the Rocks
The Mountains, the Oceans, the Trees
Always give more than you take
Always work hard for the People’s sake
Don’t tell lies
Do things right
Sing your own song and you won’t go wrong …”
He graduated from Del Norte High School where he was recognized as most talented for his artwork. He was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1965, where he served in Vietnam. After leaving the army, he then pursued a degree in art at Humboldt State University through the then new Educational Opportunity Program, and was hired to teach a Native American art class while still an undergraduate, a class he taught intermittently in the 1970s and 1980s. He married Dolly Kellogg in 1973, and their son Jasper Tripp was born in 1975. They, along with his family, worked closely with Karuk Elders Charlie Thom, Shan Davis, Frances Davis, and Fred & Elizabeth Case and immersed themselves in reviving and strengthening ceremonial culture. He and his brothers were key figures in the renewal of the Karuk ceremonies at Katamiin. A decade later, he was involved with the revival of the Yurok Jump Dance at Pecwan. The ceremonies were his favorite times, he loved the old timers and all the young dancers alike. When he was walking into the pit for the morning round he always told all the young ladies how beautiful they looked, and his nieces and great-nieces loved to dance by him. Everyone knew Uncle’s Brushdance songs and the pit would be rocking when he sang. At Jumpdance he made sure to visit and eat pie at all the camps. Ceremony was his best times.
Brian worked for a number of years for the Youth Diversion Program at Tri-County Indian Development Council and later collaborated there with Frank Tuttle on the Tri-County newsletter, hand lettering designs and the layout. He also designed the logo for United Indian Health Services, and this tradition of using his artwork and art titles for tribal conferences,gatherings, t-shirts, and books continued and you can see his work and its influence all over the state and even for some national tribal organizations.
Although he had been doing artwork since high school, his reputation as an artist began to spread and his work became more ambitious in scale and installation-oriented. In the 1970s, he began exhibiting and organizing Native American art exhibitions and was at the cutting edge of California’s developing contemporary Indian art movement. His work often included abstracts and geometric patterns inspired by basketry, regalia and was heavily influenced by his participation in ceremonies. They always included provocative titles drawn from his original poetry and his beliefs in the Indian Way. His work appeared on the cover of the program for Jerry Brown’s first gubernatorial inauguration exhibition at the State House in 1975. He participated in important exhibitions at Sacramento’s Crocker Art Museum and the inaugural exhibition at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. In the 1990s, his work was featured in exhibitions at San Francisco’s de Young Museum and the New Museum in New York, and he traveled to Japan and throughout Europe as a visiting artist. His powerful mixed media art is now in museum collections including the Berkeley Art Museum and Pacific Film Archive, the Crocker Art Museum, the Denver Art Museum, the Oakland Museum of California, the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, the Humboldt Arts Council and the Cal Poly Humboldt Permanent Collection, and his works on paper are in collections including the Getty, Library of Congress and Yale. In later years, he also was involved in a number of mural projects and this tradition continues on with his family today. He also received the California Living Heritage Award from the Alliance for California Traditional Arts (ACTA) in October 2018 in recognition for being one of the artistic grandfathers of the cultural renaissance and revitalization movement that continues to inspire generations of California Indian tribal artists today. A retrospective of his work was mounted at Humboldt’s Goudi’ni Gallery in 2021 and he had a special opening with his family at the show which meant a lot to him.
In 2013, Brian moved to Karuk Elder Housing in Orleans, Ca and he was very happy to have the chance to move back to his ancestral homelands and spend time on the river. He and his cousin Jason “Jaybird” Lang and their pards liked cruising up to Katamiin, Ike’s Falls and up the Salmon River. This move home was a very special time for him and he continued to inspire all who took the time to sit and listen to him tell tales of his upbringing and his unique take on being a Karuk Indian. As his health began to decline, Brian moved in with his nephew Sonny and his great-nephews Imya and Mateek in McKinleyville where he spent the last two years. They hosted lots of people at Sonny’s place during that time playing cribbage, sharing stories, singing songs and enjoying good times.
He was preceded in death by his parents Amos and Violet Tripp and his older brother Amos Tripp, who he missed greatly and talked about often. He is survived by his son Jasper Edward and his new grandson Elijah, his siblings Leroy (Sue) Tripp, David (Jan) Tripp, Phillip (Rose) Tripp, Helen (Pat) Suri and his sister-in-law Maria “Perky” Tripp. BDT wanted his nieces and nephews to serve as his pallbearers and they include Missy Defenbaugh, Sonny Tripp, Pimm Tripp-Allen, Hector Ike Tripp, Justin Tripp, Levi Tripp, Paloma Pole, Kapoon Tripp, Monica Hostler, EmilioTripp, Analisa Tripp, Angelica Tripp, Frankie Tripp and Phil Tripp, as well as numerous great nieces and nephews and three great-great-nephews.
Honorary pallbearers include Mike McGarity, Julian Lang, Frankie Thom, Frank Tuttle, Loren Bommelyn, George Blake, Mark Johnson, Rigo, Hot Rod Donahue, Everett “Tweet” Colegrove, Muss Colegrove, Beanie Vigil, Nolan Colegrove, Owee Colegrove, EFC Colegrove, Eli Hensher-Aubrey, Willard Carlson and the Carlson Boys, Homer Bennett, Joe James, Christopher Peters, Greg Rael, Vernon Lewis, Bob Benson, Vincent LaPena, Bill Defenbaugh, Antonio Padilla, Gerald Spannaus, Ron Griffith and Tyler Conrad. We also want to recognize all those who he danced, sang, and played Indian Cards with and his eeling partners from the last 50 plus years, he considered all of you family.
The family wants to thank everyone who came by over this last year to visit Uncle. A special thank you to those who stayed and provided additional care and respite to Sonny and the family. We would also like to acknowledge the staff and caregivers of Hospice of Humboldt, as well as Dr. Tim Paik-Nicely and Dr. Terry Raymer.
Visitation will be held on Sunday, May 15, 2022 from 1 p.m. - 6 p.m. at Paul’s Chapel in Arcata. Open air services officiated by Alme Allen will be held at the Karuk Tribal Department of Natural Resources in Orleans, Ca on Monday, May 16, 2022 at 1 p.m. and internment will immediately follow at Ike’s Family Cemetery on Hwy 96 above Ike’s Falls.
In lieu of flowers, donations can be made in Uncle’s memory at HAFoundation.org/BDTfund or by mail to Humboldt Area Foundation, 363 Indianola Road, Bayside, CA 95524 with reference to the Brian Tripp Red House People Fund. This fund will be used to support California Native Arts and Artists.
The obituary above was submitted by Brian Tripp’s loved ones. The Lost Coast Outpost runs obituaries of Humboldt County residents at no charge. See guidelines here. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.