Herald and News: Aquatic Transplant
THE NATURE CONSERVANCY ATTEMPTS TO REVIVE WOCUS POPULATION
By Lacey Jarrell for Herald and News
Eli Berman’s body is hunched over on all fours and nearly submerged in the Upper Klamath Marsh as his hands, lost in the murky water below, blindly scrape clay and mud from a partially buried wocus root. Placing a knee on the large tuber, Berman pulls back until he feels a snap, and the woody rhizome, surrounded by a gnarled nest of roots, floats to the surface.
“It’s a fairly difficult process; those things are really stuck in the mud,” Berman said. “You usually try several times. When it finally gives, it is satisfying.”
The wocus Berman harvested is a plant that has disappeared from much of the Klamath Basin and almost 90 percent of its historical range in neighboring Upper Klamath Lake.
According to Perry Chocktoot, director of the Klamath Tribes’ culture and heritage department, wocus, or wokas, as the plant is traditionally known, is at the heart of the Klamath Tribes heritage.
“It was the center of our world,” Chocktoot said.
Chocktoot explained that many Klamath Tribes traditions incorporated wocus — from the specialized flat-bottom “dugout” canoes women used to navigate wocus patches to basket weaving patterns that mimicked the three-petal, cup-like wocus flower.
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