Viola E. Risling-Ryerson: A Long and Beautiful Life

Viola E Risling

Viola E. Risling-Ryerson


Viola E. Risling-Ryerson passed away peacefully on December 7, 2016.  She was born at Morek, a village along the Klamath River, on March 28th, 1919.  Viola E RislingWelcomed by her parents David W. Risling & Mary Geneva (Orcutt) Risling.  Viola was the fifth of eight children born to David & Geneva.  Viola E RislingHer long and beautiful life was filled with numerous public and private moments showing her deep and personal ties to her culture, family and community.  Viola E RislingShe is survived by her son Gary Risling, granddaughters Emmilee and Mary Risling, great-grandson David W. Risling-Eaglespeaker, and her sister-in-law Barbara Risling, wife of brother David Risling, Jr.
She is also survived by numerous nieces, nephews and cousins all who affectionately referred to her as “Auntie.” She was always kind and loving and in return was loved by many people. Viola E Risling

She was preceded in death by her first husband Robert K. Evans and her second husband Bud Tefry Ryerson. Her parents Mary Geneva (Orcutt) Risling and David W. Risling, Sr.  Her grandparents Suworhum Maggie Charlie & George Simpson (from Medildin), August Risling and Lewis Orcutt & Annabelle (Young) Orcutt.  Her great-grandparents SuWorhrom Charlie (from Suworhum) and wife (from Red Cap); Old Doctor (from Medildin) and Mrs. Doctor (from Medildin), Christian Risling and Sophia (Loehar) Risling; Fanny (from Up River) and Albion Lewis Orcutt; and Jane Young (from Down River) and William ‘Captain’ Young.   Her siblings: Anthony Risling and wife Barbara (Marshall) Risling; Vivian (Risling) Hailstone & Albert ‘Buck’ Hailstone Sr.; Lawrence ‘Jack’ Risling and wife Joy (Rowley) Risling; Rosalind (Risling) Marshall & husband Ernest C. Marshall; David W. Risling Jr.; Baron D. Risling and Leslie F. Risling Sr. & wife Wilma Belle (Scott) Risling.

At the time of her death, Viola was the oldest member of the Hoopa Valley Tribe. She was from the villages of Medildin in Hoopa, Morek on the Yurok Reservation and a proud descendant of the Karuk village of Suworhum.  As a young child, Viola, along with her family, relocated to Hoopa where she and her siblings attended the Indian Boarding School. She was a proud and noble Indian woman who participated in many important Native American movements, inspiring and teaching future generations to be proud of her Native culture and heritage. Throughout her life, she participated in ceremonial dances for the Karuks, Yuroks and Hupas. Viola was also a regalia owner and dance leader.

Viola E Risling

Viola was also an artist. She worked as a cartographer and in the ship yards during World War II.  She supported educational demonstrations and opportunities to show Native culture as living and dynamic. In her youth she represented Indian people at community wide events and was crowned Princess at the annual “Days of 49” festival in Arcata, CA in 1936.  Throughout her life she met famed Native American Olympian Jim Thorpe, introduced former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at the World’s Fair held on Treasure Island in 1939, met Mohammed Ali & Dick Gregory during the Longest Walk and she participated in efforts to support DQ-University (the first Native American Tribal College in California).  Viola was also active in social justice movements that defended Native sovereignty & self-determination and always took the opportunity to educate non-natives about their Native culture. She attended events in support of the American Indian Movement, in support of Indian Education, and in later life attended local Idle No More rallies in support of First Nations people in Canada.

With all of her accomplishments, Viola was also a dedicated and loving “Auntie” to many. Her infectious smile and kind eyes were a warm welcome at any gathering and she lit up every time she was greeted by family and community members. It is because of elders like Viola that future generations will continue to proudly dedicate themselves to culture and ceremony. At Viola’s request, if you have a basket cap please wear it to the services.Viola E Risling

Visitation and viewing will be held on Friday December 9, 2016 at Sanders Funeral Home, 1835 E Street Eureka, CA from 2 p.m. – 8 p.m. Funeral service will be on Saturday December 10, 2016 at 11 a.m. at the Hoopa Neighborhood Facility. Internment and graveside service will follow at the Hoopa Tribal Cemetery. A reception and meal will follow the conclusion of the services at the Hoopa Wildland Fire Hall.

Pall bearers for the service include: Baron Risling Jr.; Douglas Kyle Risling; Leslie Risling III; Suworhum David Baldy; Victorio Shaw; Justin Childs; Matt Rivas & Zachary Brown.

Honorary pall bearers are: Albert Hailstone Jr.; Baron Risling Sr.; Dale Risling; Douglas ‘Gene’ Coleman Jr.; Ed Wallace; Glen Roberts; Kenneth Risling; Larry ‘Buddy’ Marshall; Larry Risling; Leslie ‘Sim’ Risling Jr.; Steve Baldy; Anthony ‘Tony’ Risling, Clifford Lyle Marshall; Dave Karr; Rodney McKinnon III; Weldon Hailey; Jonathan ‘Jonny’ Carlson; Kevin Orcutt; Alvis ‘Bud’ Johnson; Art Mastel; David Arwood Sr.; John Provolt; Leo Carpenter; Wally Obie & William Carpenter.

This section includes both obituaries and memories. Honoring our loved ones who have died does not end immediately after their passing. We recognize that… so we’re extending our obituary section to include individuals who may have left a long time ago. If you want to remember someone who is gone, either recently or longer ago, please send a photo and a few sentences to Tell us why you would like to honor the person–is it their birthday, the date of their passing or some other date of significance to you.



  • Amazing woman amazing life.may she sore with the Eagles and rest with the Angel’s ♡

  • Extraordinary! Her legacy to all of us is the live she lived, and all she contributed. There is no better path than the one she took—leading, and inspiring others by her own altruistic actions. Rest peacefully, beautiful Grandmother.

  • Rest In Peace, Auntie! You are forever loved and will never be forgotten!

  • I remember hearing you speak. Your words were wise and will stick with me always. Travel on and rest now. Others learned from you and will continue your good work.
    With much respect~

  • Wow. What a beautiful woman. What a full life she lived. Bless you on your journey. My thoughts and prayers to the family. What a matriarch to have had in your family.

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