Viola E. Risling-Ryerson: A Long and Beautiful Life
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. Welcomed by her parents David W. Risling & Mary Geneva (Orcutt) Risling. Viola was the fifth of eight children born to David & Geneva. Her long and beautiful life was filled with numerous public and private moments showing her deep and personal ties to her culture, family and community. She 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.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 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.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.
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