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Richard Urata's Autobiography

Association with the PSK Group
By Richard Urata

I was interested in making arrowheads from my pre-teenage years. However, living in Hawaii did not give me an opportunity to do so. Hawaiians did not make arrowheads out of stone. They did a lot of pecking to make poi pounders and adze. Their weapons were made out of hardwood and shark’s teeth.

Fast forward 40 years, at 53, 2 years before retirement, 1995, I was carrying a rock to my desk and my leadman asked me if I was going to make an arrowhead. I said ‘no, but I sure would like to learn how to make them.’ He said a fellow employee has a book on making arrowheads and is trying to make them. I got his name and went to see him. We agreed to meet in the parking lot and try to learn together. This learning session in the parking lot lasted two years, until I retired.

After trying for about 3 months with very little success, we found out that there was a vendor selling stone knives at the knife show. We went after work to see this guy, Craig Ratzat. We bought a knife and his ‘Caught Knapping’ tape. We watched that tape over and over again and got to the ‘clam shell’ stage where the rock always ended up sorta round with a thick hump. We did not know how to get rid of the hump. I thought to myself that there got to be a better way to learn.

Since we needed more obsidian I went to Glass Buttes since the tape showed where Craig got his material. I used the map to get to Glass Buttes gut didn’t know where Craig got his material. I drove around and finally found the Midnight Lace Pitts. I stayed there for two days collecting obsidian and left for home.

We had our parking lot sessions for another month then I got Joe Higgins name and number. I cannot remember how I got it. I called him on the phone and talked about knapping and how I was really interested in learning how to knap. He said that the PSK group was going to a get together at Glass Buttes in June and I was welcomed to come.

My friend didn’t want to go so I went to Glass Buttes looking for the PSK group. While setting up my camp a guy drove by and called me to his truck. I talked to him, asking if he knew the PSK group. We talked and he showed me his points, WOW!, his name was Steve Berhnes. He was also looking for the group. We later found the group and Joe Higgins. A super bunch of guys. I watched in awe when Barney De Simone took a rectangular shaped rock and made a Hopewell point out of it. Since I had a maxi van, Joe Greenwell took me under his wings and took me around to the different pits to dig. They showed me how to get rid of the clam shell shape and helped me make a facsimile of a point. I sure learned a lot. This convinced me that I had to go to all the knap-ins. After several years of knap-ins Joan and I decided to host a knap-in in California.

In 1998 we started the Davis Creek Knap-In. Attendance grew yearly from about 12 knappers to about 50 knappers in 2003, the last knap-in. The knap-in was stopped because the large attendance required a special permit from the forestry. The permit was free but the liability was horrendous.

Also in July, 1998 Joan and I produced our first SPALLS to help Joe. Joe kept producing SPALLS until early 2000. In July, 2000 Joe passed the baton to us and we produced the July 2000 SPALLS. We decided to distribute SPALLS free over the internet. It was too costly to send SPALLS via snail-mail. We had an option for non-accessible internet knappers to pay a $10.00 yearly subscription fee, later dropped to $5.00 per year. This brought many inquires and more knappers came to the PSK knap-ins from all over the country, including Canada. Throughout the series of the Davis Creek knap-ins, there were knappers attending from at least 18 states. The PSK group became national.

In 2001 the first PSK Ooga Booga ceremony was held at Davis Creek. I was initiated by Chief Mark Bracken from Georgia and Spirit Guide Leroy Jines from Texas. In 2002, Howard Ruhland performed the Chief’s duties at the Davis Creek Knap-in. I performed my first Chief duties in the 2003 at the Davis Creek Knap-in.

Through the years, the Ooga Booga ceremonies were performed at the Davis Creek Knap-in, Cle Elum Knap-in, Wenatchee Knap-in and the Goldendale Knap-in.