Many teachers dedicate themselves to preserving the rich traditions of their culture group. One such educator is Loren Me’lash-ne Brommelyn, a “tradition bearer” for the Tolowa tribe. Loren, who is of Tolowa, Karuk, and Wintu descent, has dedicated him life to preserving the traditional songs, ceremonial dances, language, and basketry of his Native American culture.Loren was born in 1956 in the small fishing village of Nelechundun on the Smith River. His tribe, the Tolowa, numbered approximately 2,400 prior to European contact, but dwindled to only 121 people in the Smith River and Crescent Bay region by 1910. As a speaker and teacher of the Tolowa language, he considered the single most knowledgeable individual on the subject. He is also recognized as the largest single maker and contributor of men’s and women’s dance regalia in the Tolowa community, and he has a reputation throughout the northwestern part of the state as an expert basketmaker.
Loren earned his master’s degree in linguistices from the University of Oregon. He currently teaches at Tah-Ah-Dun Indian Magnet Charter School in Crescent City in northern California, and formerly taught for many years at Del Norte High School in the same town. He’s also a published author, producing educational material about the Tolowa language, and he played an important role in persuading the University of California system to recognize Native American language as part of the entrance requirements for world language. In 2002, Loren was named a National Heritage Fellow by the National Education Association.