Winnemem’s Sacred Places Endangered by the Shasta Dam Raise Featured in News from Native California

 

mike prestonAn in-depth article based on months of enthnographic research about the Winnemem Wintu’s sacred places and culture that are threatened by the Shasta Dam raise proposal is featured in the latest Native from Native California issue now available.

Titled “Endangered Spaces: A Walk Through Sacred Places with the Winnemem Wintu”, the article was written by Stanford researcher, anthropologist and poet Lyla Johnston (Navajo) who spent several months with the Winnemem Wintu studying their connection to cultural sacred sites that are threatened by the proposal of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to raise the Shasta Dam 20.5 feet.

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After conducting hours of interviews with Winnemem Wintu tribal members and elders and even more hours doing fieldwork using GIS technology, Johnston concluded in her 2013 thesis project that at least 38 sacred and historical sites of the Winnemem Wintu would be severely affected by the dam raise. Losing access to those sites, she concluded, would cause “an acute and irreversible disruption” to the tribe’s medicinal, spiritual and cultural worlds.

endangered spacesYou can read Johnston’s thesis – “Chonos Pom – Dance Grounds: Ethnic Endemism among the WinnememWintu and the Cultural Impacts of Raising Shasta Reservoir”.

Johnston said the article was a way to give a platform to the many Winnemem who lent their voices to her thesis through the interviews and to help the public understand through storytelling the heartbreaking impact the dam raise would have on the tribe and their way of life.

“Every culture, no matter how small, has the right to exist,” she said. She concluded in her report, “If we are to prevent the extinction of one of the few extant indigenous ethnicities of northern California, we must find an alternative to the proposed project and work towards institutional and legal protection of these cultural support zones on the McCloud River.”

Although the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is still finalizing its various reports on the impact and feasibility of the dam raise, Representative Jim Costa, of Fresno, has introduced a bill, HR 4125 co-signed by a number of California Democratic Congressmen, to raise the dam. Senator Diane Feinstein is also likely to introduce a bill to authorize the raising of the dam.

To support the Winnemem, you can sign our Moveon.org petition against the dam raise.

It is even more effective if you contact your Senators and Congresspeople directly (http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml), to remind them that a debt is still owed by the United States to the Winnemem Wintu  people, and ask them to vote NO on any proposal to raise Shasta Dam

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