Our Traditional Leader: Caleen Sisk

Winnemem Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief Caleen Sisk

Caleen Sisk is the Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who practice their traditional culture and ceremonies in their territory along the McCloud River watershed in Northern California.

Since assuming leadership responsibilities in 2000, Caleen has focused on maintaining the cultural and religious traditions of the Tribe as well as advocating for California salmon restoration, the Human Right to Water and the protection of indigenous sacred sites. She is also currently leading her Tribe’s efforts to work with Maori and federal fish biologists to return Chinook salmon to the McCloud River.

Caleen is an internationally known speaker on traditional tribal and spiritual issues, having spoken on diverse topics such as spiritual medicine ways, the spirit of water, global warming, sacred sites protection and the responsibility of tribal people to honor their tribal lifeway.

Caleen's portrait that is currently displayed at the United Nations

Caleen is also a leading voice in raising awareness of the poor human rights conditions suffered by federally unrecognized tribes and unrepresented indigenous peoples around the world. She is a regular speaker at the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues in New York where she has campaigned for the U.N. to study the plight of federally unrecognized tribes in the United States. She is also the Spiritual and Environmental Commissioner for ENLACE Continental, an international network of indigenous women.

For more than 30 years, Caleen was mentored and taught in traditional healing and Winnemem culture by her late great aunt, Florence Jones, who was the tribe’s spiritual leader for 68 years. Caleen’s traditional teachings and training comes from an unbroken line of leadership of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

Strongly rooted in her spirituality and her family, Caleen cares deeply for her Winnemem people and for oppressed people around the world.

Caleen received her B.A. from Chico State University, CA in 1975, and received her teaching credential from CSU, Chico in 1976.

To contact Caleen, e-mail her at winnememwintutribe@gmail.com or call her at (530) 275-2737.

Caleen’s Recent Op-Eds

Caleen speaks to the media after the Winnemem filed our lawsuit against the federal government in Sacramento in 2009.

In June 2011, Caleen leads a salmon ceremony at the Glen Cove spiritual encampment to protect the salmon from Sarcamento Delta pumps.