Sacramento, CA September 20, 2016 – In the midst of a 300-mile trek and prayer journey to bring salmon back to the McCloud River, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe and their allies converge on the State Capitol to demand a change in California’s water policy.
With plans to build new Dams and expand existing ones, and proposing to build two forty-foot Tunnels to divert more water out of the Delta, the stakes could not be higher for all of Californian. Fish species are on the verge of extinction. Disadvantaged Communities, subsistence fishermen, and small family farmers could see their water and way of life disappear altogether. And, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, who suffered over 90% loss of their traditional homeland, sacred sites, and cultural gathering sites along the Sacramento, McCloud and Pit Rivers when Shasta Dam was built, will again suffer the brunt of this destructive water policy.
The Winnemem Wintu and their allies have embarked on a 300-mile prayer journey from Sogorea Te (Glen Cove, Vallejo) to the historical spawning grounds of the winter-run salmon on the McCloud River. This journey is a walk/run/boat/bike and horseback ride to bring attention to the plight of all the runs of salmon in California, and the water management practices that have brought some of those runs to the edge of extinction. It is a prayer to let Californians know that the water they enjoy has come to them at the cost of others and the threat of death and extinction to species necessary for a healthy California.
Chief Caleen Sisk of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe says, “We consider Shasta Dam a weapon of mass destruction. It has already taken our homes, sacred sites, burial sites, and stopped the salmon from returning to their historical spawning grounds. If these tunnels are built, Governor Brown’s so called ‘California WaterFix’, they will not only cause more death and destruction to the already endangered salmon, but they will encourage and motivate plans to enlarge Shasta Dam. An enlarged Shasta Dam will flood what remaining sacred sites, and cultural sites that we still use today.”
Barbara Barrigan-Parrilla, Executive Director for Restore the Delta states, “Restore the Delta stands today with the Winnemem Wintu calling on Governor Brown to abandon a failed water plan for California. The era of unlimited water resource development is over. As we revealed last week in the state’s own economic analysis, the only way to make the Delta tunnels pencil out in terms of water delivery is to take even more water from the Delta — which will finish off its fisheries, its entire ecosystem. And to make matters worse, the government expects you and me to pay for this destruction with our taxes.”
Trent Orr, a lawyer for Earthjustice, which represents the Winnemem Wintu in various legal fights to protect and restore salmon, said:
“The Sacramento River’s salmon runs are an emblem of wild California and its mountain-born rivers. The Winnemem Wintu Tribe has long fought to save these fish, which are central to their culture, and to restore health to the waters they need to thrive. But it has been an uphill battle. Much of the Tribe’s homeland was drowned by Shasta Dam, and the salmon’s access to the cold, clean spawning grounds above the dam, to which they had returned for eons, was blocked. Plans to raise the dam and to pump even more fresh water out of the Sacramento River via the governor’s proposed giant tunnels could doom the salmon, already perilously close to extinction. The dam raise would also drown much of what’s left of the Tribe’s homeland. Earthjustice is proud to have represented the Tribe in many of its legal battles to save and restore the salmon. On behalf of the Tribe and its allies, we will continue to fight for the day when wild salmon again spawn in the headwaters of the Sacramento.”
In written testimony submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board, for the ongoing hearings regarding the Bureau of Reclamation’s and the Department of Water Resource’s water diversion change petition regarding the California WaterFix, Winnemem Wintu Governmental Liaison Gary Mulcahy asks,
“Drowned cultures, dead and extinct fish, broken promises, stolen lands, environmental destruction, water grabs, and years and years of litigation – is it truly worth it?
PRESS CONFERENCE: West Steps of State Capitol – Tues, Sept. 20th, 2016 10:30 – 12:00
Speakers: Chief Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Tribe; Trent Orr, Earthjustice; Barbara Barrigan-Parilla, Restore the Delta; Eric Wesselman, Friends of the River.
Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk and a collective of Indigenous women, activists, and allies are organizing the Run 4 Salmon, a 300-mile trek that follows the historical journey of the salmon from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to the Winnemem (McCloud River) to raise awareness about the policies threatening our waters, our fish, and indigenous lifeways. It’s a dire time in California for wild chinook salmon (Nur) – climate change, giant dam projects and draining rivers for Big Ag irrigation threaten the survival of the keystone keepers of our waters. Salmon bring essential nutrients to the waterways, forests, and lands. However, since the Shasta Dam was built 71 years ago, the salmon have been unable to return to their home waters in the Winnemem’s ancestral watershed. Now, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe is working on a plan to bring the genetic descendants of their salmon from New Zealand back to their home waters.
What’s the problem?
Our waters, our fish, and indigenous ways of life are all under attack. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation , Westlands Water District, and Senator Dianne Feinstein plan to raise the height of Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet. Gov. Jerry Brown of California wants to build two giant tunnels through the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta that will divert our fresh water from the Sacramento River for the GMO Agricultural industry and have the potential of diverting every drop of fresh water from the Sacramento River. If they build these tunnels and raise the dam they will kill the largest estuary on the Pacific coast, inundate future spawning grounds on the McCloud River, and flood Winnemem Wintu sacred sites. These projects will destroy sacred ceremonial places, poison the soil, and destroy unique habitat that is essential for salmon as well as other plants, birds, and marine life.
What are we doing?
The Run 4 Salmon will take place from Sept. 17 to Oct. 1. This event will help raise awareness about the threats to the salmon’s existence and the vital role salmon play in keeping our waters and forests healthy. We will be laying down blessings along the route they will take once they are brought back from New Zealand. This is a ceremonial way of bringing Salmon home, who have historically been the keepers of the water, and whose jobs are essential to keeping our waterways healthy for human life and for all other life that depends on these rivers. As we run, we will be praying to bring balance to the rivers of California and to all of the waters of the world, which are connected.
How can you help?
You can participate by;
Joining in on the walk, the bicycle segment, and/or the run, or by taking a boat on
You can follow this journey on social media.
Donate to our gofundme page to support those making this journey.
Call your senators and ask what they are doing to ensure the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s way of life is preserved and their voice is heard in California’s water planning. Tell them to build a volitional swim way around Shasta Dam for the Chinook Salmon, and to bring the McCloud River Salmon home from New Zealand.
Sign our petitions.
If you are a teacher, have your class follow Run 4 Salmon on our website. There
will be photos, blogs and information which may interest your students.
Use our hashtags to help spread the word #run4salmon #NoDamRaise.
You can also support our efforts by praying for your waters, learning where your
water comes from, knowing the names of those rivers, and standing up for your
This week, call, Tweet and/or Facebook message California Senators Diane Feinstein and Barbara Boxer (their information is below) and tell them you support Winnemem Wintu indigenous rights, healthy rivers and strong salmon runs. Tell them NO to the Shasta Dam raise and YES to justice for the Winnemem, which must include at the very least – like lands on the McCloud River, implementation of our plan to return salmon to the McCloud and restoration of federal recognition.
Example Tweet: “I support Winnemem indigenous rights, healthy rivers + strong salmon runs. I say NO to the Shasta Dam raise.#StoptheDamRaise”
Background: Since time immemorial, the Winnemem Wintu lived on the McCloud River (Winnemem Waywacket) until the Shasta Dam was constructed and flooded our homes and many of our sacred sites. Our land was taken without compensation such as “like lands to live on” promised by the 1941 Central Valley Project Indian Lands Acquisition Act, which was never carried out.
The current proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet is a destructive and wasteful plan. It would:
• Drown most of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s last remaining sacred sites and ancestral homelands.
• Decimate critically endanger salmon.
• Violate the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by flooding the McCloud River.
Critical to the identity of Winnemem is the care of many sacred places on what has always been tribal land. As people deeply connected to nature, the land is the foundation of our religion, providing powerful places of worship and directions for living a good life. Without our sacred places, Winnemem can no longer be Winnemem. We have no other place to go. Please stand with us and for the sacred by contacting Senators Feinstein and Boxer today!
Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/op-ed/soapbox/article45985335.html#storylink=cpy
Raising the height of Shasta Dam would drown most of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s last remaining sacred sites and traditional homelands, decimate endangered salmon and violate the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by flooding the McCloud River.
It is a criminal waste of taxpayer money, especially since cheaper, faster, state-of-the-art alternatives exist to ensure the state’s long-term water supply. Reject the California Emergency Drought Relief Act and any other legislation that could authorize raising Shasta Dam.
Join our fight today to stop the Shasta Dam raise. It help help preserve Winnemem Wintu culture and religion for future generations, and it will save all Californians from waste and unnecessary ecological destruction to benefit a few rich agri-business leaders. You can’t stop a drought with a dam!
The Winnemem Wintu tribe, allies and other tribal representatives will be rallying and waving signs outside the 2nd California Water Summit this Monday, June 29, at the Westin Sacramento to protest Gov. Jerry Brown’s efforts to exclude California tribes, environmentalists and other important stakeholders in this public meeting about massive state water infrastructure projects.
The summit is being advertised by the Brown administration as a conference to discuss the “latest developments including project selection for the $7.5 billion water bond” that is now available after the passage of the Water Quality, Supply and Infrastructure Act of 2014.
Registration for the summit is nearly an astounding $1,500 per person, and there have been no efforts to include tribal representatives, environmentalists or anyone who is advocating for sound water policy that will benefit future generations, local ecosystems and salmon and other fisheries.
No mention of tribal water rights is listed on the agenda, and it seems the only people attending will be water districts’ staff, government scientists, corporate representatives and other advocates for Governor Brown’s pet water projects like the Shasta Dam raise and the twin Delta Tunnels, both of which would be devastating for salmon and tribal cultural resources and sacred sites.
“Most of the California Indians who are working on tribal water rights and for healthier rivers can’t afford a $1,500 registration fee,” said Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk. “This is clearly an effort by Governor Brown to exclude the tribal voice, shove out anyone who disagrees with his destructive water plans and provide an opportunity for government and the big water power brokers to collude behind closed doors.”
Though California is suffering through five years of drastically low rainfall, Chief Sisk said the water problems are all man-made, due to poor management and greed. As the low rainfall puts a stress on California’s boondoggle of a water system, it has never been more important for the indigenous perspective to be heard and for tribal water rights to be acknowledged and upheld. The Winnemem Wintu have an especially important stake in the bond funds as many think they could be used to support the Shasta Dam raise to enlarge Shasta Lake’s capacity, which in turn would flood or damage about 40 sacred sites vital to the Winnemem’s religion and cultural practices.
“This is a summit that is meant to help these people peddle Brown’s projects that will benefit his buddies: agri-business and water sellers in Southern California,” Sisk said. “They are not interested in what’s best for the people of California and their children.”
All supporters are invited to join the Winnemem and their allies at the Westin Sacramento, 4800 Riverside Boulevard, at 7 a.m. Monday June 29. Please bring signs and any other items to ensure Gov. Brown hears our message loud and clear: He can no longer ignore the indigenous people of California!
NOTE: PRESS CONFERENCE: 3 PM 9/10/14 AT SHASTA DAM SITE
Redding, Calif. –The Winnemem (McCloud River) Wintu Tribe will hold a “War Dance” at Shasta Dam, north of Redding, Calif., beginning September 11th through September 15th. The War Dance is in response to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal to raise the dam, which threatens to submerge many Winnemem sacred sites and village areas. The Winnemem lost much of their homelands and their salmon when the dam was first constructed. “Any raising of the dam, even a few feet, will flood some of our last remaining sacred sites on the McCloud River – sites we still use today,” says Caleen Sisk , Winnemem Chief and Spiritual Leader. “We can’t be Winnemem any place else but the McCloud River. The dam raise is a form of cultural genocide.”
The Winnemem invoked the War Dance in 1887 against a fish hatchery on the McCloud River that threatened the salmon and the Winnemem way of life. . Again The Winnemem held a War Dance at the dam in 2004 to commit themselves to the protection of their land and their salmon. Now, the Winnemem face even more of their sacred sites and culture being submerged by the dam “We gave up a lot of our homeland for the sake of the California people, and got nothing in return. Now the government wants to take our sacred places, and again we get nothing in return. How is this fair, over and over again?” “This is not right Chief Sisk said. “This is too much to ask of a people.”
On September 11, 2014 at a site near Shasta Dam, just before dusk, a sacred ceremonial fire will be lit, and the Winnemem War Dancers will fast for the full four days of the ceremony.. For the next 4 days, the fire, the drum, the songs and the dance will carry the prayers of the Winnemem people. The dance is being held under a permit issued by The Bureau of Reclamation. (BOR) The Tribe has held numerous meetings with the BOR to raise questions about the feasibility of the BOR’s plans, the impacts it will have on the tribe and their way of life, and the troubled history between the tribe and the BOR. Yet, BOR is going ahead with plans to raise the dam and will submit it’s final EIS/EIR to the Secretary of Interior in December, and anticipates the final project plan will be submitted to Congress for approval no later then March 2015.
When Shasta Dam was first proposed, Congress passed a law (55 Stat 612) authorizing the federal government to take the lands and burial grounds that the Winnemem had for a thousand years. Promises were made to the Tribe in 55 Stat 612 that still have not been kept. The Tribe is asking that the BOR fulfill 55 Stat 612 to resolve these long standing debts as well as fully comply with NEPA, NHPA, and other laws that protect sacred and historic sites. The Tribe has consistently requested that the BOR, study alternatives to raising the dam such as better management practices for existing reservoirs and conservation options, as well as better protection of the fish populations. Raising the dam will damage, destroy and inundate cultural resources along the McCloud River, sites that are vital to future generations and are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as Traditional Cultural Properties.
Media Contact: Chief Caleen Sisk, (530) 229-4096; Tribal Spokesperson, Michael Preston, (530) 410-9768
Chief Sisk to Represent Federally Unrecognized Tribes at the 85th session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
TUIIMYALI, CA – Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk is one of five indigenous leaders from North America chosen to present at the United Nations’ 85th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which well be held Aug. 11-16 in Geneva, Switzerland.
At the session, she will present a three-minute intervention about the discriminatory nature of the U.S. government’s label of “federally unrecognized tribe”, which has been applied to dozens of historical California tribes because they were not on the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ original list of “federally recognized” tribes in 1978.
The CERD is a body of human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which was ratified in 1965.
“The label of ‘unrecognized’ dehumanizes our tribes and puts us in a ‘less than’ category even though many of us, including the Winnemem, have a well-documented history as a tribe,” Sisk said. “Every step we take to try to support and revitalize our traditions, preserve our language, and practice our culture is blocked by this label.”
Without federal recognition, the Winnemem Wintu are barred from owning religious items such as eagle feathers, can’t access BIA scholarships and are ineligible for protection under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and Indian Child Welfare Act.
More specifically, the lack of federal recognition has prevented the Winnemem from securing the necessary privacy to hold their Coming of Age Ceremonies on the McCloud River. It has also limited the Winnemem’s ability to intervene in with the U.S. government’s proposal to raise Shasta Dam, which would submerge or damage nearly 40 sacred sites integral to Winnemem culture.
Previous to receiving the funding to attend, Chief Sisk and the tribe submitted a so-called “shadow report” to the CERD, outlining the tribe’s history and the ways the federal recognition policy results in racial discrimination against historical tribes.
“I hope that we can raise awareness that the U.S. has problems in honoring the rights of its indigenous peoples, and we need to bring to light that the U.S. has created a false caste system in Indian Country,” Sisk said. “Tribes don’t deserve to be treated like we are.”
Learn more about the CERD: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/
The proposal to raise the Shasta Dam by 20.5 feet will mostly likely be deemed a “feasible alternative” by the Bureau of Reclamation, and it will almost permanently submerge an estimate 40-50 sacred sites integral to the Winnemem Wintu.
The US government is moving ahead with plans to raise Shasta Dam, in the service of wealthy water districts in California’s Central Valley. Our people, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, were flooded out when the dam was built in 1945, without receiving the compensation promised by Senate Bill 1120. Now we are expected to sacrifice once again.
This project will require a vote in the US Congress. Please contact your Congressperson and Senators and urge them to oppose the plan to raise Shasta Dam.
If you are in California, please let Senators Feinstein and Boxer know that you are against this further injustice against our tribe.
More info and links can be found at www.shastadamraise.com.
An 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.
And you can stop by their publishing house to get your own copy here:
1633 University Avenue
Berkeley, CA 94703
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.
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.
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