PRESS RELEASE: Winnemem Wintu Partners with GoFundMe to Finance First Ever Salmon Relocation and Restoration Project

PRESS RELEASE

For Immediate Release

Winnemem Wintu Partners with GoFundMe to Finance First Ever Salmon Relocation and Restoration Project

Press Contacts:

Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Hereditary Chief and Spiritual Leader

caleenwintu@gmail.com

(530) 229-4096
Gary Mulcahy, Government Liaison

gary@ranchriver.com

(916) 214-8493

Michael Preston (Pomtahatot Tuiimyali), Cultural Preservation Officer

wintu530@gmail.com

(530) 440-6270

JamesSalmonREDDING, Calif. – After a seven-year campaign to get the attention of federal agencies, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe is poised to take a major step in bringing home the descendants of the McCloud River Chinook salmon from the rivers of New Zealand. With California salmon runs at risk of extinction, we’re partnering with GoFundMe this month to raise $85,000 to fund the first phase of our project before it’s too late. 

At a time when climate change, dams and industrial water extraction for Big Ag threaten the future of California’s salmon, federal biologists agree with the Winnemem Wintu that salmon must return to the glacial waters of the McCloud River above Shasta Dam in order to survive.

This June, the tribe and our allies are joining forces with GoFundMe to raise $85,000. This will help fund the collection of samples of the winter-run salmon in New Zealand’s. These salmon are descendants of the same salmon that once spawned in the McCloud River. UC-Davis fish biologists will perform DNA testing on these samples to prove to the federal government that these are indeed the direct descendants of the McCloud River winter run salmon.

This will be the first phase of the Winnemem’s plan to bring home the wild chinook salmon that once ran in the millions and were the center of the tribe’s spiritual and cultural world. More than 70 years since the last salmon spawned in the McCloud River, we’re asking for good hearted people to join us in our historic efforts to return the salmon through a plan based on indigenous leadership and traditional ecological knowledge.

In the late 1800s and early 1900’s, federal fish culturists shipped winter-run salmon from the McCloud River around the world. While our salmon thrived in the Rakaia River in New Zealand, they were blocked from returning to the McCloud River in the 1940s with the construction of Shasta Dam, a project that also flooded the Winnemem homelands.

After years of meetings with the US Bureau of Reclamation and NOAA Fisheries and a successful lobbying during the 2016 Run4Salmon, the  Bureau of Reclamation agreed to support the tribe’s project by setting aside partial funding for the first phase in support of the sample gathering, but an additional $85,000 is needed to ensure the samples are collected this spawning season. The tribe’s ultimate plan for the salmon’s return involves building a swimway using existing creeks around the dam to the McCloud River so the salmon can be restored to their rightful place in the natural world.
Read our plan to return the salmon here: http://www.water.ca.gov/fishpassage/docs/shasta_winnemem.pdf
To build support last fall, Chief Caleen Sisk led the Run4Salmon, a two-week journey tracing the historical path of our salmon from the mouth of the Bay-Delta estuary to the McCloud River. The Run4Salmon was a prayer for the protection of the waters, the restoration of the salmon and continuance of indigenous lifeways that are currently under attack by Gov. Jerry Brown’s  Delta Tunnels proposal, Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal to raise the height of Shasta Dam, and other mega-projects that would further degrade our rivers and the estuary the salmon need to survive.
Just as DAPL threatens the future of the Standing Rock Sioux, the threats to salmon endanger the future of the Winnemem Wintu people and other California salmon tribes. The salmon are vital to clean rivers and reducing the temperatures in our waterways, making their survival important for all humans, especially as we face the challenges of climate change. That is why we fight for them.

STATEMENTS

Chief Caleen Sisk: “This is our pipeline, and we have to wake the people up before we are standing in front of bulldozers because we will do that also”

Gary Mulcahy: “We are setting out to do something that has never been done before.”

Corrina Gould:  “. . .The salmon that came up our rivers and took care of my ancestors are the same salmon that spawn on Chief Caleen’s river and took care of her ancestors as well.”

 

Press Release: Winnemem Wintu and Allies to Protest Exclusion of California Indians from Gov. Brown’s California Water Summit

For Immediate Release: June 27, 2015

Press Contact: Caleen Sisk, (530) 229-4096

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!

 

Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk To Report on Racial Discrimination of Federal Tribal Recognition at the United Nations in Geneva

For Immediate Release: July 30, 2014

Media Contact: Chief Caleen Sisk, (530) 229-4096; Tribal Spokesperson, Michael Preston, (530) 410-9768

Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk

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/

Learn more about the Winnemem Wintu: www.winnememwintu.org

Read the Winnemem’s Shadow Report Presented to the CERD: Winnemem Wintu shadow report FINAL-2 copy

 

“Don’t Drown Our Culture” – New Short Doc Demands Senators Boxer and Feinstein Address Winnemem Justice Issues Relating to the Shasta Dam Raise

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.

What you can do:

Sign the Moveon petition.

Contact your congressional representatives and tell them to vote no on any proposal to raise the dam: http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml)

Is Doug LaMalfa Your Congressman? Tell him “No!” to the Shasta Dam Raise

LaMalfa PosterIs your U.S. representative Doug LaMalfa? You can make a difference to support Winnemem Wintu cultural survival by telling him not to authorize the proposal to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet.

You can call LaMalfa at (530) 223-5897 or email him by filling out this online form.

Here is a sample letter you can use.

We were flooded out, and not compensated, with the building of the dam in 1945, and now Westlands Water District and the Federal Government are pushing to do it again. This latest proposal would inundate or damage more than 40 sacred sites, including our Coming of Age ceremony place on the Winnemem Waywaqat (McCloud River).

Representative Jim Costa, of Fresno, has introduced a bill, co-signed by a number of California Democratic Congressmen, to raise the dam. No mention of the standing debt to our people.

If you live in another district, please contact your Senators and Congresspeople (http://www.usa.gov/Contact/Elected.shtml), in any state you’re in, 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.

Learn more about why the dam raise must be stopped at www.shastadamraise.com.

Press Release: BIA Meeting Will End Chief Sisk’s Twenty-Four Day Fast, Wednesday, July 11th

For Immediate Release:  July 9, 2012

For more information:

Gary Hayward Slaughter Mulcahy, Government Liaison: 916-214-8493

Bureau of Indian Affairs and Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chief Caleen Sisk to discuss issues regarding tribal recognition to protect sacred sites and ceremonies.

On Friday, July 6th, Dr. Virgil Akins, Superintendent, BIA of Northern California agreed to meet with Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chief and Spiritual Leader, Caleen Sisk to discuss the issues surrounding a ‘technical correction’ to restore the tribe’s status as a federally recognized tribe.

The tribe lost their recognition due to a bureaucratic error in the mid-80s, and the California State Assembly, through AJR -39, and the California Native American Heritage Commission have long urged the federal government to restore that recognition.

The meeting, scheduled for Wednesday July 11th, will end the twenty-four day fast of Chief Sisk and her nephew Arron Sisk, who have sought the BIA’s intervention into the U.S. Forest Service’s inability to protect the Tribe’s recent Coming of Age Ceremony on the McCloud River arm of Shasta Lake.

At previous Coming of Age ceremonies for the tribe’s young women, the Forest Service has only enforced voluntary closures, which many recreational boaters have ignored – leading to well documented racial slurs, harassment, and abusive language (http://vimeo.com/39867112)

For six years, the Tribe has asked the Forest service for a mandatory closure of the area because of the harassment, but Forest Service officials say no law allows them to do it.  The Tribe cites the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the 2008 Farm Bill sec. 8104, and the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples signed by President Obama as more than enough authority, but Regional Forester Randy Moore stated that the tribe is not a ‘federally recognized’ tribe and therefore the provisions in those authorities do not apply.

After a great deal of public pressure, a mandatory closure of the river was issued this year for ‘safety’ reasons, but the Forest Service said they had no authority to close off the land area to anyone that wished to enter because the tribe was not federally recognized.  During past ceremonies the tribe not only suffered harassment from boaters, but also disruptions of the ceremony by fishermen walking through the ceremonial grounds, and curiosity seekers coming into camp.

Because of the Forest Service’s lack of authority to issue a full mandatory closure of the area, Spiritual and Tribal Leader Sisk has been fasting and praying since Monday, June 18th, that the Forest Service, BIA, or whoever has the authority to grant the tribes request for full closure of their ceremonial sites during times of ceremony, come forward and do so.

“That campground was my grandfather’s land that they took and never compensated us. They can’t even show the papers that show how they got it,” Sisk said. “And now all we’re asking for in return is four days of peace and dignity for ceremony.”

“It’s not too much to ask for,” she said.

####

Chief’s letter to BIA Regional Director: “It’s time for the BIA to stop the human rights abuses against us.”

Chief Sisk at our War Dance for a Peaceful Coming of Age this May

Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk sent a letter to BIA Regional Director Amy Dutschke, urging her to intervene and close the ceremonial land to outsiders from outsiders during our Coming of Age ceremony June 30-July 3.

“By keeping the Winnemem Wintu, a tribe with a long history of government-to-government relations with the U.S., in your “unrecognized” status, you are by proxy authorizing human rights violations against our tribe and the disruption of our ceremony.”

Full letter is pasted below. The chief has fasted for 11 days and will continue to do so until Ms. Dutschke or the appropriate official meets with her.

Help us reach the BIA! Contact Amy Dutschke at Pacific Regional Office Bureau of Indian Affairs 2800 Cottage Way Sacramento, CA 95825

Phone: (916) 978-6000, (916) 978-6099

E-mail: amy.dutschke@bia.gov

Amy Dutschke, Regional Director of the BIA in Sacramento

Be sure to cite AJR 39 – the California state resolution that urges the federal government to recognize the Winnemem!

Beedi Yalumina! Never give up!

The letter:

Amy Dutschke
Regional Director

Pacific Regional Office
Bureau of Indian Affairs
2800 Cottage Way
Sacramento, CA 95825                                             June 27, 2012

Dear Ms. Dutschke,

I am Caleen Sisk, Spiritual Leader and Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe from Northern California.

Although we have met with Bureau representatives on several occasions in Washington, D.C., and both our state Senators in the past have sent inquiries to the Bureau regarding our tribal status, it was recommended that we send a formal request for meeting with you because of the urgency of our current situation.

I am writing to request a meeting with you to discuss our status as an “unrecognized” tribe.  I have been fasting for 9 days and will continue to do so until a meeting can be arranged.

We are a deeply traditional people who still practice our indigenous religion at numerous sacred sites along the McCloud River watershed.

For six years, we have struggled with the U.S. Forest Service to hold a peaceful Coming of Age ceremony at our Puberty Rock sacred site on the McCloud. in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, and a large portion of the site is now a Forest Service campground. Because we are federally unrecognized, the Forest Service states that they can’t close the ceremonial site and river for us to protect the privacy of the ceremonies.

During previous ceremonies, we have endured heckling, racial harassment and even had a woman flash her naked breasts at us, while curiosity seekers and fishermen have disrupted the ceremony by walking through the grounds or near the young women’s traditional bark huts.

Now, after a long campaign, the Forest Service has finally issued a river closure for health and safety reasons, but they will not issue a mandatory closure of the ceremonial land because of our status with the BIA.  The Forest Service has informed us that the only way they would have the legal authority to close the campground and area to the general public is if we were on the list of federally recognized tribes.

We believe it’s time that the BIA step in and do what’s necessary to protect our upcoming ceremony this June 30-July 3, and all future ceremonies, from human rights violations. By keeping the Winnemem Wintu, a tribe with a long history of government-to-government relations with the U.S., in your “unrecognized” status, you are by proxy authorizing human rights violations against our tribe and the disruption of our ceremony.

I would like to request a meeting with you as soon as possible, hopefully before our ceremony begins Saturday, June 30, to discuss this matter and start the process to getting a technical correction to restore our recognized status so we can have a ceremony in peace and dignity. Because this is of the utmost importance to the survival of our culture and our religious rights, I will be fasting until this meeting takes place.

The Winnemem Wintu have been recognized on numerous occasions by the federal government: the 1851 unratified Cottonwood Treaty of which our former chief Norel Putus is a signer; the establishment of the temporary reservation at the Baird Fish Hatchery on our river; the 1941 Central Valley Project Indian Lands Acquisition Act, which authorized our removal and the removal of our burials from the McCloud River to clear the way for Shasta Lake; our chief’s 25-year-old eagle feather permit, which was recently revoked, and in so many other ways.

The Tejon Indian Tribe was recently discovered to have been omitted by accident by your agency. We believe the Winnemem Wintu have suffered the same fate, and we are eager to meet with you to help remedy this great injustice.

Respectfully,

Caleen Sisk
Spiritual and Tribal Leader
Winnemem Wintu Tribe
14840 Bear Mountain Road
Redding, CA. 96003

Former Forest Service Attorney: “River closure is legally and morally justifiable action.”

Claire Cummings with our late Spiritual Leader Florence Jones

Note: This email was written by Claire Cummings, a former Forest Service attorney, to Regional Forester Randy Moore. She says Moore has the authority and legal ability to close 400 yards of the McCloud River for our Coming of Age ceremony this month. Previous ceremonies have been disrupted by recreational boaters who heckle and flash us.

Dear Mr. Moore

I wish to strongly suggest that not only is it within your power to briefly close the McCloud River for a few days for the Winnemem Wintu’s native ceremony, as respectfully requested, but it is also a morally and legally justifiable action.

In the early 1980’s I was an Office of General Counsel staff attorney in the U.S. Forest Service Region 5. In that capacity I advised the Shasta-Trinity National Forest and other forests on many policy questions. After four years at OGC, I began practicing environmental law and I had the opportunity of representing the traditional leader of the tribe, Florence Jones. I then worked with the forest to protect their ceremonial places and practices.

When the question of the ski resort on Panther Meadows came up, the forest was in clear violation of the National Historic Preservation Act. I was representing Florence Jones and in a meeting with the then Forest Supervisor, I said: “Look, you used to pay me for my advice, and it is just as valid now: you need to come into compliance with Section 106.” Eventually, the forest did the right thing and complied.

However, over all, the U.S. Forest Service does not do the right thing when it comes to respecting cultural diversity and cultural preservation. You can find the legal justification needed for a temporary closure, even if just on the basis of public safety, given the disreputable behavior of the public toward this ceremony in the past. So it is not a matter of if you can but if you will. Better yet, consider doing the right thing for the right reasons.

Is it a matter of not wanting to look like you are “giving in” to some interest group? In this case, using the lack of tribal status as an excuse. And yet, the federal government withdrew that status from this particular group of Wintu, as part of driving them off the river, thus depriving them of their legal rights.

Nevertheless, the rights of special interests abound in your forests, from Bible camps, to permits for summer homes, to recreational use from snowmobiles to cattle pasture. All these are allowed. But not the very uses to which these lands were put long before they became the property of the U.S. government.

These cultural practices are part of the rich tradition of this country and to discriminate against them, particularly when other religious and private, for profit, uses are permitted, is to be arbitrary, or even to continue the genocidal practices of the past.

This is not hyperbole. It is the real history of native people in this country.

Still, your obligation is framed by the law and the law is well tuned toward protecting private property and private interests. I understand that, but the law provides for the use of your discretion too.

In this case, your anthropologists (not archeologists) but someone trained in ethnography, can validate the ancient roots of this coming of age ceremony, the use of the particular place as essential and the timing as integral to the cultural practice.

Plus, we are talking about a small section of river – not its entire run, just several hundred yards before it ends, boats have to turn around anyway. And for a short period of time. The only inconvenience would be toward boaters who want to come a few hundred feet more where the river enters private property, another story of the theft of native land, the Bollibokka Club, a private fishing enclave that was given to the railroad barons and their heirs.

Claire with our current Spiritual Leader and Chief Caleen Sisk

So, what is at stake is a few hundred feet of recreational use of the river, for a few days, versus the continuation of an ancient ceremony that has taken place on that part of the river for thousands of years.

I just want to make a heartfelt request that you err on the side of respect for native culture.

If you want me to find you the legal basis for the closure, I will do so, but really, you are paying OGC attorneys to do that already.

With respect,

Claire Hope Cummings

FOREST SERVICE IGNORES TRIBE’S REQUEST FOR PEACEFUL SACRED CEREMONY; TRIBE PLANS WAR DANCE TO PROTECT TRADITIONAL WOMEN’S RIGHTS

P R E S S  R E L E A S E

Winnemem Wintu Tribe

For Immediate Release:  May 4, 2012

For more information:

Caleen Sisk, Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief: 530-710-4817

James Ward, media relations: 530-638-5580

WinnememWintu Tribe needs 4-day closure of 400-yard section of McCloud River to Perform Girls’ Traditional Coming of Age Ceremony

Ceremony flasher graphic

Please download and share via facebook! Save our ceremony!

Redding, CA

–U.S. Forest Service Region 5 Forester Randy Moore has missed his May 1 deadline to respond to the Winnemem Wintu’s request for a mandatory river closure to protect their Coming of Age ceremony this summer. The tribe has had not received any intention of Mr. Moore to respond in a timely fashion, and because the government’s legal process is clearly a dead end, the Winnemem will now hold a H’up Chonas, or War Dance, in the near future to defend their cultural rites in a traditional way.
Previous Coming of Age ceremonies have been disrupted by drunken recreational boaters motoring through the site and heckling the tribe with racial slurs.

“I am saddened that Moore does not have the courage to do what’s right,” Sisk said. “We lost all our land when they built Shasta Dam, and now all we want is four days of peace and dignity for our ceremony, which is vital to the social fabric of our tribe. A peaceful ceremony is our right, and we are not accepting anything short of that.”

The tribe is placing a call to action.  During the War Dance, the tribe, hundreds of tribal members from around the west coast and allies will gather in solidarity to ensure their sacred ceremony will proceed unhindered as it has for thousands of years before the Forest Service existed.  For more information, contact the tribe at: winnememwintutribe@gmail.com.  Details will be on the Winnemem Wintu web site soon.

The tribe first brought back the H’up Chonas, or War Dance, in 2004 to protest the proposal to raise Shasta Dam, which would flood many important sacred sites, including the site of the Coming of Age ceremonies. The War Dance signifies a commitment to a spiritual and physical resistance to threats to the tribe’s culture. It means the Winnemem are willing to die to protect their tribal way of life.

Frustrated by being ignored by Shasta-Trinity Forest officials for the past six years, members of the Tribe challenged Mr. Moore at his office in Vallejo, CA, April 16,to ask him directly for the closure for the young women’s ceremony.
Citing the U.N. Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples recently signed by President Obama, Chief Sisk and several women of the tribe sought to convince Mr. Moore that this is an issue of human rights and women’s rights.  The Forest Service’s position has been that they lack the authority to grant the request for the traditional tribe, though sources within the agency have verified that Mr. Moore has the authority to close the stretch of river necessary for the ceremony.

In previous ceremonies, the Forest Service attempted a“voluntary” closure of the river, which has led to the tribe being heckled and abused by antagonistic recreational boaters who are often drunk and have shouted racial slurs like “Fat Indians!”.

At the April 16 event, Chief Sisk reported to the press that a voluntary closure meansthat, “the 10 percent who mean harm, disrespect and possible violence barge through the ceremony by motor boat and prove that a voluntary closure does not work. “

Though the Winnemem are federally unrecognized due to a bureaucratic error, the Forest Service has previously signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the tribe, which states they are the indigenous people from the McCloud River.

Moore said the Forest Service could close the river for a federally recognized tribe on the Winnemem’s behalf. Not only is this an insult to the Winnemem, but it is exceedingly dangerous. It could set a legal precedent that another tribe has authority over the site and the ceremony.

“What if the Mormons had to ask the Catholic Church for permission to have a ceremony?” Sisk asked. “What if one day the Catholics said no? Then what do you do?”

The north end of the ceremony site is private land not accessible to boaters. The river closure would not stop a thoroughfare, but simply cut off a 400-yard corner of the 30,000 square-acre Shasta Lake.

At previous ceremonies, the Forest Service’s law enforcement officers have implemented a mandatory closure of the river on the last day of the ceremony when the young women swim across to symbolize their transition to womanhood.  They have cited safety reasons behind the closure.

Learn more about the Winnemem Wintu at http://www.winnememwintu.us/

Learn more about the ceremony at www.saveourceremony.com.

Download Video of motorboats speeding past ceremony and flashing the participants at: http://vimeo.com/39867112

Footage of April 16, 2012 protest at Forest Service Region 5 Headquarters in Vallejo: http://youtu.be/oglCy–o7oY

# # #

From Oregon with Love for Ceremony: A Letter to the Forest Service

The following is a letter from a supporter in Oregon (she asked us to only use her initials) to the local Forest Service district urging the forest manager to enforce a mandatory river closure for our upcoming BałasChonas – Coming of Age Ceremony – for 16-year-old Marisa this summer.

Previous ceremonies have been marred by heckling and disruptions from recreational boaters on the McCloud Arm of Shasta Lake. To see video of the heckling and learn more about the ceremony, visit www.saveourceremony.com

For information on writing your own letter to Sharon Heywood, visit our how you can help page. #saveourceremony

Feel free to send us your letter to winnememwintutribe@gmail.com or even make a video on youtube, and we will share it on our web site and on our facebook page!

March 20, 2012

USDA Forest Service
3644 Avtech Parkway

Redding, CA 96002

Dear Ms. Heywood:

I’ve watched and listened, danced and feasted at the two most recent Balas Chonas, (puberty), ceremonies of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, held along the McCloud River at their traditional home and sacred sites.  Welcomed guests, including even non-tribal people like myself, as well as US Forest Service employees, have joined them.  Some of the USFS people were there as part of their work, others were there to witness and participate in the beauty of the ceremony.

It was shocking that some recreating public members refused to accept a “voluntary closure” of the ceremony area and purposely disrupted it with shouts and curses.  In one such incident a woman lifted her shirt and showed her breasts.  This is totally unacceptable, and particularly at a time that is so sacred.

The United States of America is now among the signers of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People.  Article 12 states: “Indigenous peoples have the right to manifest, practice…and teach their spiritual and religious traditions…and ceremonies; the right to maintain and protect and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites.”  There are other relevant articles, but Article 12 should be enough reason for you to close the river/lake for the upcoming ceremony, June 30 – July 3, 2012.

In conversation with Winnemem Wintu Tribal Chief, Caleen Sisk, I have learned that she is being asked to respond to an application that would be appropriate for any recreating group or family.  This seems an insult, like asking a Priest or Rabbi to apply each time they needed to hold a religious event in their sacred place.

And, as for the date of the event, there is only one traditional time that can work for the Balas Chonas ceremony; to expect use at another time would be no different than expecting Christmas services to be held on Halloween or Easter Sunday.  I use these examples because I think that many people have a hard time understanding certain insults and indignities and racism if they can’t see it from their own cultural perspective.  The safety and sacredness of this Balas Chonas event, in which the next tribal chief will be the initiate, is absolutely crucial.

Our government, in signing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People, agreed to uphold that document.  You, as Supervisor of the Shasta-Trinity Forest, have the responsibility to carry out the intent of it, unless it is more appropriate for Regional Director, Randy Moore, or Forest Ranger Kristy Cottini, to do so.

In hopes for a good outcome for the Ceremony, sincerely,

R.K. – Winnemem Support Group of Oregon