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.”

 

“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)

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.

You can subscribe to the magazine online here: http://newsfromnativecalifornia.com/store/issues/volume-27-no-3-spring-2014/

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.

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

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.

WINNEMEM WINTU REJECT BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN, DENOUNCE IT AS A DEATH SENTENCE FOR SALMON AND VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS

Press Release

 

Winnemem Wintu

 

For immediate release: Dec. 9, 2013

 

For more information: Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader, (530) 710-4817

 

WINNEMEM WINTU REJECT BAY DELTA CONSERVATION PLAN, DENOUNCE IT AS A DEATH SENTENCE FOR SALMON AND VIOLATION OF INDIGENOUS RIGHTS

 

Chief Caleen Sisk will speak at rallies in Sacramento today and Friday and re-affirm the Winnemem Wintu opposition’s against the construction of the peripheral water export tunnels and the Bay Delta Conservation Plan (BDCP), as Governor Jerry Brown’s administration releases the preliminary Environmental Impact Report and the BDCP plan to the public today.

 

As California’s State Water Project currently operates, far too much water is sucked from the San Francisco/Sacramento Delta, the largest estuary on the Pacific Coast, and sent to the state’s water brokers, who support unsustainable industrial agriculture, destructive hydraulic fracking for oil extraction and municipal developments in the desert.

 

The proposed peripheral tunnels, with a conservatively estimated price tag of $54 billion, will undoubtedly kill the sensitive Delta, a delicate mix of salt and freshwater, that is vital to the life cycle of California salmon as well as thousands of other fish and species.

 

“There is no precedent for the killing of an estuary of this size, so how could any study be trusted to protect the Delta for salmon and other fish? How can they even know what the effects will be?” said Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk.  “The end of salmon would also mean the end of Winnemem, so the BDCP is a threat to our very existence as indigenous people.”

 

As one of the many traditional salmon tribes in California, the Winnemem rely on access to salmon to maintain our cultural and religious practices. The peripheral tunnels if ever constructed would therefore be in violation of our indigenous rights to maintain our cultural practices with salmon, as outlined in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

 

Recently at a public meeting in Redding, Governor Brown’s  Deputy Director of the Natural Resources Agency Jerry Meral, disclosed that the peripheral tunnels are connected to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s plan to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet, a project that would destroy or submerge nearly 40 sacred sites and destroy potential salmon spawning areas. We are currently working on plans to re-introduce our salmon above the dam into the McCloud River.

 

The planned Delta tunnels will  require more water be taken from the Trinity River and the Shasta Dam, which is fed by the Upper Sacramento, McCloud and Pit Rivers. This will add even more stress to the struggling ecology of these rivers.

This plan is not meant to benefit the public of California, native and non-native, but purely to line the coffers of the lobbyists who have been buying off Gov. Brown all along, such as Beverly Hills Big Ag billionaire Stewart Resnick and his wife Lynda who contributed $99,000 to his 2010 campaign. The Western States Petroleum Association has spent more than $4.5 million in lobbying the state government in 2013 alone.

 

The peripheral tunnels are a violation of the public’s trust in Gov. Brown, and not the answer to dealing with the state’s forthcoming water shortages. There are better solutions.

The Winnemem are proud to announce that we will be standing with our allies during a press conference today and a rally Friday, Dec. 13 at the West Steps of the Capitol. Chief Sisk will speak.

 

These events are sponsored by Californians for A Fair Water Policy and dozens of other environmental, fishing, farming, government, and water agencies.

 

Monday, December 9, 2013

—Press Conference and Rally at the Capitol

—Location: Starting in Room 112, moving to West Steps if needed

—Starting Time: Noon with 12:30 p.m. press conference – arrive as early as 10:30 for possible walk to California Resources Agency.

 

Friday, December 13, 2013

—Friday the 13th Rally to begin the 120 Day BDCP Response Countdown

—Location: West Steps of the Capitol

—Starting Time: 11:30 a.m.

 

This rally is sponsored by Californians for A Fair Water Policy and dozens of other environmental, fishing, farming, government, and water agencies.

 

To stop this boondoggle please writ letters to Governor Brown expressing your opposition to the peripheral tunnels plan! Letters should be addressed to:

 

Governor Jerry Brown

c/o State Capitol, Suite 1173

Sacramento, CA 95814

 

 

 

 

Buy a Dancing Salmon Home DVD today!

The award-winning documentary about our efforts in partnership with our Maori family to return our salmon home from New Zealand is now available on DVD! Go here to order. 

DVD-Marketing-Graphic

Statement regarding status of Forest Service negotiations for Balas Chonas (Coming of Age Ceremony)

7/2/13 –We are very concerned at the status of negotiations with the US Forest Service for a Balas Chonas (Coming of Age Ceremony) for sixteen year-old Alicia Scholfield, scheduled to take place in 18 days. After two meetings and numerous phone and email interactions with the regional level Tribal Liaison, Robert Goodwin, we have suddenly, without notice or discussion, been shifted down to the “Forest” level, and told that we would now be dealing with personnel of the Shasta-Trinity National Forest, where we have found little respect over the past ten years. Despite key local staff disregard for prior agreements, and lack of cultural awareness, the regional and national management of the Forest Service wants us to believe that this office will do its very best to ensure that we are able to hold a ceremony in peace and dignity, without abusive interruptions by members of the public or law enforcement officers.Furthermore, while on the one hand we are told that our international awareness campaign is having an affect, and that high level personnel of the Department of Agriculture are interested in our situation, on the other hand we are informed that, not being a “federally recognized” tribe, we are not worthy of protection against intrusion into our ceremonial activities. So, overall, we are not convinced that this agency wants to shift away from obstruction toward cooperation.

Beyond US Federal law, which we believe affords us the right to hold ceremony on our traditional lands without interruption, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which President Obama endorsed in 2010, specifically addresses our rights in this situation. As noted in the 2012 “Indian Sacred Sites” Report to the Secretary of the US Department of Agriculture:

“Article 12 declares the right of indigenous peoples to manifest, practice, develop, and teach their spiritual and religious traditions, customs, and ceremonies; to maintain, protect, and have access in privacy to their religious and cultural sites…”
It is time for the US Forest Service to work with all tribal people, and in this case the Winnemem Wintu of the McCloud River, and act in a way that will help promote healthy Native communities.
Women_Banner_Poster 3_2013(1)
We are at a critical point, and we ask Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell to personally ensure that this ceremony — which is of critical importance to the women and men of our tribe, young and old alike — will be approached by his agency’s personnel with the respect that it deserves. We call on our supporters worldwide to continue to contact Chief Tidwell (ttidwell@fs.fed.us, 202-205-8439) to let him know that you are looking forward to a peaceful and dignified Coming of Age Ceremony for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to ensure that this spiritual event can proceed with dignity and without interruption, and if that can happen with the cooperation and support of the US Forest Service, the US Department of Agriculture and the US Government in general, then everyone will be able to celebrate!

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

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

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