This Fall Run4Salmon and for Healthy Rivers

800_helene_sisk_warrioring_upWho are we?

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
    the river.
  • 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

    L earn more at 

    Join the Facebook event here.

Sign the Petition to Save Winnemem Culture and Stop the Shasta Dam Raise

winnememshasta raiseSign the petition to tell Congress “NO” to the Shasta dam Raise! You can make a difference to help Winnemem culture survive for future generations!

Is your U.S. representative Doug LaMalfa, whose district includes our ancestral lands? 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, HR 4125 co-signed by a number of California Democratic Congressmen, to raise the dam. No mention of the standing debt to our people. Senator Diane Feinstein is also likely to introduce a bill to authorize the raising of the dam.

If you live in another district, please contact your Senators and Congresspeople (, 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.


Help Return Our Salmon Home – Tell the Feds to Respect Our Indigenous Rights

image_displayAs depicted in the documentary, Dancing Salmon Home, we are desperately trying to return our Chinook salmon home from New Zealand.

Unfortunately, the Bureau of Reclamation, the same agency that is planning to raise Shasta Dam and submerge potential McCloud River spawning grounds, is in charge of selecting the plan for returning salmon above the dam.

We have been asked to submit our salmon plan, but we have no voice to be a decision-maker about the return of salmon to our river in our indigenous territory.

Please urge the Bureau of Reclamation to acknowledge our indigenous rights to be part of the salmon team by calling or e-mailing Sue Fry Manager, Bay-Delta Office, at or at (916) 414-2400.

You can also download, print and send this postcard – Side A and Side B. Sue Fry is currently refusing to meet with us. 

The tribe is still fighting a Bureau of Reclamation proposal to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet, which would submerge more sacred sites and severely damage the surrounding ecology. The tribe asks that supporters and allies e-mail or call the Bureau’s Commissioner Michael Connor urging him not to submit the Shasta Dam raise proposal for a vote to Congress and support Winnemem cultural survival. He can be reached at and at (202) 513-0501. More information about the dam raise can be found here.



Save salmon and sacred sites: Speak out against the Shasta Dam raise by Sept. 30!

shastadamprotestTime is running out to submit a public comment to the Bureau of Reclamation telling them. The dam raise would destroy several miles of potential salmon spawning grounds on the McCloud and would submerge or damage nearly 40 sacred sites, including our Coming of Age ceremony site.

The dam is being raised to the cost of $1 billion to increase statewide water storage by less than one percent, and to send water to Southern California real estate developments in the desert and to Big Ag, which sell the water at a profit.

But you can make a difference! But you must act, the deadline is Sept. 30!

  • Sign this petition created by the Sacred Land Film Project. All the signatures will be sent to the Bureau on Sept. 30.
  • E-mail or contact the bureau directly.By mail: Send comments to Katrina Chow, Project Manager, US Bureau of Reclamation, Planning Division, 2800 Cottage Way, Sacramento, CA 95825-1893By e-mail:

    By phone: (916) 978-5067

    – See more at the Sacred Land Film Project.

  • Check out this sample letter and talking points to help you.

If you or your organization would like to work with us on standing against the dam and submitting comments, contact us at!

Beedi Yalumina! Never give up!

Winnemem Film Screenings in Redding Nov. 4-6

Two short documentaries about our Tribe’s journey to justice and salmon return will be screened at the Indian Education Film Festival, which is being held at the Shasta Learning Center (Old Nova), Friday – Sunday, Nov. 4-6.

We’ll screen the 15-minute promotional short for Will Doolittle‘s upcoming feature documentary Dancing Salmon Home about our journey to New Zealand to sing and dance for our salmon as well as our efforts to bring them home.

We’ll also show Will’s 22-minute film, Ceremony Comes Home, about our 2006 Coming of Age ceremony for Marine Sisk, which was disrupted by recreational boaters who motored through the McCloud River site and heckled us and our guests.

The films will be followed by a question and answer forum with tribal members. Tickets can be brought for $1 at the door, and we will also have our jewelry and our Sacred Salmon Cards for sale.

All proceeds will go towards our efforts to return the salmon, protect our sacred sites and our fight for justice.


Shasta Learning Center, 2200 Eureka Way , Redding , 96001

Screening Schedule:

Friday, Nov. 4th
5:00 p.m. – Dancing Salmon Home
5:30 p.m. – Ceremony Comes Home

Saturday, Nov. 5th
5:00 p.m. – Dancing Salmon Home
5:30p.m. – Ceremony Comes Home
Sunday, Nov. 6th
11 a.m. – Dancing Salmon Home
11:30 a.m.- Ceremony Comes Home

Caleen Sisk-Franco: “Salmon Restoration Should Help Ranchers, Not Hurt Them”

Winnemem Wintu Spiritual Leader and Tribal Chief Caleen Sisk-Franco published an opinion piece in the Redding Record-Searchlight today stating that the Tribe supports local ranchers and sees them as allies in Central Valley salmon recovery.

Read the full piece: “Caleen Sisk-Franco: Salmon Restoration Should Help Ranchers, Not Hurt Them“.

We have many stories about the thick salmon runs that once spawned in the McCloud River; we remember how the land and the water used to be when the salmon were here; we more than anyone know what will be lost if all of our salmon are lost.

Many of the ranchers on Cow Creek have held their family land for a few generations, and I imagine they heard yarns from their grandpas and great-grandpas about the salmon runs that used to charge through their land.

Their oral history might not stretch as far back as ours, but I bet a love for salmon exists in the hearts of many of those ranchers. That is why my tribe would like to work with them as salmon allies.

Caleen wrote the piece in response to an Oct. 11 story – “Ranchers wary over fish barrier count on Cow Creek” – about a recent meeting between U.S. Fish and Wildlife and Cow Creek ranchers, who are worried about the agency’s effort to survey salmon barriers on the waterway they depend on for irrigation.

Though we are investigating other swimway options, one way we believe our migrating McCloud River salmon could get around Shasta Dam is via Cow, Little Cow and Dry Creeks. See the map below:

Winnemem Salmon Return Presentation at Food Summit

Arron Sisk fillets a Trinity River salmon last fall. We have to rely on receiving salmon from other tribes because of the Shasta Dam.

Winnemem Wintu Tribal Member Ricardo Torres will discuss the Tribe’s efforts to return our salmon home to the McCloud River at the 2011 Community Food Summit tomorrow, Sept. 13, at the Sacramento Native American Health Center (SNAHC). Torres is also Chair of the SNAHC Board of Directors.

Scheduled for 10 a.m. – 1 p.m at the SNAHC building, 2022 J St., the summit is part of the “Let’s Move! in Indian Country” initiative which is a joint effort between First Lady Michelle Obama and Indian Health Services to improve nutrition and wellness in native communities.

Before the Shasta Dam was constructed, Chinook salmon was a staple food of the Winnemem as our McCloud River was one of the most productive salmon runs on the Pacific Coast.

But our access to salmon has been limited, and we believe it’s important for our physical health that salmon become a regular part of our diet again.

growing body of research supports what indigenous people have long known, it’s in a salmon people’s genes to eat salmon.

“Salmon are the ultimate source of good health for California Indians that has been missing from our diets for generations,” said Spiritual Leader and Traditional Chief Caleen Sisk-Franco. “We need salmon back in our rivers and back in our diets for balance to return to our world.”

To restore our staple diet, the Winnemem are currently working on a plan with federal fish biologists from NOAA, our Maori allies, Fish and Game New Zealand and Hoop Valley Tribal fishery experts that would import the New Zealand salmon home to the McCloud and use natural creeks to get migrating salmon around the dam.

For more information about Let’s Move! in Indian Country, visit the Department of Interior’s web page.

This Week in Winnemem: Salmon, Unrecognized Tribes and Human Right to Water

This H'up Chonas dance photograph was feature in the Christian Science Monitor's web site.

The Winnemem Wintu have received a lot of news coverage in recent weeks, so here is a quick round-up in case you missed it.

The Human Right to Water, which would guarantee all people affordable access to clean water and sanitation, is an important cause to the Winnemem, as we believe the right must also include spiritual access to water.

More than 20 Winnemem, coincidentally, were at the state capitol Wednesday where we successfully helped lobby for the unanimous passage on the Senate floor of Assembly Bill 1221, which would help federally unrecognized tribes improve water quality and sanitation in their communities.

“Water is sacred, water is Life for all,” commented Caleen Sisk-Franco, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem. “Just as all need to breathe Air, so should be the waters be for all, not just those who market water and ruin the rest in poor planning.”

Upcoming Stories:

Be sure to check them out!

Coonrod Ceremony, Aug. 11-14, Will Have Many Visitors, Dancers

During Coonrod, we jump off the McCloud Lower Falls and follow the path of the salmon so the river remembers our sacred fish are supposed to be there.

Our annual Coonrod Ceremony will be held Aug. 11-14 at Coonrod Flat near the town of McCloud. We are ready for all our visitors including our dear friends from New Zealand: John and Gloria Wilkie, Pauline Reid, and Dirk Barr, manager of the Montrose Hatchery which helps our McCloud River salmon thrive over there in the Rakaia River.

They were instrumental in making our visit to New Zealand to sing to our salmon a successful one, and now they are continuing to support us in our quest to return our salmon home.
We have also have several native dance groups coming to dance and strengthen our prayers for the return of the salmon. We will also unveil an old time Fire and Water dance to help bring the Earth into balance.

If you’ve been invited, take I-5 north of Redding, exit left on Highway 89 to Pilgrim Creek Rd. Turn left on Pilgrim Creek Rd, go about 9 miles, and look for signs on the right to Ceremony grounds.

Hope to see you there!

“This estuary is a magical place” – The Glen Cove Salmon Ceremony Film

Filmmaker Will Doolittle has produced a short documentary about the Salmon Ceremony we held June 6 at the Glen Cove spiritual encampment. Natives and non-natives alike have occupied the shellmound burial ground site for nearly two months to protect it from being razed by the local recreation district.

Glen Cove is located on the banks of the Carquinez Strait, which links the Sacramento Delta to the San Francisco Bay. The ecologically rich estuary is a vital part of the salmon’s life cycle, and, tragically, thousands of endangered Chinook salmon and millions of splittail have been killed recently by the Delta Pumps, which divert vast amounts of water to industrial agriculture.

For our Tribe’s plan to return our salmon to the McCloud River (Winnemem Waywakit) to be successful, the salmon must be able to survive the Delta.

As Traditional Hereditary Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk-Franco said:

“We’re on a journey to bring back our salmon, to sing to the salmon, to bring them home again, to clean the waters up and down the state, so they can continue to be here.”

Also, check out the site for Will’s 60-minute documentary, Dancing Salmon Home, about our journey to New Zealand, the first step in returning our salmon back to the McCloud. The documentary is currently in production.