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!

 

Press Release: Dam The Indians Anyway – Winnemem WAR DANCE at Shasta Dam

Winnemem Wintu Tribe                                    www.winnememwintu.us.

Media Contact: Charlotte Berta

Cell: 916-207-2378

Email: char@ranchriver.com

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: Sept. 9, 2014

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.

For more information, visit www.winnememwintu.us.

FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THE PRESS CONFERENCE, INTERVIEWS, or PHOTOGRAPHY:

CALL Charlotte Berta  – Cell: 916-207-2378  or email: char@ranchriver.com

 

War Dance Location Information:

Shasta Dam Bureau of Reclamation
16349 Shasta Dam Boulevard
Shasta Lake, California 96019
Lat/Long 40.7140, -122.4176

Show address on Google Map 

 

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

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