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U.S. Forest Service still refuses to fully protect Winnemem Wintu coming of age ceremonies
by John E. Colby
Wednesday Jun 27th, 2012 1:00 AM
The U.S. Forest Service has partly given in to the requests from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe to protect their coming of age ceremonies for their young women. Yet the coming of age ceremonies are still subject to intrusion from hostile people and gawkers.

The U.S. Forest Service — after a lot of bad press — has agreed to close the McCloud River along the Winnemem Wintu ceremonial grounds to hostile boaters, exhibitionists and hecklers. The U.S. Forest Service is claiming it can do this to protect health and safety. Yet it refuses to extend the same health and safety protections to the Winnemem Wintu ceremonial grounds, which are even more susceptible to intrusion by hostile people and gawkers.

Why won't the U.S. government protect the religious rights of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe? The U.S. government would never allow this to happen in a place of worship for Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists or Muslims. Yet the U.S. Government refuses to protect the sacred ceremonial grounds of the Winnemem Wintu for less than a week per year.

This is outrageous! It threatens the cultural survival of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe as they try to preserve their traditional culture.

Please read my letter to the Honorable Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, which was carbon copied to three U.S. Senate subcommittees and numerous news media outlets.

June 26, 2012

The Honorable Ken Salazar
U.S. Department of the Interior, Office of the Secretary
1849 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20240
Tel: 202.208.3100
Fax: 202.208.6956

via facsimile to: Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, via facsimile
cc: bryan.rice [at] bia.gov
cc: darren.pete [at] bia.gov
cc: Amy Dutschke, Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, via facsimile
cc: ttidwell [at] fs.fed.us
cc: rmoore [at] fs.fed.us
cc: sgomes [at] fs.fed.us
cc: U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, via facsimile
cc: U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Administrative Oversight and the Courts, via facsimile
cc: U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights and Human Rights, via facsimile
cc: info [at] jaredhuffman.com
cc: 60m [at] cbsnews.com
cc: frontlineworld [at] flworld.org
cc: stories [at] democracynow.org
cc: nyt.washington [at] gmail.com
cc: cenziperd [at] washpost.com
cc: rsalladay [at] cironline.org
cc: linda.rogers [at] latimes.com
cc: achance [at] sacbee.com
cc: dbutler [at] mercurynews.com
cc: assignmentdesk [at] kqed.org
cc: contact [at] pacifica.org
cc: pfimrite [at] sfchronicle.com
cc: ckay [at] krcrtv.com
cc: clygren [at] khsltv.com

cc: sfbay-web [at] lists.indymedia.org
cc: alex [at] alexdarocy.com
cc: Native American Rights Fund (NARF), via facsimile
cc: Peter Schlosser, Northern California ACLU Legal Director via facsimile


re: U.S. Forest Service refuses to protect coming of age ceremonies for Winnemem Wintu Tribe's young women

Dear Secretary Salazar:

I am writing to plead with you to require the U.S. Forest Service to close off the ceremonial grounds where the Winnemem Wintu Tribe will soon be holding their coming of age ceremonies for their young women next to the McCloud River. This is imperative because their coming of age ceremonies, to my understanding, will take place within the next week.

The U.S. Forest Service has agreed to close the McCloud river to hostile boaters along the ceremonial grounds, but this still leaves the ceremonial grounds open to disruption by hostile people and gawkers. Please view this video interview of Winnemem Wintu Chief and spiritual leader Caleen Sisk:

http://tinyurl.com/6v8atwa

Why won't the U.S. government protect the religious rights of the Winnemem Wintu people? The Winnemem Wintu are not asking for much. Why won't the U.S. government allow the Winnemem Wintu to pass on their traditional culture uninterrupted by hostile people and gawkers — why is the U.S. government disrespecting the Winnemem Wintu religion?

The U.S. government doesn't treat Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims like this. Why won't the U.S. government protect the religious rights of the Winnemem Wintu like they do for Christians, Jews, Hindus, Buddhists and Muslims?

If the U.S. Forest Service can finally close down the McCloud River for supposed health and safety issues, then why can't they extend this to the ceremonial grounds for the Winnemem Wintu Tribe's coming of age ceremonies for their young women — why should the Winnemem Wintu's sacred religious ceremonies be subject to hostile persons and gawkers (who might disrupt these ceremonies ruining their integrity)?

It would be tragic if the Winnemem Wintu's culture is extinguished because the U.S. Forest Service refuses to protect the Winnemem Wintu Tribe's ceremonial grounds from unwelcome intrusion, causing their cultural genocide. It saddens me that the Winnemem Wintu have had to advocate unsuccessfully for such a long time to gain meager accommodations from the U.S. Forest Service. 

Is the U.S. government so blatantly callous that it will open up the sacred religious ceremonies of the Winnemem Wintu and their young women to hostile people and gawkers, ruining the sacred nature of these rites?

Thank you for your thoughtful consideration of this request.

Sincerely yours,
John E. Colby, Ph.D.

email: colby [at] docktorcat.com
twitter: @jecolbe

telephone: 831.471.9767
cellphone: 831.419.1521
fax: 831.218.4121

postal address:
849 Almar Avenue, Suite C–242
Santa Cruz, CA 95060
§Forest Service giving me courtesy call updates
by John E. Colby Friday Jun 29th, 2012 11:32 AM
Is every caller to the Forest Service about the Winnemem Wintu getting courtesy call updates to answer their questions? They're doing it for me. The confirmed that if the BIA recognized the Winnemem Wintu as a tribe that the Forest Service could fully protect them, including their ceremonial grounds.