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California | Central Valley | Environment & Forest Defense | Government & Elections | Racial Justice
Call on BIA to end the Chief's fast, close ceremony to outsiders
“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,” wrote Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.
Call on BIA to end the Chief's fast, close ceremony to outsiders
by Dan Bacher
The Winnemem Wintu Tribe has finally won a closure of a section of the McCloud River for their Coming of Age ceremony this Saturday through Tuesday. Unfortunately, the Forest Service says they still can't close the ceremonial land to outsiders because they are not federally recognized.
Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk on last Saturday sent a letter to BIA Regional Director Amy Dutschke, urging her to intervene and close the ceremonial land to outsiders from outsiders during their 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,” she wrote.
“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,” said Sisk.
She has fasted for 12 days and will continue to do so until she gets a meeting with the BIA to discuss the issue.
The Tribe is asking people to flood the phones and email of Amy Dutschke, Regional BIA director in Sacramento, urging her to meet with Chief Sisk - (916) 978-6000; (916) 978-6099; amy.dutschke [at] bia.gov.
Please tell the BIA to close the land for their ceremony tomorrow and restore the Winnemem's recognition!
Be sure to cite AJR 39 - the California state resolution that urges the federal government to recognize the Winnemem!
Caleen Sisk and the Winnemem Wintu Tribe are leaders in the battle to stop the raising of Shasta Dam and the construction of Jerry Brown's peripheral canal or tunnel. They are now engaged in an ambitious project to return winter run Chinook salmon, now thriving in the Rakaira River in New Zealand.
To ensure the safety and sanctity of this ceremony, and to give the Forest Service the authority to close off the area, the Winnemem are demanding that the BIA perform a technical correction and add the Winnemem to the list of federally recognized tribes.
Many Winnemem tribal members already have BIA-certified paperwork that verifies they are Indian, and they were previously recognized until the 1980s when a bureaucratic error left them off the BIA’s list, according to a news release from the Tribe.
“I am sure some will say, see I told you, that’s what this was all about in the first place, federal recognition. But they would be wrong,” said Gary Hayward Slaughter, Winnemem Tribal Member. “It is still about having a ceremony in peace and dignity.”
“The Forest Service has done all they can under their authority, and told us that the only way to get complete closure of the area is if we were federally recognized,” said Hayward Slaughter. “So it is time the BIA stopped tying the hands of the Forest Service, and fix their mistake.”
“They have taken away our right to eagle feathers, our right to scholarships, and our rights to protect sacred places and be Winnemem,” Sisk said. “It’s time we take those rights back.”
The Tribe needs your help now - please respond and take action today!
Watch a video about how recognition "erases" tribes - http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qRmklJfvq74
Read the letter below or go to: http://www.winnememwintu.us/2012/06/29/1201/
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.
Spiritual and Tribal Leader
Winnemem Wintu Tribe
14840 Bear Mountain Road
Redding, CA. 96003