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Action Alert: Back Restoration of Winnemem Wintu Recognition by Supporting AJR 39
by Dan Bacher
Thursday Jan 3rd, 2008 5:11 PM
You have a unique chance to help right an historic wrong by supporting Assemblyman Jared Huffman's bill, AJR 39, to restore recognition of the Winnemem Wintu (McCloud River) Tribe. The bill will codify the State's de facto recognition of the Winnemem Wintu as a California tribe and encourage the Federal Government to correct their administrative error and restore the tribe's Federal recognition. I encourage you or the organization you represent to send a letter ASAP to support the tribe.

In September 2004 the Winnemem Wintu held a war dance at Shasta Dam to protest the Bureau of Reclamation's plan to raise Shasta Dam, a move that would flood the tribe's remaining sacred sites. The federal government wants to raise the dam in order to increase the capacity of Shasta Lake to provide increased water exports from northern California and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to Westlands Water District and southern California.

Attached is the action alert from the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water and NRDC, followed by a sample letter.
Urgent Action Alert!

On January 9th the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee will consider AJR 39 (Huffman), an Assembly Joint Resolution to urge Congress to restore Federal Recognition to the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The Tribe could stand in the way of raising Shasta Dam so there may be some opposition to the Resolution. We need your help to be sure that AJR 39 passes out of committee.

There are four ways you can help.

1. Fax the attached letter, on your organization's letterhead, to the Committee Office asap (by COB January 3rd to be sure it gets into the committee analysis). If you fax after the 3rd, please also fax a copy to EJCW at (510)251-2203 so that we can hand deliver the letter.

2. Forward the message below, along with the attached sample letter to anyone else you know who would support the Winnemem.

3. Send us your organizational logo by Monday, January 7th so that we can include it on the attached fact sheet that we will use to make lobby visits on January 8th.

4. Attend the Lobby Day on January 8th and/or the Hearing on January 9th at 1:30pm, both in Sacramento. Please let me or Benny know if you plan to be in Sacramento. ( benny [at] )

Please don't hesitate to let me know if you have any questions.

Read below for more details.


Debbie Davis
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water

Winnemem Wintu Tribe, NRDC, Environmental Justice Coalition for Water Action Alert

AJR 39: Righting an Historic Wrong --Recognizing the Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Purpose of the Joint Resolution
AJR 39 (Huffman) will codify the State's de facto recognition of the Winnemem Wintu as a California tribe and encourage the Federal Government to correct their administrative error and restore the tribe's Federal recognition.

This resolution urges Congress to correct errors made by the Bureau of Indian Affairs and its predecessor agencies in the handling of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. The BIA has been inconsistent in its treatment of the Winnemem providing them services available only to recognized Tribes and then withdrawing those services without explanation.

Without basic services or any other benefits accruing to a recognized tribe the Winnemem have been working to restore their recognized tribal status so that they may protect their remaining sacred and cultural sites. The Tribe's struggle began upon initial contact with Americans. Below you will see a few examples of the challenges they have faced over the course of this struggle.

Pre-contact the Winnemem number more than 14,000
1848 Pearson Reading discovers gold in Shasta County
1851 The Cottonwood Treaty agreeing to provide a 35 square-mile reservation for the Winnemem
1852 The U.S. Senate refuses to ratify the treaty and embargoes the decision until 1905 while Winnemem begin to lose their land to encroaching settlement
1928 Winnemem travel to Washington, D.C. to plead for an investigation of the Winnemem case in the Court of Claims
1937 U.S. Government re-takes Winnemem land allotments to make way for the Shasta Dam
1941 Central Valley Indian Lands Acquisition Act signed into law providing for the relocation of tribal cemeteries to a cemetery to be held in trust for the Tribe. This and other provisions of the act were only partially implemented
1943 Winnemem are removed from their land to make way for the flooding of their homes and sacred sites to fill Shasta reservoir
1944 U.S. Court awards $17 million to all California Tribes to compensate for 18 unratified treaties. This works out to $1.25 an acre. The government deducts $12 million from the settlement for the cost of the existing Rancherias. The Winnemem decline to settle and continue to fight for fair compensation.
1960 to mid 1980s the Winnemem receive education and health benefits allotted to members of recognized tribes
Mid 1980s services to Winnemem tribal members are declined without explanation
[For a more detailed timeline visit]

While the tribe continues its fight to restore federal recognition, the Winnemem have maintained tribal relationships with state and federal agencies as well as other "recognized" tribes. In fact, the California Native American Heritage Commission includes the Winnemem Wintu on the list of California Tribes. In addition, in 2004, Senator Ben Nighthorse Campbell introduced S. 2879, the "Winnemem Wintu Tribe Clarification and Restoration Act," which would have restored the tribe's status. Unfortunately, Senator Campbell retired from the Senate before the act was passed.

Passage of AJR 39 will reinforce California's recognition of the Winnemem as a legitimate California tribe and will urge Congress to do the same.

For more information contact:
Mark Franco, Headman, Winnemem Wintu Tribe
(530) 275-2737 or winnemem [at]

Barry Nelson, NRDC
(415) 875-6100 or bnelson [at]

Please fax a copy of the attached letter to (916)319-3979 or call (916)319-2020 to express your support for AJR 39.

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe is a band of the Wintu that lived for millennia on the McCloud River, a tributary of the Sacramento River . The tribe continues to hold ceremonies and maintain their culture on the village and sacred sites that remain accessible following the completion of Shasta Dam in 1945 which submerged 90 percent of the tribe's traditional lands and many of their cultural and religious sites.

Agency Recognition of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Many state, Federal, and international agencies recognize the Winnemem. Below is a partial list of MOUs, permits, and other evidence of agency recognition of the tribe.

· The Fish and Wildlife Service has issued Caleen Sisk-Franco (spiritual leader of the Winnemem) a permit to possess eagle feathers or other eagle parts.
· The Bureau of Reclamation has issued the tribe a permit to hold traditional ceremonies on the McCloud River
· The U.S. Forest Service has signed an MOU committing to consult with the tribe when working in traditional tribal lands and managing sacred sites.
· CALTRANS signed an MOU with the tribe to consult with them when transit projects encroach upon tribal land.
· California State Parks has posted information about the Winnemem at interpretive facilities in McCloud State Park and at the entrance to Panther Meadows on Mount Shasta.
· The Native American Heritage Commission, a State agency, lists the Winnemem Wintu as a legitimate California tribe.
· Caleen Sisk-Franco has spoken, by invitation, about Native American issues at the United Nations.
· The Federal Government signed the Cottonwood Treaty of 1851 (which was not ratified, but has never been withdrawn).
· Before the mid-1980's, tribal members received Bureau of Indian Affairs housing, health care and educational assistance available only to recognized tribes.

Partial List of Supporters of Restoration of Winnemem Wintu Federal Recognition

∙ Native American Rights Foundation ∙ Natural Resources Defense Council

∙ Native American Heritage Commission ∙ Cal Trout

∙ Environmental Justice Coalition for Water ∙ Alliance for Democracy

∙ Earth Image Films ∙ Indigenous Environmental Network

∙ Friends of the River ∙ Occidental Arts and Ecology Center

∙ Public Citizen

∙ Planning and Conservation League ∙ City of Dunsmuir

∙ Public Trust Alliance ∙ American Indian Movement

∙ Upper Sacramento River Exchange ∙ Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors

∙ Shasta County Board of Supervisors ∙ The California Council of Tribal Governments

∙ Environmental Water Caucus ∙ No. Cal. Council Federation of Flyfishermen

∙ National Congress of American Indians Resolution MOH 04 006

∙ Confederacion De Naciones Indigenas Originarios De Bolivia

∙ California tribes, including:

∙ Cortina Rancheria

∙ Ione Miwok

∙ Prairie Band of Potawatomi

∙ Redding Rancheria

∙ Hoopa Valley Tribe

∙ Pit River Nation

The Tribe and Gaming

The Winnemem are deeply committed to continuing their traditional way of life. Believing in the sovereign right of tribes to determine their own lifeways, the Winnemem have rejected Indian gaming as detrimental to their traditional values. S. 2879 (see above) would have restored federal recognition and, at the tribe's request, would not have given them the authority to conduct gaming activities now or in the future.
Debbie Davis
Legislative Analyst
Environmental Justice Coalition for Water
654 13th St.
Preservation Park
Oakland, CA 94612

Sample Letter:

Honorable Alberto Torrico
Chair, Assembly Governmental Organization
State Capitol
Sacramento, CA 94249-0020
RE: Support for AJR 39 (Huffman)

Dear Assembly Member Torrico:

I write this letter in support of AJR 39 introduced by Assembly Member Jared Huffman, of the 6th assembly district, which would codify California’s existing recognition of the Tribe as a legitimate California Tribe and urge the Federal Government to restore the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s status as a federally recognized tribe.

The Winnemem Wintu, a Northern California Tribe whose home lies along the McCloud River in Shasta County, has a long history of promises broken by the federal government, the most recent being the unexplained loss of their Federal Recognition in the mid-1980s. In 1941, Congress passed the “Central Valley Project Indian Lands Acquisition Act” (CVPILAA) to secure the land necessary to complete the construction of Shasta Dam. Despite the requirements of the CVPILAA, the tribe has not been compensated for the loss of their lands, nor have they received replacement lands. The failure to fulfill the basic requirements of the CVPILAA has left the Tribe to struggle for its very existence.

While the federal government continues to create roadblocks to prevent the Tribe from regaining its recognized status, California state agencies and even federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service recognize the Winnemem as a legitimate tribe. The Winnemem are included on the list of California Tribes held by the Native American Heritage Commission, and the Tribe has been issued state and federal permits reserved for federally recognized tribes.

The federal government has never terminated the tribe. The tribe believes that their status is the result of an error on the part of the BIA – an error made possible by the failure of the Department of the Interior to comply with the CVPILAA by replacing tribal lands lost when Shasta Dam was constructed and by holding a cemetery in trust by the appropriate Indian Services Agency. The cemetery was created to relocate the remains of tribal dead to make way for Shasta Dam. Because no “like-land” was ever provided and because the cemetery was incorrectly transferred to a federal agency not capable of holding land in trust, the tribe has a reduced role in federal decisions that affect them, and they are denied the basic health, education and housing benefits received by recognized tribes.

AJR 39 will help the Winnemem in their struggle to regain recognition by reinforcing the State’s de facto recognition of the Winnemem Wintu as a legitimate California tribe, and urging the Federal Government to restore the tribe’s Federal recognition. As a California State leader, you have the opportunity to help rectify an injustice long overdue, and we hope that you do.

We urge your aye vote on AJR 39.

Thank you very much,

Cc: Assembly Government Organization Committee Members
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