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Protect the Winnemem Wintu Tribe's Cultural Survival
by John E. Colby
Sunday Jun 3rd, 2012 8:25 PM
The survival of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe is at stake. Read my Freedom of Information Act request below to the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) for all treaties the U.S. government has entered into with the Winnemem Wintu, also attached as a PDF to this post.

All they ask from the U.S. Forestry Service is to close off the McCloud River four days a year to hostile boaters who harass and expose themselves to young tribal women during their coming of age ceremonies on the riverbank. After all the treaties the U.S. government has broken with the Winnemem Wintu Tribe this is a small accommodation to make to them.

Why is the U.S. government refusing to protect their tribal culture and religious rights? Become involved to support the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, to protect their traditional culture and their sacred sites.

Donate money to their struggle on their website. Write letters to legislators and government officials supporting their cultural traditions and religious rights. Write to the media asking them to cover the Winnemem Wintu's ongoing struggle for survival. Follow the Winnemem Wintu Tribe on Facebook. Subscribe to their email list.

Download PDF
June 02, 2012

U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs
ATTN: Monique Hartgrove; Hillary Renick
Office of the Assistant Secretary/BIA
MS–3071, MIB
1849 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20240
Tel: 202.208.6597

via email to: foia [at]
cc: Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior, via facsimile
cc: betsy_hildebrandt [at]
cc: Amy Dutschke, Regional Director, Bureau of Indian Affairs, via facsimile
cc: ttidwell [at]
cc: rmoore [at]
cc: sgomes [at]
cc: U.S. Senate Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment and Related Agencies, via facsimile
cc: info [at]
cc: larry [at]
cc: info [at]
cc: info [at]
cc: info [at]
cc: justin.scheck [at]
cc: 60m [at]
cc: frontlineworld [at]
cc: mail [at]
cc: achance [at]
cc: assignmentdesk [at]
cc: contact [at]
cc: pfimrite [at]
cc: ckay [at]
cc: clygren [at]
cc: sfbay-web [at]
cc: alex [at]
cc: Native American Rights Fund (NARF), via facsimile
cc: pscheer [at]
cc: hhammitt [at]

re: FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST for United States treaties with Winnemem Wintu

Dear Ms. Hartgrove and Ms. Renick:

I am writing to submit a request under the Freedom of Information Act.

I am an independent postdoctoral researcher based in Santa Cruz, California, who advocates for those in need of government intervention. I often share the results of my research with the government, the media and nonprofit organizations.

To place my FREEDOM OF INFORMATION REQUEST in context, I ask you to read the following article from the Wall Street Journal and videos produced by the Winnemem Wintu.

To quote the Wall Street Journal:

"The Winnemem Wintu Indians want to mark their girls' coming of age as their ancestors did, with a private ceremony in which the girls swim across the McCloud River here.

They don't want boaters motoring by, shouting slurs, like in past years. But the U.S. Forest Service hasn't restricted public access to the site, even though it does that for many other tribes in similar situations.

The Winnemem are in a legal limbo, along with hundreds of other tribes that Washington doesn't acknowledge. Generations ago, when the U.S. was assigning rights to Indian groups, these tribes didn't make the list. Today, they don't get the same access to federal funds and historical sites that recognized tribes get.

For the Winnemem, that means they must perform their girls' four–day late June ceremony in public on the river in Northern California.

The tribe says it has filmed drunken boaters exposing themselves and harassing the girls in past years."

Since the U.S. Government has reneged on its pledges to the Winnemem Wintu by violating treaties made with them, thus creating the tragic predicament the Winnemem Wintu find themselves in, I ask for copies of all treaties entered into with the Winnemem Wintu by the U.S. government.

Our nation was founded on the principle of religious freedom — it's fundamental to our democracy — yet the Winnemem Wintu are not allowed to exercise their religious rights without public interference and disrespect from hostile boaters who heckle and expose themselves. This is scandalous. It must be remedied.

Please view these videos about the public harassment and disrespect Winnemem Wintu young women are exposed to when they conduct their coming of age ceremonies:

I urge you to visit the Winnemem Wintu's website at:

I am willing to pay fees up to $100. If you estimate that the fees will exceed this limit, please inform me first, so that I may narrow my request.

However, I request a waiver of all fees for this request. I believe disclosure of the requested information to me is in the public interest because it will likely contribute significantly to public understanding of the operations or activities of the government and is not primarily in my commercial interest. Specifically, I intend to share these treaties with the carbon copied news media for their dissemination of information about how the U.S. government has failed to protect the cultural life of the Winnemem Wintu, which could ultimately result in their cultural genocide. I believe that the U.S. government is responsible to ensure that Winnemem Wintu culture can be passed from this generation to the next, ensuring their cultural survival.

It would be tragic if the Winnemem Wintu's culture is extinguished because the U.S. government cannot close off a small river to hostile boaters for just four days a year. It saddens me that the Winnemem Wintu have had to advocate unscusscessfully for such a small accommodation from the U.S. Forestry Service. Is the U.S. government so miserly that it cannot accommodate this small request to ensure an indigenous people's survival?

I ask that if the requested materials are electronically available in Portable Document Format (PDF), MS Word Document (DOC), Hypertext Markup (HTM), eXtensible Style Language (XLS), Rich Text Format (RTF), JPEG, TIFF, BMP, PICT or PNG or referenced on the Internet by hyperlinks that they be provided to me in one of those forms or as hyperlink references.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.

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

email: colby [at]
twitter: @jecolbe
§Follow Winnemem Wintu Tribe's struggle using their website
by John E. Colby Thursday Jun 7th, 2012 1:54 AM
I want to inform potential supporters of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe that you can donate money, click to follow them on Facebook, YouTube and via RSS feed from their website, shown below.

Comments  (Hide Comments)

by Beeline
Monday Jun 4th, 2012 10:45 PM
Indigenous ceremonies have benefits outside their culture. They are good for the 'elementals', the earth, the fire, the air and the water. They help life on our fragile planet. The medicine people talk to the earth and the earth talks to them. Ceremony is much more than just going through the motions.

Unfortunately, we live in the time of resource gluttony and spiritual annihilation where corporate business and capitalism are deemed the most important undertaking. This is why America is failing. The republican side has labeled everything not in their own interest to be evil. They think the earth should be chopped up in little pieces. Erosion, deforestation, over-grazing, urban sprawl, chemical, noise and electromagnetic pollution and global warming-so what. Catch a 3 foot striped bass in the south bay and its so contaminated it's hazardous waste. Who cares? This gluttony has driven the price of bluefin tuna up so high that one fish sold for $736,000 earlier this year.

The U.S. government has a dismal history of repression against native America. The government and their corporate masters don't want an ounce of protection for Grandmother Earth. That would be bad for business. So, like the Romans 2000 years before, they are eliminating the very things that would save the earth for future generations. Even after taking 99.5% of the land, the frontier economic ideology is still alive. Go ahead and take more and more. Even the history channel has been pushing the trucker, logger, military, mining hero crap. These are the people that are destroying the planet.

You see it's not just one small tribal culture that's at stake its the whole of American culture. It is the earth itself.
The Winnemem Wintu's struggle for justice and cultural survival intersects with the corporatocracy's rapacious pillaging of our natural resources, destroying the biosphere. They are the Middle Water People who Creator entrusted with the preservation of the river and those who depend on it.

Thus their struggle to preserve their culture and sacred sites from the flooding which the planned Shasta Dam expansion will cause, pits them against corporate interests and the politicians they support. They are at the eye of a storm: our survival depends on their survival. Like Beeline wrote they protect us and our natural resources. Their struggle should be our struggle.