Press Release: Winnemem Wintu Seek Volunteers, Donations to Hold Coming of Age Ceremony in Peace and Dignity
June 10, 2013 / by admin / Make A Comment / Filed under Uncategorized
For Immediate Release:
Winnemem Wintu Seek Volunteers, Donations to Hold Coming of Age Ceremony in Peace and Dignity
After harassment from boaters and law enforcement in previous years, U.S. Forest Service still not committed to river and land closure for ceremony
June 10, 2013 – Tuiimyali, California
Press Contact: David Martinez – (530) 472-1050, Michael Preston – 530-410-9768
The Winnemem Wintu tribe is seeking volunteers and donations to help enforce a half-mile closure of the McCloud River to maintain the peace and dignity of their upcoming Coming of Age ceremony for 16-year-old Alicia Scholfield July 20-23.
Previous ceremonies have faced documented harassment, but the U.S. Forest Service, which now manages the former Winnemem village site where the ceremony takes place, has yet to respond to the tribe’s list of needs and requirements to hold a ceremony.
The tribe initially contacted the U.S. Forest Service’s Regional Forester Randy Moore in November of 2012 to consult about the upcoming ceremony, and received no response till March. Now two months away from the ceremony, the Forest Service has yet to respond to the tribe’s list of needs, which include a mandatory river closure of the half-mile stretch of waterway, the right to gather culturally required forest resources and the right to use a motorboat to transport elders across the river for ceremonial activities.
With or without the official closure, the tribe plans to use volunteers in kayaks and other boats to ask people in recreational boats to turn around. Donations are also needed to help support the volunteers on the water, fund security and for ceremonial meals.
Supporters can donate by pressing the donate button at www.winnememwintu.us
. They can volunteer to help on the water by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org
We are also asking supporters to e-mail U.S. Forest Service Chief Tom Tidwell at email@example.com
urging him to uphold his legal responsibility to respect indigenous ceremonies and meet our needs for a peaceful ceremony.
Since 2006, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe have struggled to hold Coming of Age ceremonies (BaŁas Chonas) free of harassment and abuse. In 2006 and 2010, recreational boaters ignored “voluntary” closures on the McCloud River and drunkenly harassed and flashed the tribe. In 2012, Forest Service law enforcement officers constantly interrupted the ceremony and threatened tribal members with arrest. Our Traditional Chief Sisk Caleen Sisk received two citations that could have resulted in a year in prison.
Eventually, the meritless citations were dropped by federal attorneys.
(Watch the 20-minute documentary “Ceremony Is Not A Crime” to learn more about last year’s ceremony and the citations. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-oZhIZZB ... r_embedded
U.S. Forest Service officials have said they could easily provide a river closure and protect the ceremony appropriately if we were not labeled as a federally unrecognized tribe. The Winnemem Wintu believe the label of “unrecognized tribe” violates our right to self-determination as provided by the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we believe it is also a form of cultural genocide as it restricts our rights to maintain our culture and lives as indigenous people.
The ceremony site is located on a portion of the McCloud River that would be permanently submerged by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal to raise Shasta Dam by 18.5 feet to provide more water for agri-industry and wealthy water contractors in Southern California. Overall, more than 40 sacred sites important to the Winnemem’s way of life would be submerged or impacted by the dam raise.
For more information about the ceremony, visit www.saveourceremony.com