The Winnemem Wintu, a tribe in the north of what is now California, has unsuccessfully petitioned the Forest Service to close for a short time a stretch of river in their traditional lands, so as to be able to hold their Coming of Age ceremony for young women.
This conflicts with international declaration and the commonly-accepted right action of nations. As affirmed by the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Article 11), indigenous people have the right " to maintain, protect and develop the past, present and future manifestations of their cultures..."
In response, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe held a four-day War Dance (H'up Chonas in Winnemem) May 24-27 at the McCloud River site. The War Dance signifies the tribe's spiritual commitment to defend at all costs the ceremony from heckling, flashing, and violating disruptions by recreational boaters that have occurred in previous years.
"We hope the blockade will let the Forest Service know that boats don't belong in ceremony and that we will do it ourselves if they won't take the appropriate measures to protect our young women's ceremonies," said Caleen Sisk."
Members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe from northern California on Monday, April 16 challenged Randy Moore, U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester, at his Vallejo office to protect indigenous women from racial slurs and physical harm during coming of age ceremonies planned for this June. Although claiming to be unfamiliar with the issue, Moore promised to review the Winnemem's request to close 400 yards of the McCloud River arm of Shasta Reservoir for 4 days so that the Tribe can conduct the ceremony.
As of May 31, the tribe indicated that it had not heard back from Moore.
What You Can Do Contact: Tom Tidwell US Forest Service Chief firstname.lastname@example.org (202) 205-8439
with the following message:
"Please respect the Winnemem Wintu's freedom of religion and close 400 yards of the McCloud River arm of Shasta Reservoir for four days so that the Tribe can conduct their ceremony.
Indigenous people have a unique relationship to place, and now as a steward of places, the Forest Service needs to recognize the unique qualities that indigenous cultures provide in enriching the forest lands which they steward. In respecting their culture and beliefs, the Forest Service captures a best management practice to benefit all stakeholders.
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