Published on Apr 17, 2012
April 16 2012 - Interview with Caleen Sisk, Cheif of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe at the Regional Forest Service office in Vallejo, CA.
Winnemem Tribe DEMANDS forest service respect native women's rights
• Agency Refuses to Provide Closure of McCloud River Necessary for Girls' Traditional Coming of Age Ceremony
• Winnemem Women and Chief Demand Face-to-Face Meeting With Regional Forester at Vallejo Headquarters
• Winnemem Men and Supporters Picket with Signs
EDITORS NOTE: Tribal leaders will address the press directly at 11 am on the front steps of the U.S. Forest Service office located at 1323 Club Drive, Vallejo, CA 94592
Vallejo, CA -- Today members of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe will challenge U.S.F.S. Regional Forester Randy Moore at his Vallejo office on the issue of protecting Indigenous Women from racial slurs and physical harm during their coming of age ceremonies. The Tribe is demanding that the Shasta-Trinity National Forest provide a four-day mandatory closure of a quarter mile stretch of the McCloud River during a coming of age ceremony for a teenage girl, which is planned for late June. The Tribe's past two Coming of Age Ceremonies have been disrupted by racial slurs, alcohol use, and indecent exposure from passersby in motorboats who refused to honor a voluntary closure. These boaters also endanger the physical safety of young tribal members who swim across the river as part of the ceremony.
Winnemem tribal members and their supporters will picket the Forest Service office while tribal women seek a face-to-face audience with the Regional Forester. Tribal members will form picket Line at 9 a.m. Winnemem Tribal Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk will hold a press conference at 11 am to discuss the Tribe's demands and the outcome of the meeting with Mr. Moore.
"Since 1941 most of our ceremonial sites have been buried beneath the still waters of Lake Shasta," according to Chief Sisk. "We ask that the Forest Service grant us this one small dignity by allowing our girls to enter womanhood in privacy at one of our last remaining traditional ceremonial sites."
The Tribe has requested for the past several years that the Forest Service close this stretch of river during their Coming of Age Ceremonies, which is held in an area accessible on Lake Shasta by boat. Although the Forest Service has issued "voluntary closures," which discourage most boaters from entering the area, several times during each ceremony groups of individuals powered into the ceremonial area, often with beers in hand and music blaring as they verbally insulted members of the Tribe. During a Coming of Age Ceremony in 2006, an individual "flashed" the ceremonial participants with naked breasts and yelled racist insults. "If someone did this during Mass, they would be arrested," says Sisk, who notes that there were no authorities present to cite the individual for public indecency. A mandatory closure was issued later at this same ceremony by the Shasta County Sheriff after a Forest Service District Ranger's kayak was rammed by a boat.
For the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, this is about respecting and protecting Native women while they pass on traditional ways to the next generations. According to Sisk, "Like many traditional people, we hold our women in high regard. This beautiful ceremony is vital to our girls' transitioning to womanhood with confidence, grace and knowledge. We must hold this ceremony for our tribe to survive."
# # #
Learn more about the Winnemem Wintu at http://www.winnememwintu.us/
Learn more about the ceremony at www.saveourceremony.com.
Download Video of motorboats speeding past ceremony and flashing the participants at: http://vimeo.com/39867112