Native News Network Staff in Native Challenges. Discussion »
REDDING, CALIFORNIA US Forest Service Region 5 Forester Randy Moore has missed his May 1 deadline to respond to the Winnemem Wintu's request for a mandatory river closure to protect their Coming of Age ceremony this summer.
Boats Interfere with Winnemem Wintu Ceremony
The tribe has had not received any intention of Mr. Moore to respond in a timely fashion, and because the government's legal process is clearly a dead end, the Winnemem will now hold a H'up Chonas, or War Dance, in the near future to defend their cultural rites in a traditional way.
"The US Forest Service continues to take this issue very seriously. We're exploring all the options and will respond to the tribe once a decision has been reached,"
was the response to an inquiry made by the Native News Network on Friday afternoon by the US Forest Service-Pacific Southwest Region office.
Previous Coming of Age ceremonies have been disrupted by drunken recreational boaters motoring through the site and heckling the tribe with racial slurs.
“I am saddened that Moore does not have the courage to do what's right,”
“We lost all our land when they built Shasta Dam, and now all we want is four days of peace and dignity for our ceremony, which is vital to the social fabric of our tribe. A peaceful ceremony is our right, and we are not accepting anything short of that.”
The tribe is placing a call to action. During the War Dance, the tribe, hundreds of tribal members from around the west coast and allies will gather in solidarity to ensure their sacred ceremony will proceed unhindered as it has for thousands of years before the Forest Service existed. For more information, contact the tribe at: www.WinnememWintu.us
The tribe first brought back the H'up Chonas, or War Dance, in 2004 to protest the proposal to raise Shasta Dam, which would flood many important sacred sites, including the site of the Coming of Age ceremonies. The War Dance signifies a commitment to a spiritual and physical resistance to threats to the tribe's culture. It means the Winnemem are willing to die to protect their tribal way of life.
Frustrated by being ignored by Shasta-Trinity Forest officials for the past six years, members of the Tribe challenged Mr. Moore at his office in Vallejo, CA, April 16, to ask him directly for the closure for the young women's ceremony.
Citing the United Nations Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples recently endorsed by President Obama in December, 2010, Chief Sisk and several women of the tribe sought to convince Mr. Moore that this is an issue of human rights and women's rights. The Forest Service's position has been that they lack the authority to grant the request for the traditional tribe, though sources within the agency have verified that Mr. Moore has the authority to close the stretch of river necessary for the ceremony.
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posted May 5, 2012 10:50 am edt