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Winnemem Wintu Tribe closes McCloud River during war dance

“On the final day, the Angry People made their presence known with a thundering powerboat armada, smashing the tranquility of our event, and proving the Truth of our concerns for the safety of our ceremony participants,” said Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

Winnemem Wintu Tribe members joined with members of other Indian Tribes and environmental activists in multi-colored kayaks and rafts to place a banner over the McCloud River on Lake Shasta proclaiming “River Closed” on Saturday, May 26.

 

The direct action took place in conjunction with the Tribes’s four-day War Dance (H’up Chonas in the Winnemem language) held from May 24 to May 27 at the site where they have held their Coming of Age ceremonies for thousands of years.

The War Dance signified the tribe’s spiritual commitment to defend at all costs the ceremony from heckling, flashing and other disruptions by recreational boaters that have occurred in previous years.

I arrived at the ceremony just as the banner was being strung up on a cable over the river. Members of the Winnemem, Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Pit River, Miwok and other Tribes and activists from Earth First!, Klamath Justice Coalition, Klamath Riverkeeper, Occupy Oakland and the American Indian Movement worked together to erect the banner and to keep boaters from going up the river.

“Where have you been? We’ve been here for 10,000 years,” quipped Gary Mulcahy, Winnemem Wintu leader and organizer of a previous War Dance at Shasta Dam in September 2004, when I arrived. “What took you so long?”

After the closure banner had been in place for over an hour, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Coast Guard officials demanded that the banner be taken down. To avoid arrests, the Tribal members and activists complied with the request; this was a “practice run” for the upcoming Coming of Age ceremony.

“We have been backed into a corner with no other choice,” said Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu spiritual leader and chief. “We should be preparing for Marisa’s ceremony, setting down prayers, making regalia, getting the dance grounds ready, making sure it happens in a good way. But instead we have to fight simply to protect our young women from drunken harassment.”

FULL ARTICLE HERE: Winnemem Wintu Tribe closes McCloud River during war dance.

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