May 31, 2012

Boaters interrupt Winnemem Wintu ceremony

This controversy has been going on for a couple of weeks as the Winnemem Wintu beseeched the government to close the river for their ceremony. But the non-Indians' response to this sacred religious event makes it a pop-culture issue.

Grassroots River Closure, Coordinated Boater Harassment Highlight Winnemem Wintu’s War Dance

By Marc DadiganSince 2005, the Winnemem Wintu, a deeply traditional tribe of 125, have struggled with the U.S. Forest Service to implement a mandatory closure of 400 yards of the McCloud Arm of Shasta Lake, a tiny corner of nearly 370 miles of shoreline for their young women’s Coming of Age ceremonies. The Forest Service can only close the river for a federally recognized tribe, according to federal law, and the Winnemem lost their recognition due to a bureaucratic error in the mid-1980s.

“Voluntary closures” in the 2006 and 2010 ceremonies led to the tribe being harassed by recreational boaters.

Feeling they had run out of options to get the river closure, the Winnemem Wintu held a War Dance May 24–27 at the Coming of Age Ceremony site where tribal activists, environmental justice activists and Occupy movement members helped the tribe enforce their own closure.

Unfortunately, the euphoria from the closure quickly gave way to actions that have marred previous ceremonies at the site.

On May 27, just as the tribe was about to complete their final dance of the ceremony, a fleet of seven motor boats and three jet skies motored back and forth through the ceremony site at speeds greater than the 5 mph speed limit, flipped off tribal members, stared down young women holding infants and did doughnuts near the tribe’s sacred sites.

“It was pretty much about as racist as you can get without going to jail or being violent,” said 25-year-old Winnemem War Dancer Arron Sisk.
Comment:  Natives are 1% of the US population, so you close the river for three of 365 days to accommodate their religion? How is a compromise like that not fair to everyone?

For more on Native religion, see Sacred White Buffalo Killed and Skinned, Eagle Killing Divides Tribes, and Christian Flyer Calls Lakota Rite "Satanic."

Below:  "During the Winnemem Wintu's War Dance May 26, Supporters and activists from the Klamath Justice Coalition, American Indian Movement, Occupy Oakland, Occupy Eugene, Earth First! and members of numerous tribes temporarily enforced their own closure of the McCloud River in preparation for the Winnemem's Coming of Age ceremony next month where they intend to close the river to protect the ceremony from aggressive and abusive boaters." (Marc Dadigan)

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