Winnemem Wintu Fear Harassment From Forest Service As Ceremony Approaches

By Tammy Scism on July 12, 2013
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The Coming of Age ceremony (Balas Chonas) for the Winnemem Wintu tribe of Northern California is fast approaching and many fear the US Forest Service will interfere during the ceremony, which these fears are not unfounded. During previous ceremonies the tribe has been plagued by interference from the public and the US Forest Service law enforcement officers.

The small Northern California tribe and the Forest Service are working out the language of the special permit for the temporary water way closure but Traditional Chief Caleen Sisk said that they have yet to see the exact language.

This year’s ceremony for 16 year-old, Alicia Scholfield, will be held July 20th – 23rd at the ceremonial grounds on the McCloud Arm of Shasta Lake which is now managed as a campground within the Shasta-Trinity National Forest. During last year’s ceremony for Sisk’s niece, the temporary water way closure permit, that was meant to keep out the public who have harassed them in the past, didn’t include the language which exempted the use of the tribe’s motorboat, which was needed to ferry the elders across the river.

The US Forest Service Officers, according to Indian Country Today, entered the grounds on many occasions to ask questions about the tribe and their use of the boat eventually issued Sisk two citations which could have carried up to a year in prison, because someone used a motorized boat during the water way closure. However, the US District Attorney later decided not to pursue any charges and the citations were dropped.

Read the full article here:

What do you think?

Should the Winnemem be free to hold a religious ceremony on public water way without harassment from the public and law enforcement?

TOPICS: Blog, Featured, Native American Culture, News

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3 Responses to “Winnemem Wintu Fear Harassment From Forest Service As Ceremony Approaches”

  1. Marta says:

    I have some questions: 1. How often is this ceremony held?
    2. How long does it take? 3. Explain the boat problem.
    Thank you for answering.

  2. Donabeth Houx says:

    All government agencies should work with the tribe to ensure that the ceremony be allowed. Agency employees should learn what this ceremony entails and means, so that they can appreciate and value what is taking place.

  3. Tammy Scism says:

    Hello, Marta;

    The Coming of Age ceremony is held every year about this same time and it lasts for 4 days. Last year, the tribe attained a permit (for the temporary closure of the water way) which included language to not allow motorized boats to pass through during the ceremony. However, the language of the permit did not exclude the tribe’s motorized boat used to ferry elders across the river. That being said, US Forest Service officers hovering nearby issued Traditional Chief Sisk two citations for using the motorized boat which were later dismissed by the District Attorney. This year, the tribe and the US Forest Service have been trying to clear up any language issues for this year’s permit.

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