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.
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?