Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 15, 2012

Winnemem Wintu protest citations of Chief Caleen Sisk Oct 16, 2012


Winnemem Wintu Tribe Describes USFS Charges as Retaliation

Date: Tuesday, October 16, 2012
Time: 8:00 AM
Location: East California Federal Courthouse
2689 Bechelli Lane, Redding, CA.

By Winnemem Wintu
Censored News

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe will hold a rally at the Federal Courthouse in Redding to call for justice and for the court to rescind the punitive citations served on Chief Caleen Sisk at the end of the traditional Balas Chonas (Coming of Age Ceremony) in July.
On receiving the citations (with penalties totaling $10,000 in fines or one year in prison), Chief Sisk stated, “These citations are against everything that we fought for in getting the closure, and it shows their unwillingness to allow us to carry on our ceremony in peace and dignity. This is total harassment.”
The rally takes place on the day that Chief Sisk is scheduled to appear in court, for a 9:00 a.m. hearing, to respond to the charges, to which she intends to plead “Not Guilty."  There will also be an educational pre-rally event at the Redding library Monday evening (details below).
California has an ugly history of genocide against indigenous people, which includes the criminalization of indigenous religion. The Winnemem Wintu believe the citations are a continuation of these policies, and the federal government and U.S. Forest Service has neglected its duty to protect indigenous cultures, as required by the American Indian Religious Freedom Act, the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the First Amendment.
In July, after months of public pressure, the US Forest Service finally agreed to impose a river closure so the Winnemem Wintu could hold our Coming of Age ceremony in peace and dignity, free of public harassment. However, on the eve of the ceremony the agency pressured Chief Caleen Sisk to sign a flawed permit, and after verbally agreeing to the tribe’s use of a motorized boat, omitted the agreement from the final closure order.
During the ceremony and river closure we were threatened by members of the public on land and water, while U.S.F.S. law enforcement officers spent more time harassing tribal members and supporters than responding to the threats and unlawful behavior around the closure. In addition, they tried to stop us from using our own motor boat (as had been previously agreed to) to ferry elders, including disabled women, across the river for ceremonial purposes.
On July 4th, USFS law enforcement officers entered ceremony grounds and served Chief Sisk with two citations, each punishable by $5,000 or 6 months in prison – one for using a motorized boat to ferry elders across the river in the closure area; the other for violating the terms of the special use permit.
Chief Sisk Presentation and Video of US Forest Service Interference
Date: Monday, October 15, 2012
Time: 5:00 PM
Location: Shasta Public Library, 1100 Parkview Avenue, Redding, CA

Press contact:
Douglas Scholfield
Cell: 530-262-9872

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