Updates: Winnemem Wintu, U.S. Religion Census, Dan Halloran

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  May 29, 2012 — 22 Comments

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. Here are a few updates on previously reported stories to ease you back into the work week.

Winnemem Wintu War Dance: This past weekend, as I reported here previously, the Winnemem Wintu tribe blocked off a 400-yard stretch of the McCloud River, an area central to their coming of age ceremonies. The reason for the blockade is due to the Forest Service’s ongoing refusal to grant mandatory closures for these ceremonies, resulting in teenage girls being heckled and abused by boating tourists. The direct action happened peacefully, with the Forest Service only requesting that their banner be taken down.

Winnemem Wintu Tribe members blockading the river.

Winnemem Wintu Tribe members blockading the river.

“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. […] 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.”

Not everything was peaceful, however. On Sunday, after most supporters had left, and the blockade taken down, several boaters buzzed through the waters in a show of defiance. Aware that they were being taped, one can be heard on camera advising his friends to not “flip them off.” Another made the sign of the cross at them, a move that some tribe members saw as an act of hostility. Video coverage of the entire weekend can be found, here. This war dance was a “practice run” for the tribe’s coming of age ceremony, where it seems defenders will risk arrest to ensure the ceremony is undisturbed. I’ll post future updates as I receive them.

U.S. Religion Census and the Least Religious Places: At the beginning of May I noted the release of the 2010 U.S. Religion Census by the Association of Religion Data Archives. At the time I noted that the data showed the growth of non-Christian denominations and houses of worship with “Buddhist congregations were reported in all 50 states, and Hindu houses of worship in 49 states.” Another data-set that has folks talking is the ongoing drop in church attendance in the United States, and that some states, Maine in particular, less than 30% of residents belong to a church or religious organization.

Christian adherents as percentage of state population (2010).

Christian adherents as percentage of state population (2010).

“Maine has fewer residents who claim a religious affiliation than any other state in the union. The Pine Tree State is the only one in the country in which less than 30 percent of the population belong to a religious denomination or independent Christian church, according to a census conducted every 10 years by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. This follows a Pew study that found 40 percent of Mainers pray daily — the lowest percentage in the nation. “What’s alarming about those numbers is that more than 300 years after the country was founded by people seeking religious freedom, the large numbers of nonaffiliated folks out here is just the norm,” the Rev. Steve Lewis, academic dean of Bangor Theological Seminary, said earlier this month.”

I happen to live in the second-least Christian state, Oregon, which hovers right around 30%. Much has been written about the lack of formal, congregational, religion in Cascadia, and of the rise of the “nones”in general, with little in the way of a decisive consensus on what these trends ultimately mean for religion in America. The question I have is why, when there are now several American states where formal Christian adherence is in the minority, do we still insist on the fiction of “Christian America” or even “Judeo-Christian America.” Where are the “spiritual but not religious” politicians who do away with a Christian identity entirely? Shouldn’t states like Oregon and Maine be ready to elect non-Christians to high office, so long as their policy stances line up with a majority of voters?

Want to See Dan Halloran’s Scar? Speaking of non-Christian politicians, New York City Councilman, congressional candidate, and Theodish Heathen Dan Halloran recently underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. By all accounts the procedure was a success, and Halloran is already active on social media, sending out a picture of his scar.

Ouch! (Dan Halloran's surgery scar.)

Ouch! (Dan Halloran's surgery scar.)

“So I’m home and trying to adjust- my balance isn’t at 100% but I have my health otherwise in tact. The doctors are still somewhat at a loss to explain the rapid progress, lucky circumstances, and I’m not taking it for granted. I can’t push any harder or faster but am doing everything I can. I started using a voldyne 2500 to improve my lung capacity…. but that’s gonna leave a mark.”

We’ll have plenty to say about Halloran here at The Wild Hunt once he’s back on the trail, but for now we simply wish him a speedy recovery.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

Jason Pitzl-Waters