Archives For Winnemem Wintu Tribe

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!

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

Happy World Tarot Day!

Happy World Tarot Day!

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.

Starting this Thursday, and running through the weekend, the Winnemem Wintu tribe in Northern California are holding a War Dance of civil disobedience, blocking 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 refusal to grant mandatory closures for these ceremonies, resulting in teenage girls being heckled and abused by boating tourists.

“Help our tribe’s peaceful ceremony of resistance, our spiritual commitment to protect the Coming of Age ceremonies for our young women from public interference and harassment. [...] We will be blockading a 400-yard stretch of the McCloud River on Friday and Saturday definitely. We may possibly do it on Sunday. Please bring canoes, kayaks, inner tubes, rafts and anything that floats. We will have an air-up station set up for inflatable crafts. Also, bring life preservers.”

This situation caused the Winnemem Wintu to postpone 2011′s coming of age ceremony, citing a lack of basic safety and security necessary to holding the rites.

Marine Sisk with her mother Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu.

Marine Sisk with her mother Caleen Sisk, Chief and Spiritual Leader of the Winnemem Wintu.

“For more than five years, we’ve asked the Forest Service to enforce a mandatory river closure for the ceremony’s four days in order to give us the peace and privacy we need for a good ceremony. They have continually refused to honor this request, even though it is within their power to close the river. Because Marisa is the young woman training to be the next leader, our Chief decided the risk was too great and the indignity of holding a ceremony without complete privacy could no longer be tolerated.”

Why won’t the Forest Service grant the mandatory closure? Because the Winnemem Wintu tribe aren’t  federally recognized, despite extensive proof that they are, indeed, indigenous to the area. This lack of legal status inhibits the free practice of their traditional rites, and silences their voices when it comes to redress for wrongs done to them.

“The profiles of some federally recognized American Indian tribes have grown in recent decades as they parlayed their sovereign status to create profitable ventures such as gambling enterprises. But there are many other tribes that – never having had a reservation or simply falling through the cracks of Indian policy – are unrecognized by the United States. Scholars estimate that more than 250,000 of the 5 million who identify themselves as American Indians belong to about 300 unrecognized tribes, making them almost invisible to federal Indian law.”

Unrecognized tribes in the United States aren’t able to file for a grievance under the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, due to a position paper issued by the United States government saying they wouldn’t include them, and that the process to becoming recognized is largely viewed as a bureaucratic nightmare, with almost impossibly high bars of entry.

“Anthropologists and tribal members also argue that the requirement to show “continuous and distinct community” since 1900 is unrealistic given US history. “These people went through massacres, dislocations, and suffered all these horrible atrocities, and then the government demands, ‘Show us your continuous community.’ It’s absurd,” says Les Field, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.”

Because of this lack of recognition, the Winnemem Wintu are treated like any tourist group making a claim on the river, allowing for the abuse they’ve received to go unpunished and unanswered. Now, caught in a legal limbo, and out of options, the tribe is resorting to civil disobedience to make a statement and gain attention for their plight. In addition, the Winnemem Wintu face the total erasure of their traditional lands due to a proposal raise the Shasta dam, placing the remaining pieces of their traditional home underwater.

It’s clear that the voices of unrecognized tribes aren’t being heard, and that the process to being heard is no guarantee of success. It should be the duty of the entire interfaith community, particularly those who care about the preservation of sacred lands, to raise up their own voices and put pressure on the federal government to do more. The plight of the Winnemem Wintu comes down to simply respecting the rights and traditions of a people who’ve called these lands home long before we ever arrived. While politicians and special interest groups harp about “religious freedom” in Washington DC, laser-focused on government prayer and birth control, none of them seem to be mobilizing to protect the simple right of unrecognized indigenous tribes to engage in traditional practices unmolested.

For volunteer information on this weekend’s action, including donation information, click here.

Just a few quick news notes for you on this Thursday.

NAR on Fresh Air: I’ve written at some length on the Christian movement known as the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR), a group that’s been getting increased media scrutiny lately due to their proximity to presidential candidates like Texas governor Rick Perry. However, as the recent blowback over the term “Dominionist” proves, there’s quite a bit people don’t know about this increasingly connected religio-political network of apostles and prophets. A key figure in studying the origins and activities of NAR is Rachel Tabachnick of Talk To Action, who was interviewed yesterday on NPR’s Fresh Air.

“On Wednesday’s Fresh Air, Rachel Tabachnick, who researches the political impact of the religious right, joins Terry Gross for a discussion about the growing movement and its influence and connections in the political world. Tabachnick says the movement currently works with a variety of politicians and has a presence in all 50 states. It also has very strong opinions about the direction it wants the country to take. For the past several years, she says, the NAR has run a campaign to reclaim what it calls the “seven mountains of culture” from demonic influence. The “mountains” are arts and entertainment; business; family; government; media; religion; and education.”

If you’re looking for NAR 101, I would suggest listening to this program, or reading the full transcript. Tabachnick has also supplied a supplemental post of relevant informational links at Talk To Action. At the end of the interview host Terry Gross mentions that the program reached out to several NAR figures for an interview, though none said they could fit it into their schedules. However, Mike Bickle (famous for calling Oprah a forerunner of the Antichrist) of the International House of Prayer has agreed to come on the show in the near future.

What Makes A Tribe: Religion Clause points to a Christian Science Monitor article on the plight of unrecognized Native American tribes in the United States, and how their lack of legal status inhibits the free practice of their traditional rites, and silences their voices when it comes to redress for wrongs done to them.

“The profiles of some federally recognized American Indian tribes have grown in recent decades as they parlayed their sovereign status to create profitable ventures such as gambling enterprises. But there are many other tribes that – never having had a reservation or simply falling through the cracks of Indian policy – are unrecognized by the United States. Scholars estimate that more than 250,000 of the 5 million who identify themselves as American Indians belong to about 300 unrecognized tribes, making them almost invisible to federal Indian law.”

The article notes that unrecognized tribes wouldn’t be able to file for a grievance under the United Nations Declaration on Indigenous Peoples, due to a position paper issued by the United States government saying they wouldn’t include them, and that the process to becoming recognized is largely viewed as a bureaucratic nightmare, with almost impossibly high bars of entry.

“Anthropologists and tribal members also argue that the requirement to show “continuous and distinct community” since 1900 is unrealistic given US history. “These people went through massacres, dislocations, and suffered all these horrible atrocities, and then the government demands, ‘Show us your continuous community.’ It’s absurd,” says Les Field, an anthropologist at the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque.”

For tribes like the Winnemem Wintu in Northern California, who aren’t recognized despite clear documentation by the United States government that they do, indeed, exist, recognition could mean the difference between preservation of their identity or total eradication. Their difficulties in simply holding their rites is only the tip of the iceberg, as plans to raise the Shasta Dam would flood their traditional sacred places. It’s clear that the voices of unrecognized tribes aren’t being heard, and that the process to being heard is no guarantee of success. It should be the duty of the entire interfaith community, particularly those who care about the preservation of sacred lands, to raise up their own voices and put pressure on the federal government to do more.

When a Daycare Becomes a Christian Daycare: The WaukeePatch in Iowa reports on a long-running daycare, and the changes that happened when the church that was renting space to them took over.

A Waukee church is being criticized by angry parents for forcing child-care staffers to adhere to Christian principles, banning non-Christians, sexually-active singles, male-female roommates and practicing homosexuals from employment. [...] Employees wanting to remain needed to reapply for their positions and agree to the new guidelines. These new guidelines were spelled out in a Christian Lifestyle Agreement included with employment applications. The agreement states that “every employee accept and follow a lifestyle commitment based upon Biblical principles.”

At least one employee wouldn’t be able to reapply for her job since she’s a lesbian. Parents were given no warning of the switch-over. Shocking as this may be, this move doesn’t seem too surprising considering the fact that Point of Grace church is now run by a pastor, Jeff Mullen, who is markedly anti-gay and recently hosted Michele Bachmann during an Iowa campaign stop. Now that the daycare formerly known as “Happy Time” is a religiously-run organization, what Point of Grace is doing is now perfectly legal. This may not be an issue in isolation, but what happens when an entire community is run this way?  What happens is that tacitly enforced “no-go” areas for non-Christians are created.  I’m not attacking Point of Grace for running a religious organization they way they want to run it, but I do think this is a good example of what can happen when a community’s social safety net is placed in the hands of the dominant religious body.

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

This Sunday, I have updates on some previously reported stories.

Sacred Paths Center’s Fiscal Crisis: As I reported on FridaySacred Paths Center, a Pagan community center serving the Minneapolis-St. Paul area (aka “Paganistan”), sent out a message that they were in dire fiscal straits and needed over 7000 dollars immediately if they were to avoid closure. Now one of the SPC’s board members, CJ Stone, has been interviewed by PNC-Minnesota about the situation.

“We were working from a membership model. A Pagan Community Center has been the dream of several Twin Cities groups, working for the past thirteen years. You would think if the idea of a Pagan Community Center, supported by members, was possible, it would have happened by now. Thirteen years is a long time. When Teisha (Center Executive Director) said , “We have a problem, we have to solve it”, we finally asked, “Are we even using the right model?”

The answer is NO. We have already gotten the members we are likely to get. Even with a tremendous response, say 500 members, it would be barely enough. We just can’t do it. We made the mistake thinking the members would support it. We learned you can’t support a Pagan Community Center just on membership, at least not without years of work to build it up. We just have a month. We need some big donations now, to get off the membership model as a primary source of income, and continue. Then we can get on to better retail, more targeted retail, better service to our teachers and students. Finding a community that needs what we have got, and then serving it clearly and directly.”

The SPC board has estimated that they have to raise $7,500 immediately, and $12,000 by the end of July to remain open and viable for the longer term. So far 20% of their goal has been raised, this includes matching funds from an anonymous donor. We’ll keep you posted on this story as it develops.

James Arthur Ray Aftermath: After the negligent homicide convictions for New Age guru James Arthur Ray, Mitch Horowitz, author of “Occult America: White House Seances, Ouija Circles, Masons, and the Secret Mystic History of Our Nation,” ponders whether we should regulate retreats and rituals. While Horowitz acknowledges that Ray-inspired regulations “could be valuable,” he ultimately opposes government intervention.

The public should be alert to such situations—but not at the expense of the free exercise of spiritual experiment that has long characterized our religious culture. When considering crackdowns on ersatz sweat lodges or extreme rites, Americans ought to take guidance from what Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson wrote in 1944: “The price of freedom of religion . . . is that we must put up with, and even pay for, a good deal of rubbish.”

Horowitz endorses better education, something the new not-for-profit organization, SEEK, (Self-help Empowerment through Education and Knowledge), endeavors to do. Meanwhile, the story of Ray’s deadly sweat lodge ritual doesn’t seem to be going away, the Guardian just did a lengthy write-up about Ray, anti-Ray activists (and cult observers) are not letting him slip out of the spotlight, and you can bet there will be appeals once he’s been sentenced.

Winnemem Wintu Postpone Coming of Age Ceremony: Back in April I mentioned that the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in Northern California was coordinating a petition drive to close a small section of the McCloud River so they can hold their coming-of-age ceremony in peace. In previous years a “voluntary closure” was ignored by local power-boaters who shouted racist and threatening epithets at the Tribe. Now, the Winnemem Wintu have decided to postpone this year’s coming of age ceremony because the US Forest Service refuses to enforce a mandatory closure.

“For more than five years, we’ve asked the Forest Service to enforce a mandatory river closure for the ceremony’s four days in order to give us the peace and privacy we need for a good ceremony. They have continually refused to honor this request, even though it is within their power to close the river. Because Marisa is the young woman training to be the next leader, our Chief decided the risk was too great and the indignity of holding a ceremony without complete privacy could no longer be tolerated.”

The Winnemem are planning to try again for a mandatory closure next year, and are considering filing a complaint with the United Nation’s Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. You can keep up with this story by following the tribe’s Facebook page, and their blog dedicated to this issue.

Harry Potter and Witchcraft: Over the years I’ve looked at conservative Christian responses to the ever-popular Harry Potter books and movies. How they “glamorize the power of evil,” inspiring opposition that bordered on parody. Even the Bush administration worried over the demonic powers of Harry. But it looks like the great battles over Harry Potter seducing children into the practice of Witchcraft have finally burnt out, with former critics starting to admit they might have overreacted a bit.

“William Brown, president of Cedarville University, an evangelical college east of Dayton in Greene County, agreed that Christians’ opinions of Harry Potter have changed. “The world did not come apart and children did not immediately become witches and warlocks because of Harry Potter,” he said.”

That’s a big admission from an evangelical heavyweight. It really shows how the oxygen has gone out of this issue (author JK Rowling essentially admitting it’s a Christian allegory probably helped). Not that there won’t continue to be those who find it evil, but the Harry Potter culture war may finally be ending.

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

There are lots of articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans out there, sometimes more than I can write about in-depth in any given week. So The Wild Hunt must unleash the hounds in order to round them all up.

That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of these I may expand into longer posts as needed.