Winnemem Wintu Chief Caleen Sisk praying for the water,
SACRAMENTO — On Saturday, March 15 some 5,000 people from San Diego to the Oregon border held a rally to protest fracking in the State of California. This was the largest protest against fracking, the process of extracting oil by blasting the earth with highly toxic chemicals such as methanol, benzene, and trimethylbenzene in state history.
Left to Right – Valerie Stanley, Noyo River Community, Ft. Bragg, Wichapiluta Canelaria, Rumsen Ohlone, Laura Cedillo, Pame(Mexico), Michael Preston, Winnemem Wintu, Wounded Knee Ocampo, Miwok elder.
Many members of California Native nations such as the Miwok, Maidu, Winnemem Wintu, Yurok, Karuk, Hoopa, Ohlone, Pit River, Cahto, Round Valley, Pomo and Chumash, as well as Lakota, Dakota, Cherokee, indigenous communities, native organizations, activists involved in the Idle No More Movement, Klamath Justice Coalitions, and many environmental groups came together as Californians Against Fracking. State Senator Holly Mitchell announced that she has introduced legislation that would permanently ban fracking for oil in California, Senate Bill 1142.
The Keynote Speaker was Chief Caleen Audrey Sisk, tribal chief and spiritual leader of the Winnemem Wintu. Chief Sisk also offered prayers to open the Rally.
“Here at the Capitol a lot of Brown water planning is going on. This water is our medicine. It comes from the sacred places where the medicine comes from. We struggle to continue to take care of our waters. There is no other place we can go to practice our religion,” said Chief Sisk.
In her prayer she said, “We call to Olebis to look down on us and send down the good blessings. We call on sacred Mt. Shasta to help bless us with this sacred water, so it will continue to bring us and our children’s children and so on in to the future with good health and long life for all our relations. We are calling on the water and fire spirits to help bring back the balance in our world, as wild salmon, wolves, beavers and giant trees make their way back. We sing to the water that flows from the sacred spring on Buliyum Puyuk (Mt. Shasta) to the ocean and back again-waters from Mauna Kea come back and answer the call-and the lakes as well as the lakes of fire send their blessings. We ask the fires inside Mt. Shasta and in all the fires inside the mountains of the world to help us bring understanding and balance to our way of life and change our lives to the good again. Bring back the original taste of water to guide the people and all relatives back to healthy thinking and acting. For nothing will be here without fresh, clean water, no air to make rain, no rain to grow the trees.”
The California Nurses Association sent speakers who reminded us of the many respiratory illnesses, cancers and other types of sickness that has been occurring around the country where fracking or oil spills from fracking have occurred. Huey Johnson, a poet spoke of the “decline in integrity of Governor Brown. Chevron gave millions of dollars to his campaign. It seems that the whole idea of democracy and politics in this state is reward and punishment. We must think in terms of local officials and where they stand,” he said.
“We are the ancestors of the future and it is our responsibility to be the care takers of the earth, as was given to us in our original teachings by our ancestors. We must not allow the continual devastation and degradation of our Mother Earth,” stated Corrina Gould (Chochenyo/Karkin Ohlone), one of the organizers of the event.
Pennie Opal Plant, organizer of Idle No More SF Bay reminded those gathered that the battle against fracking and other methods of oil and gas extraction is “a worldwide struggle and includes the Lakota resistance to the XL pipeline, the resistance of Canadian First Nations to fracking and the battles of indigenous peoples against these practices throughout the world. We are not Mother Earth’s failed experiment. We are her immune system. All of our two legged relatives must stand up for Mother Earth.
“California Native nations throughout the state have led anti-fracking efforts, and on February 28, 2014 the Los Angeles City Council passed a ban on fracking in their jurisdiction. This makes Los Angeles the first oil producing city in California to call a halt to the practice,” said Corine Fairbanks, director of American Indian Movement, Southern California Chapter.
Currently fracking is taking place in Alameda, Butte, Colusa, Contra Costa, Fresno, Glenn, Humboldt, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, Monterey, Orange, Sacramento, San Benito, San Bernardino, San Joaquin, San Louis Obispo and San Mateo counties. Oil companies have also fracked offshore wells near the California coast from Seal Beach to the Santa Barbara Channel, according to Fairbanks.
The Western States Petroleum Association (WSPA), the most powerful corporate lobbying organization in Sacramento spent over 4.67 million dollars in 2013. Chevron Corp. and it’s subsidiaries, spent 3.95 million dollars and a large portion of that amount went to lobby against bills that would ban fracking in California. The process of fracking exposes communities to radioactivity, numerous toxic chemicals and triggers seismic activity and earthquakes.
Protesters from Winnemem Wintu go into Sacramento River after the rally.
After the rally Chief Caleen Sisk led a group of Winnemem Wintu to the Sacramento River at Miller Park near downtown Sacramento for a water challenge prayer to defend water, rivers and fish. Approximately twenty people very carefully waded into the extremely polluted river. “When we accept the winter water challenge and go down to our rivers, springs, lakes and oceans to pray for them and encourage others to do the same, it makes the waters happy. All over California the water ways are waking up with good blessings! Now accept the challenge to take the message you got to the capitol and tell the world…no fracking chance will your Brown water plan destroy our sacred waters”. Everyone gathered braved the cold and dirty water and swam.
Nanette Bradley Deetz is of Dakota, Cherokee and German descent. She is a poet, writer, educator and sometimes musician whose poetry appears in several anthologies. The most current is “Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down,” published by Scarlett Tanager Press; “Turtle Island to Abya Yala, A Love Anthology of Art and Poetry by Native American and Latina Women,” Malinalli Press, and “Alameda Island Theme Poems, 2004,2005 & 2006.” She combines poetry and music in her band, Redbird Giving which performs at many Bay Area native and non-native venues. She is a correspondent for the Alameda Journal and Native News Online.
Photos Credit: Nanette Bradley Deetz
CORRECTIONS MADE: Wednesday, March 19, 2014 at 1:34 p.m. – EDT