Chief Sisk to Representing Federally Unrecognized Tribes at the 85th session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
GENEVA – Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk is one of five indigenous leaders from North America chosen to present at the United Nations’ 85th Session of the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), which is being held August 11-16 in Geneva, Switzerland.
At the session, she will present a three-minute intervention about the discriminatory nature of the U.S. government’s label of “federally unrecognized tribe”, which has been applied to dozens of historical California tribes because they were not on the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs’ original list of “federally recognized” tribes in 1978.
The CERD is a body of human rights experts who monitor the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, which was ratified in 1965.
“The label of ‘unrecognized’ dehumanizes our tribes and puts us in a ‘less than’ category even though many of us, including the Winnemem, have a well-documented history as a tribe,” Sisk said. “Every step we take to try to support and revitalize our traditions, preserve our language, and practice our culture is blocked by this label.”
Without federal recognition, the Winnemem Wintu are barred from owning religious items such as eagle feathers, can’t access BIA scholarships and are ineligible for protection under the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act and Indian Child Welfare Act.
More specifically, the lack of federal recognition has prevented the Winnemem from securing the necessary privacy to hold their Coming of Age Ceremonies on the McCloud River. It has also limited the Winnemem’s ability to intervene in with the U.S. government’s proposal to raise Shasta Dam, which would submerge or damage nearly 40 sacred sites integral to Winnemem culture.
Previous to receiving the funding to attend, Chief Sisk and the tribe submitted a so-called “shadow report” to the CERD, outlining the tribe’s history and the ways the federal recognition policy results in racial discrimination against historical tribes.
“I hope that we can raise awareness that the U.S. has problems in honoring the rights of its indigenous peoples, and we need to bring to light that the U.S. has created a false caste system in Indian Country,” Sisk said. “Tribes don’t deserve to be treated like we are.”
Learn more about the CERD: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cerd/
Learn more about the Winnemem Wintu: www.winnememwintu.org
Read the Winnemem’s Shadow Report Presented to the CERD: Winnemem Wintu shadow report FINAL-2 copy