REDDING, CALIFORNIA –The Winnemem (McCloud River) Wintu Tribe will hold a “War Dance” at Shasta Dam, north of Redding, Calif., beginning September 11through September 15th.
The War Dance is in response to the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation’s proposal to raise the dam, which threatens to submerge many Winnemem sacred sites and village areas. The Winnemem lost much of their homelands and their salmon when the dam was first constructed.
“Any raising of the dam, even a few feet, will flood some of our last remaining sacred sites on the McCloud River – sites we still use today,” says Caleen Sisk , Winnemem Chief and Spiritual Leader. “We can’t be Winnemem any place else but the McCloud River. The dam raise is a form of cultural genocide.”
The Winnemem invoked the War Dance in 1887 against a fish hatchery on the McCloud River that threatened the salmon and the Winnemem way of life. . Again The Winnemem held a War Dance at the dam in 2004 to commit themselves to the protection of their land and their salmon. Now, the Winnemem face even more of their sacred sites and culture being submerged by the dam
“We gave up a lot of our homeland for the sake of the California people, and got nothing in return. Now the government wants to take our sacred places, and again we get nothing in return. How is this fair, over and over again?” “This is not right Chief Sisk said. “This is too much to ask of a people.”
On September 11, 2014 at a site near Shasta Dam, just before dusk, a sacred ceremonial fire will be lit, and the Winnemem War Dancers will fast for the full four days of the ceremony.. For the next 4 days, the fire, the drum, the songs and the dance will carry the prayers of the Winnemem people. The dance is being held under a permit issued by The Bureau of Reclamation. (BOR) The Tribe has held numerous meetings with the BOR to raise questions about the feasibility of the BOR’s plans, the impacts it will have on the tribe and their way of life, and the troubled history between the tribe and the BOR. Yet, BOR is going ahead with plans to raise the dam and will submit its final EIS/EIR to the Secretary of Interior in December, and anticipates the final project plan will be submitted to Congress for approval no later than March 2015.
When Shasta Dam was first proposed, Congress passed a law (55 Stat 612) authorizing the federal government to take the lands and burial grounds that the Winnemem had for a thousand years. Promises were made to the Tribe in 55 Stat 612 that still have not been kept. The Tribe is asking that the Bureau of Reclamation fulfill 55 Stat 612 to resolve these long standing debts as well as fully comply with NEPA, NHPA, and other laws that protect sacred and historic sites. The Tribe has consistently requested that the BOR, study alternatives to raising the dam such as better management practices for existing reservoirs and conservation options, as well as better protection of the fish populations.
Raising the dam will damage, destroy and inundate cultural resources along the McCloud River, sites that are vital to future generations and are eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places as Traditional Cultural Properties.