Saturday, December 20, 2008

WW/ Questioning US Tribal Lists

I used to be brainwashed and take for granted the existence of a Federally Recognized Tribes list without questioning, "Does that mean that there is a Federally UNrecognized Tribes list?" And if so, what happens to the tribes of that list? The answer is there are thousands of unrecognized tribes, especially in the west, CA, OR, WA, Alaska. It is the nature of the wars and treacheries of the US expansion period to take without consideration tens of thousands of human lives and violate cultures for land. In our time, to keep such a list as "federally recognized tribes" is a continuation of the colonialist attitudes and policies which fueled the "wars against humanity" which our US history calls "westward expansion" in the first place.

The Winnemem and other tribes are tribes because they have always been from the beginning of time. They are recognized by other tribal people from all around the world. They are recognized by the Land they take care of and which take care of them. They are recognized for who they are by anyone who comes in contact with them, or by people like us, who choose to follow their way of life. They are recognized by the UN Declaration of Human Rights for Indigenous People. They are recognized by their Maker, the Creator of all things.

And yet, the US government carries on a policy which would allow one list of tribes to access the short list of treaty rights and, in doing so, create another list of tribes which get nothing except broken promises, poverty, injustice. I can only speak about the Winnemem, that in spite of all this, the people carry on the best they can. But there must be many more, the Chinook of Washington, for example, the Wanapum. In California, 90 percent of the historic tribes are unrecognized! Only 10 per cent are on the US list of recognized tribe with access to funds for college education for their children and health care for their families. Federal law gives only 10 percent of the California tribes a place at the table to be consulted about land use regarding possible sacred sites and environmental impact. The land lost by the Native peoples of California are rich lands, rivers, mountains, providing a basis of an economy which benefits the whole nation. On the flip side, there are dire consequences for this "productivity" in California as their rivers and river deltas dry up, land becomes overused, the salmon endangered, water table endangered. The tribes who know this land on a cell level and who believe that they have been given voice by the big fish to speak for the land . . . only 10 percent of them have been given the authority by law to speak at the table -- and it is without a doubt important for the whole country that tribal voices are represented at any discussion for preservation of sacred lands and the environmental impact of development.

Why, then, a list of recognized tribes? Why create the concept of "unrecognized tribe." I'm thinking the expansion must still be going on and with the same attitudes. It's a violation of human rights by any standard. This time, expansionist interests are water, the minerals, free reign to all that is left and these interests motivate a government to limit the number of tribes that would have the "lawful authority" to give input about protecting sacred lands and environmental impact studies. This expansionist view creates the egregious government policy of impoverishing a tribe into extinction by non recognition which causes a government to "lawfully" refuse healthcare, limit the future of the next generation by blocking access to college education. It is this expansionist view which gives government the bureaucratic caste system to "lawfully" interfere with tribes trying to carry on historical cultural traditions, and silence them about the very sacred lands central to their lifeways.

The UN Conference for the Declaration of Human Rights for Indigenous People opened my eyes to the fact that "recognized tribal status" is not a worldwide concept. Not all countries use that kind of governmental authority over indigenous sovereign peoples. It is an American bias. That being the case, it becomes incumbent on Americans -- immigrant or tribal -- to correct colonialist attitudes of government and stand up for restoration until all the historic tribes have been restored (until federal recognition has no meaning). I had not realized when Granny first took our family under her wing what an education I would get -- a parallel education to everything I learned in public school, from civics to science -- and the education I got from Granny, her people, her ceremonies, her sacred lands, and continue to get from Caleen Sisk Franco fills in all the little blank spots we don't have enough information to question in the first place.

So, once again, I am asking of all of you kind enough to read my blog to please heed the call of Head Man Mark Franco and send in a petition to their CA Senators who are too busy with the confusion this country's been stuck in for the past eight years, too busy in Washington DC to correct a terrible wrong done to a tribe for over a hundred plus years in their own state of California. Please help nudge Senators Feinstein and Boxer to sponsor a Winnemem Restoration bill and ask them to work hard for its passage even without Congressman Herger's vowed non-support. The gentleman from Shasta Lake City area does not consider Winnemem his constituency, but other members of the House will fill the vacuum and stand for justice if he will not. The Winnemem should be on the radar as "part of their constituency" for Boxer, Feinstein, Herger. Perhaps, with petitions for Winnemem Restoration flooding into Boxer and Feinstein's offices every day, when the Winnemem make the next appointment with their Senators and fly across the country, the Senators Boxer and Feinstein might be able to spare the time to speak to the leaders of a sovereign California tribe who have sacrificed a lot for their State's prosperity and asks only for promises made to be fulfilled. Justice. Certainly that is the worthy work for any lawmaker of this land.

Here are the addresses once again for your convenience to send petitions. If you'd like more information, i hope you check out the Winnemem Wintu Road to Justice blog listed on my favorite blogs:

Senator Barbara Boxer
(202) 224-3553
112 Hart Building
Washington, DC 20510-0505

Senator Dianne Feinstein
(202) 224-3841
331 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

For more information on the petition drive, to get copies of the petition, please go to the Winnemem Wintu website:

And "The Winnemem Wintu, a Journey to Justice" blog at:

Thank you!!!

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"from Outside the Belly" was also known as "TBAsian" from 2008-2010. Thank you for reading.

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Eugene, Oregon
I am a citizen of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe. I am a Nikkei descendant sansei (third generation);retired teacher, involved in the Winnemem tribal responsibility to Water, Salmon, and our belief that the Sacred is our Teacher. Working locally for human rights and supporting youth leadership.