Thursday, April 23, 2009

WW/ Back from War Dance on the American River

We just got back from war dance in Sacramento, tired but our hearts settled and full. I'm waiting for Chief Caleen Sisk Franco's words to those of us assembled at the state capitol, her words to all the good people of the world to be uploaded because more than anything else, that is the message of H'up Chonas and the lawsuit filed against: the US Department of Interior; Bureau of Reclamation; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Bureau of Land Management; US Dept of Agriculture; US forest Service; Ken Salazar, Secretary of the Interior; Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture; and other responsible agency officials. Her words should be available here on Monday. Thank you for your prayers. Thank you for your support. Thank you for signing the online petition supporting the Winnemem Wintu Tribe.

The petition shows 600 signatures from all over the country and all around the world. If you would like to sign, please go to

A personal thank you also for the tribal letter of support from the leaders of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe of South Dakota. As sovereign people, they have also sent a letter recognizing the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, something the US government has yet to do. I think any support such as this from tribal people would be appreciated. Please send to:

Caleen Sisk Franco, Chief
Winnemen Wintu Tribe
14840 Bear Mountain Road
Redding, CA 96003

On April 17, Head Man Mark Franco found that the road to the top of Universe Rock was still blocked by snow, but that was alright. Instead, the Sacred Fire was started at the Sugar Pines were the men go to fast. I won't go into detail except to say that it seems that was exactly as it should have been. I'll just say that this place was the first place that the briefs for the lawsuit were prayed over, where generations of Winnemem men fasted and dreamed.

That evening, the Fire was brought down to the Prayer House at the ranch, carried in the back of a pickup and, the next evening, on April 18, we all gathered from near and far, sitting around the Fire to listen to Caleen, then each of us praying to get ready for H'up Chonas. That night, the warriors began their fast.

April 19, we caravaned to Camp Pollock by the American River, guests of the Miwok. The Fire rode in the back of a truck and was placed in the middle of the war dance arena, ready for H'up Chonas. Warriors danced into the night. Singers sang H'up Chonas songs, ancient songs which came in for the warriors and the people during the H'up Chonas at Shasta Lake Dam, 2004, so they could be used again.

Early morning, April 20, as the sun topped the trees, Chief Caleen Sisk Franco prayed over the briefs which had been carried up to the Sugar Pines, prayed around the Fire at each of the stops. The War Dance resumed, this time to the last song which came in with the Bear Spirit at the H'up Chonas at Shasta Lake Dam -- and this was the H'up Chonas song: the Creator does not want the River dammed. The Creator wants his big fish to swim free -- as Head Man Mark Franco said, just as the Winnemem want to be free to be Winnemem. We all caravaned to Old Town Sacramento to march to the Capitol. All the Winnemem were in traditional regalia. Many Tribal Organizations and Tribal Representatives gathered in support bringing their flags and banners. A delegation of Tsukimi Kai members from San Francisco, the Environmental Justice for Water and some members of Winnemem Support Group of Oregon also marched with the Winnemem in solidarity.

We met at the State House under a circle of trees, giant witnesses to an historic moment as the Winnemem Tribe finished what their ancestors had begun. They have brought their complaint for over one hundred years of injustice right to the halls of justice of Federal Court.

So much happened, so much was felt that I am not able to express it right now. I ask for forgiveness for this skeletal piece, almost a list of facts, for what was really an event of huge emotional magnitude and great signficance for everyone there. I expect in days ahead for things to unfold, events set in motion by the prayers and sacrifices of the war dancers and the Winnemem leaders.

What I would ask is that you listen to Chief Caleen Sisk Franco's words when I put it up early next week.

Thank you to RT, the cooks for the wonderful meal which broke the fast and brought us together to celebrate and send us all home safely.

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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.