Thursday, May 31, 2012

Please Support our Right to Ceremony and email Forest Service Chief Tidwell

I emailed this to Tom Tidwell, Forest Service Chief. Posting with all the typos and awkward sentence structure of someone writing at midnight with apologies. If you can email and cc

To the Forest Service Chief, Tom Tidwell, and cc Randy Moore (who is under him), it would be so appreciated!

Dear Chief,
Something is not right in California. The state has little to do with it. On Forest Service Land, these past days, the US Forest Service Rangers interfered with the peace and dignity of a ceremony called H'up Chonos done by a tribe of traditional California Natives, the Winnemem Wintu. This ceremony is held when there is no other place to turn except to prayer to right a wrong. The wrong is that the women's coming of age ceremony is being disrupted by drunk boaters hurling racist remarks, insults and other boats playing loud music disruptions one could not even imagine at a communion or bat mitzvah. The tribe is asking for a mere 400 yards of a small segment of the river to be closed for only four days. The Forest Service has turned a blind eye and a deaf ear to evidence of health and safety issues, harassment, and abuse of human rights.

During the ceremony, not only did the Forest Service vehicles come through backed by a canine unit, but they came through on their boat backed by coast guard and auxiliary coast guard daily, several times on Saturday. It was constant disturbance by the Forest Service vehicles. Then, on Sunday, when many of the people who came to stand with the tribe were gone, and a flotilla of recreational boats and speedboats came by harassing, yelling, making obscene gestures, and the engines very rattling and noisy, and going faster than the speed limit -- all with children in the water -- there was no Forest Service presence. Clearly they did not care about preserving peace on the river. Their attention was to cause intimidation and disturbance to ceremony.

This show of force did nothing but prove to the participants who came, many for the first time, to a Winnemem ceremony that the Federal Government has a grudge against a small traditional historical tribe, materially poor, but rich in culture and stubborn in their perseverance to exist despite the drowning of their homelands, the loss of their sacred lands, and the erasing of their tribal status under the Reagan administration along with 90 percent of the California Indians, 300,000 people. The story becomes more shocking the deeper one digs.

California recognizes the Winnemem as a tribe with the passage of joint resolution 39. The tribes of California recognize the Winnemem. New Zealand, and other leaders of nations recognize the Winnemem whose chief holds a chair at the UN Permanent Forum of the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. Certainly that is enough recognition for the Forest Service Region 5 Forester, the Shasta Trinity Forest ranger and her Supervisor to close 400 YARDS of a small branch of the McCloud River, a branch which is not navigable at the other end by the bridge. That should be enough recognition to support a ceremony which comes only when there is a young woman in the tribe comes of age to happen in peace and dignity. The Concessionaire has no problem with the tribe. The people of Redding if one were to look at the informal survey done by their local paper have no problem voting 70 percent for closing the river for the ceremony. One hundred percent of the boats, all who turned around when tribal members and their supporters asked them to respect the ceremony have no problem.

The only boats who disturbed the peace of the ceremony was a US FS boat with 6 armed rangers, with sunglasses, bullet proof vests motoring toward a group of people who were sunning on the slope watching at the boats being turned respectfully away, a banner flying "River Closed" as high over the river as the bridge was. As the USFS boat neared, the uniformed armed men standing, demanded the families of spectators to back up -- and as they scrambled up, little children, grannies, two or three lines of rangers, armed, a couple with dogs had crept up behind them. They turned ceremony into a para-military exercise.

Something is not right in California but the state has little to do with it.

It cannot be that the Federal Government has a prejudice against this small tribe of 125 people, so much so they would render them without the right to religious freedom under the Native American Religious Freedom Act, the right to carry on in their traditional way, the right to bring their young women into womanhood as Winnemem women resolved by any human rights document, including the UN Declaration of Rights of Indigenous Peoples which acknowledges the special need for the particular land for ceremony. What could motivate a government to ignore a people as they use all roads to petition, close doors on them when they come to plead their case and appear only to harass, bully and intimidate them from practicing their way of life.

I am shocked and upset. I am writing this because if I don't, if freedom ends here, if human rights ends here for this tribe, tyranny wins. It will eventually erode this country. Please, show that there is heart in the Federal Government for this California traditional tribe who just want to be who they are and follow their way of life, their humble, simple life of service to nature and who pray for humanity and all of Creation. I hope that someone clear over there in Washington DC can lead on a foundation of civility, humanity and commons sense. It's not happening here in California and the state has little to do with it.

Misa Joo
Eugene, Oregon
cc: Mayor Kitty Piercy, Eugene, Oregon, a Human Rights City
Chief Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu
Randy Moore Region 5 Forester, USFS

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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.