Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Report 2 to Winnemem Support Group on War Dance

Today I am reporting to you the excesses of force used by the US Forest Service to disrupt the Winnemem Wintu H'up Chonos Ceremony.

First: here's a quote made by Michael Preston from the SF Chronicle reporter who stayed three days and two nights at the ceremony: It is a concise thoughtful description about what H'up Chonos is.

"People get hung up on the words 'war dance,' but H'up Chonas actually means that we have no more answers and our last resort is doing this dance in spiritual defiance of whatever is threatening our livelihood," said Michael Preston, one of the dancers. "We are asking the spiritual realm for help."

Read more:

The facts of what the tribe did in following regulations, procedures and permit acquisition:

The Tribe with the help of supporters had a permit through the concenssionaire of the McCloud campground and had paid for all the spots of the fairground. the relationship between tribe and concessionaire is very good. WE HAVE A PERMIT ALREADY! You've probably read how the FS talk about that we need a permit and need to sign an amended permit yada yada. And in the end on day three, they leak to the press that tthe permit they are wasting the public's time in the newspapers and making an issue about won't close the river. WE ALREADY HAVE A PERMIT from the concessionaire AND THE ONLY THING WE ARE ASKING FOR AND ALWAYS ASKED FOR IS A RIVER CLOSURE which this blankety blank permit process the made up for the newspaper won't even give us.

The tribe held a peaceful ceremony for four days. There are people, especially children, in the water all the time. Children's Rock is submerged except for a tip, and the children are always clambering on it and swimming around it. A rope with a banner closing the river was instituted on Day 3 for a couple of hours and was taken down when commanded to by the forest Service.

Except for the two hours where we hung a banner as high as the bridge 300 yards up river, there was no reason for police presence at a camp which was paid for, where all rules were being followed. As for the river closure, we thank all the recreational boaters who wished us well. The only deliberate disruptions of ceremony where by law enforcement, especially the US Forest Rangers.

On day 4, when everyone was gone, before our final War Dance, we were harassed by a flotilla of big boats and jet boats but honestly, by that time, learning that the Forest Service was camped across from us (four vans), watching us from that vantage point for at least a3 of the days, and because of the timing being when all of our boaters and allies were gone, we had thoughts they may have sent in this flotilla of harassers. For sure, they did not come over across with their boats or vehicles to dissuade the harassment, and protect our little ones in the water when a clear and present danger occurred.

List of disruptions of the H'up Chonos Ceremony by authorities.

Day One: Buzzed for a half hour by the Sheriff's Department (helicopter)
Arrival in four wheel canine unit backing up Fores Service armed men as they went through the camp stopping to order people who were parked legally that they need to park legally, and telling the dancers who had torn down the blackberry bushes invading a section where they were holding the dance and making it into a dance area that he could cite them but would not and they must cease working on that area immediately. In fact, the oncessionaire was very pleased to see the blackberry bushes out, and the huge work to make a nice flat area on the slope.

Day Two: On this day we were exercising trial runs of getting out on the water, blowing up the rafts and so forth. The Sheriff cruised by our camp many times as did the Coast Guard a number of times interfering with the ceremony. There was also a volunteer Coast Guard boat which cruised by many times through our ceremony. Even though on this day we were just out on the water and not instituting a closure, boaters would come up to the buoy and some would even express their solidarity with us and turn around themselves. Our people boating heard the forest Service who were in a boat outside the buoy encouraging fishermen who seemed to be honoring our ceremony to to go through the ceremonial stretch saying there's really good fishing on over by the bridge. The Forest Service actually entered the camp a number of times as the campers began arriving with two large 4-wheel vehicles, one a canine unit. The Coast Guard also came through and stopped and told somebody that they heard the Sheriff' would be coming through and to call if we needed help. The forest Service came through, got out of their vehicles armed, of course, and stood and watched the people who came to support our dance for a brief while behind other onlookers then left.

Day Three: All of the above. Lots of uniforms and press. However, this was the day we put one banner up on the bridge and then stretched the rope with caution yellow ribbons and our banner out. When our rafts, and kayaks got into the water, we lifted up the banner and put it as high as the McCloud Bridge was at the other side. Now both banners flew. It was beautiful. A lot of cheering and laughter for the two hours between times the boats and kayaks went up to recreationists and converse with them asking them to respect our ceremony. Each boat would immediately go back, some wishing us luck, some apologizing, all respectfully. We were relaxed and watching this scene when the use of force I described by the Forest Service with several men, uniformed and armed, three standing up and shouting backed by a big Coast Guard boat forcing the wimen and children sitting on a rocky slope to Get Back quickly, and shouting as they clambered up only to be met at the top with about three rows of armed uniformed men and this time with a couple of dogs. The back rows, honestly, looked kind of embarrassed. It didn't help, I suppose, that people were generally friendly with then. they began to walk off with the dogs and there was some concern they were going to do unlawful searches and amp up the confrontation, but instead, apparently they were trying to find a place for their dogs to pee.

We were commanded to take down the banner. You can see in Will's fourth video how that went. We complied peacefully to everything.

After that was our last War Dance. That's when Caleen got the message that it was not going to be easy. But there were 100 of the old war dancers behind each war dancer and 100 Chiefs behind her. Without themn, as Michael says, we could not do this. The State can crush the fraction of the 125 remaining in the tribe. The State can scare away 210 allies with their dogs, their planes, their boats, their cars. That is what a show of force does. They do not do violence. They just show what they have accessible. They show they do not respect the ceremony and interrupt it daily at any time they want. They show how many other paramilitary organizations they have in their pocket. They reveal themselves.

And guess what, "they" is the Forest Service, the stewards of the forest we've been trying to accommodate to have a full closure for a peaceful ceremony, trying to work with them.. Not a day went by where they did not interfere with our ceremony. This isn't about mixed usage of the river, or their favoring recreation. The US FS doesn't go all out to disturb, to intimidate, spending the energy and time, the money twenty times over than a simple mandatory river closure for ceremony as is the law as we interpret the laws meant to protect human rights. This weekend, we learned, this is something bigger.

This is for another reason, and looming in our minds is the resurrected planning of the further raising the dam. We stopped it with a War Dance in 2004. the CA legislature did not give them the funds. We also found out about the fish. We have a successful plan to reintroduce the fish with all the laws that protect it into these various waters. NOAA and federal laws require fish being introduced above the dam.

But the BOR, the Westland's Water corporation do not want a successful salmon plan. They do not want protection laws. They do not want the Winnemem people to continue on. This plan for the McCloud system which would not only drown out the homelands of the tribe as it did, but would drown out everything else in that valley -- a valley which will be under a lake -- has been thought of a long time ago. it's not paranoia to imagine that the water profiteers had their state's Governor in their pocket when he went to DC to be President. It is Ronald Reagan's administration that took care of "the Indian problem" which might slow "progress in CA" and the salmon problem with their short federal recognition list.

Young MIke Preston's quote for the Chronicle, "our last resort is doing this dance in spiritual defiance of whatever is threatening our livelihood. We are asking the spiritual realm for help.: The only people who know how to successfully get through genocide, cultural or the genocide the Winnemem suffered from the 19th century through being killed for money or even up into the 50's of being herded and kidnapped into boarding schools and survived is to follow traditional Indians who have survived somehow. With this thought, everyone is invited to stand with the Winnemem June 30 to show in spiritual force and friendship that there will not be another step toward genocide here in this peaceful valley, where the river is still considered clean, and the mornings are filled with bird songs, where the eagle flies low and rises up with a fish in his talons, where deer, otter, and geese are plentiful, where the people who know the true names of the medicines, the rocks, the pools still pray for them and sing and dance for them and where the wild salmon will return.

So the prayers were danced, sang and made by all of us at one fire, the 200 allies and tribe. The mountains around us know. the river knows. The animals of river land and sky know. The heavens know. Those ancient witnesses, the oak trees know that we are in this fight for survival for the next generations for the tribe and for this Nature. June 30 - July 3, McCloud Campground on the Winnemem River. Plenty of camping space. Join us to pray, dance, and on the fourth day watch Marissa and her attendants swim across from their bark huts like little otters and emerge -- Marisa, a young woman, finally joining the women circle. We will watch the women's dance, deer dance, and dance the flower dance together and Feast celebrating this beautiful culture and this beautiful spiritual spot.

Please "like" the Winnemem Website, asks Marc Dadigan webmaster.

Here's a link to the SF Chornicle article.
"People get hung up on the words 'war dance,' but H'up Chonas actually means that we have no more answers and our last resort is doing this dance in spiritual defiance of whatever is threatening our livelihood," said Michael Preston, one of the dancers. "We are asking the spiritual realm for help."

Read more:

The Winnemem Tribe is asking for support from the Winnemem Support Group to keep writing letters and spreading the word of your support for the Women's Coming of Age Ceremony and the tribal women's right to ceremony, their human right to keep their way of life alive.

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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.