Friday, May 4, 2012

We're Going into War Dance

The Federal Government minions in the USFS, represented by Regional Forester Randy Moore, has pushed the tribe into a corner. Their fear of de-stablizing their own badly thought out creation -- the label of Federal Recognition -- which they have used to prevent the Winnemem and the other 90 percent of California tribes from accessing laws which protect then, in this case, their freedom of religion -- has tied Moore's hands from doing the logical thing. He has intimated that our insistence to the point of staging a women's action at his office in Vallejo is mere strategy to gain federal recognition. How sad the world he lives in that this is what pops into his mind.

In truth, this is not a strategy to become attached to federal policy. Federal policy does not fill our hearts and spirit. If it is a strategy, ours is a strategy to stay alive. First of all, this political stuff (postcard campaign, public relation efforts, women's direct action) all of it is a necessary action we've been pushed into because that's where the government of this outside world lives. They won't come to us, come around the fire in the Prayer House, talk with respect, sing songs, pray for a respectful resolution. They stay in their offices and behind closed doors ignoring our letters, ignoring our lawyers, ignoring all means of communcation necessary for us to be able to bring Marisa into her womanhood to be a strong Winnemem woman -- strong enough not to have to turn to alcohol to deaden her pain, or turn to early pregnancy, or turn to feeling alienated. We know by the other Balas Chonas and the young men's ceremonies that it is absolutely necessary to hold these. 100 percent sobriety in one generation! That is not a small reason to go through ceremonies. Every young man and woman making good choices, staying with the tribe, proudly Winnemem to the white world and humbled in front of Nature, dedicated to the Sacred Place, keeping the Prayer Fire going, dedicated to the language, the culture, the prayers, the medicines.

How does that happen anywhere nowadays?

Federal Recognition as our goal? The statistics show that federal recognition does not guarantee that a Native youth will be able to keep their way of life, avoid assimilation, avoid, even, being a statistic to drugs and alcohol.

On the list of needs, federal recognition is not on the top when we think of our youth. Sure, it would be nice, when we come up against this Reagan administration label barring us from our freedom to bring our youth into adulthood as this Machine's label of "unrecognized tribe" does each time. The label of federally unrecognized is a deterrent of the tribe's righteous goals to take care of their people. That's all they ask to do. Federal Recognition is not the End to our means and never would be if the Federal Government didn't use it all the time to prevent from ceremonies, from taking care of Sacred Lands, from bringing back the salmon, from being Winnemem and doing what Winnemem do. Otherwise, we'd just be indigent, non-white people in a white world and our kids lost to hopelessness. That is the corner, and the choice, this government has forced us into.

If the government came up with a human rights attitude toward California tribes they have failed to put on their federally recognized list, fine. If we could still take care of the Earth, and be Winnemem, as the Creator would have it, Federal Recognition would not be in our consciousness. We see the Federal Recognition list. Only four percent of the 10 percent which Reagan administration put on their very short list are historical traditional tribes on their traditional lands taking care of it. Six percent of the federally recognized in the state where Reagan reigned over as Governor, "glad handing it" with the developers and corporations, are put together by the federal government. They are Native. But their homes have been confiscated. Their tie to ancestral land was stripped. All they have is the status the feds gave them, the land the feds gave them, and economic development the feds allow -- casinos -- and they have become some of the richest tribes in America -- richest in money. One has to ask when their youth turn 19 and are able to get per capita -- a per capita which is beyond imagination -- what becomes the focus? tradition?

Why would the Winnemem want federal recognition for its own ends.

Neither do they want to be indigent and living in a white world. Every traditional person knows that to be Indian all you need is what the Creator gave you including the serious responsibility to take care of the sacred lands, the water, and all that lives on the Earth. You might be poor but it will still be the best life. Why would this tribe willingly just stay beaten down with an unrecognized label. The United States did not make the Winnemem. The Unites States tried, instead, to eradicate the
Winnemem first with bounties and boarding schools, making their ceremonies illegal, then using them for cannon fodder while they built dams to drown their homes, and continues to to this date, right up to interfering with Marisa's coming of age with the incessant attacks of a label of federally unrecognized.

Their days, our days, are filled with our mind on taking care of our Mountain, Mt. Shasta, on our river, the McCloud, on all the sacred lands between who know our name. Our days are filled learning the songs, the medicine way, taking care of the animals, the little village, taking care of each other, taking care of the ceremonies.

Today, May 3, two days after the promised date of his answer to us, will he use his authority to close the small 400 yards of river so we can have a peaceful ceremony, Randy Moore and the federal government who dangles this decent gentleman on his puppet strings has pushed us into a ceremony -- Hup Chonas -- War Dance. Randy Moore did not say yes. Randy Moore did not say no. Randy Moore is just hiding from us in his office. What family planning a communion, or Bat Mitzvah, or Quincenera wants to wage a postcard campaign, do a women's direct action at a government office and then go into a ceremony which demands such sacrifice in order to bring their loved young women into womanhood?

That's it for today. Sounds like a political rant, except for the fact we're living this. This has been going on all year since we realized our next Chief, little tomboy Marissa, was not going through her Balas Chonas with all the ridiculousness of a volunteer closure. She was not going to go through something where everyone is open to taunts, harassment, drunkeness, jetboaters who want to cause mischief and come up a little finger of the river which is basically just a dead end that they have to go in and out of. Marisa already thinks like a Chief. She doesn't want to do the wrong thing, even if she can't make the right happen quite yet. It falls upon the adults to do all we can guided by her young wisdom, even though others will call it shyness, and guarantee her a ceremony which is peaceful, and she gets all the help she can from the ancestors and the sacred. She is going to need it.

Marisa is going to be the Chief someday, and she must be more than not something, more than not an addict, not despondent. She must be the leader of the people. THAT is what motivates the women of the tribe to go all out to close a 400 piece of the river to have ceremony. All the spirits of the ancestors, the sacred area must have peace and respect, all the people assembled, the animals who gather to help Marisa be that strong, traditional Chief == only the sixth from the time of the devastating change which followed American intervention and the men hungry for gold in the 19th century.

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

from Outside the Monster's Belly

from Outside the Monster's Belly
. . . following Earth instead (Rakaia River, site of Salmon Ceremony, photo credit Ruth Koenig)


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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.