Thursday, October 18, 2012

An Open Letter to Regional Forester Randy Moore

To Regional Forester Moore:

Now that the shameful citations case against Chief Caleen Sisk has ended with the DA finding it without merit and throwing it out, the next step is to ask you what you hoped to accomplish by presenting yourself to the world as an administrator who says one thing to the press and another thing to your law enforcement, says one thing to the Chief in a meeting then another thing when you are being called by our lawyer to use your leadership to avert injustice.  We asked you to  be honest and show integrity and stand by the agreements for a safe ceremony rather than let your law enforcement loose to "do their own thing" to our ceremony and participants.  It is documented on video what the head law enforcement officer wanted to do.  No longer was he and his men there to insure a safe closure for ceremony as you promised.  As he said himself, "Well, I figure, if THEY can't use a motor boat, YOU shouldn't be able to either."  That is called micro-aggression.  That is called white privilege.  That is called racism.  AND that attitude was what you backed up rather than the  agreement that you and the Chief hammered out, that she was assured the USFS would assist the tribe complete a peaceful and dignified ceremony.  

As for the second citation, our Chief is not ignorant about the ways of paper.  The paper which bears her signature, and for which she was being cited on the second citation is not the draft she signed.  It was a "cut and paste" version with a forged signature.   One has to wonder, "were we being set up."   Was Marisa's ceremony intended to be a mess, attacked by US Forest Service from the very beginning. 

I am ashamed of the USFS and my friends who are Forest Service employees felt ashamed of the USFS representing Region 5 and Shasta Trinity in California. 

I still smart at your cavalier comment when our lawyer informed you that your law enforcement were making an issue about our single motor boat we use to ferry elders arose, threatening to tow it.  We had the assurance  that our boat would not be a problem  by the administrator you asked to sit in for you and gave the authority to work things out with us while you were on your trip.  Leaving the phrase about the boat off the agreement is a mistake which lies with you.   If the buck stopped with me, or any young person I helped raise, our immediate response  when the lawyer called about "Law Enforcement gone rogue" would be an apology and immediate and clear reminder to the officers that t YOU were in charge of the operation and the agreement made with the Chief stands.  But what did you say?  "Well, if it's not written in the document . . " as if the document and its mistake was in charge.  You said, " Why don't you use golf carts for the women?"    I am one of those "old ladies" you sarcastically dismissed by saying we could ride golf carts up and down the steep rocky cliff to get to Marissa's camp to witness her making her first medicines and cooking her first acorn soup.  You know as well as I that golf carts would maximize threat to our life producing more injuries than stumbling and rolling down.  Sarcasm and disrespect to elders was your response.  Simply put, you didn't care.  Your decision to stand with your officers, untrained in cultural respect, and armed, endangered and criminalized all the elderly women, the Chief and the ceremony.   IF the Chief had not followed her ancestors and traditions, there would  have been a ruined ceremony, Marisa's special time sabotaged.    Chief Sisk  did not own the boat, run the boat, nor did she get in the boat.  At sixty years old, she is a strong woman in all ways.  It is we that needed the boat, yet she was cited.  The Chief was put at risk and criminalized by you, Regional Forester Moore.  You asked her at a meeting, "why would you say that Caleen?" when she voiced her concerns about permits criminalizing her ceremony.  Now we know the answer to your rhetorical question:  by manipulation of permits, by leaders who desert the goal to go along with poorly trained, narrow minded law enforcement officers because they don't care.  That's how.  

You were represented by rude, armed men in uniforms who rumbled  in on the Fourth of July and treated the Chief and supporters with disrespect as is well documented by video and seen around the world, at the UN, in other countries, as well as all around the country.  You are represented by uniformed armed men who sat with binoculars watching our precious celebrant and her youthful supporters across the river from us.  That sickened us.  It seemed so perverted.  They should know better.   You are represented by uniformed armed men who bothered us every day.  We were ready to go across to help Marissa ready the acorns, and could not do it because they were threatening to confiscate a boat.  We were ready to take Marisa to find her medicines and cooking rocks when we were delayed by intimidation and harassment again.   Marisa's celebration and feat happened at midnight because of your law enforcement.   Then your culturally incompetent, bullying officers came on the day after ceremony with their dogs, guns and citations and arrogantly snorted that they LET us have a respectful ceremony by not arresting the Chief the day before -- ignorant that all four days were ceremony and the celebration was only part of it.   Ceremony is not like Christmas morning.  Ceremony is all that goes into it.  Each day something was happening with Marissa, although delayed.

You met Marisa.  You wished her well.  You said in the papers you wished her to have a successful, safe and peaceful ceremony.  Marisa learned what government's good wishes for her means through your actions.   We told you that she was  to be the next Chief.  When you gave law enforcement officers the "go ahead"  to use Marisa's ceremony for their  "war games maneuvers," your message to Marissa stands as  a message to the next generation.  Is that your intention?   Our young future Chief has a strong heart, and we have not regrets that we entered in working with you and the USFS in spite of the treachery.    It is better for her to have seen the truth.  It is sad that the truth is to have exposed the ugly side --  the bigotry, and double tongued talking.  Is that the reputation you want with tribal people, someone who does not keep promises and who can't control his law enforcement who do whatever they want to Native people?

When my friends and new acquaintances in the Forest Service feel ashamed and apologize,   I tell them, "the tribe is not sweeping this with a broad brush; it is not you. "   There is a  problem with the USFS and it showed up in the Department of Agriculture's own report on USFS relations with tribal peoples.  The findings show that despite the fact that there are rules and agreements made between the tribes and the United States government regarding sacred sites and freedom of religion, unfortunately, it depends on the woman or man who sits in the seat of authority in each forest and for each region whether or not those inalienable Constitutional  rights which they vow to protect will be done.  In Region 5 with you in charge, in the forest where Christi Cotini is in charge, there is a big problem which I understand in DC higher officials want fixed -- or so they say.

As a woman with more grey in my hair than you, I will say, that my grandmother taught me that the human being can become a good person.  And as it has been said by every elder in my life, and I have found that to be true -- it is only by our  actions that we clarify our ideals and intentions.  I pray that you will become that good leader, that good person, Mr. Moore.   The fact is, no matter how many good Forest Service people express how sorry they are for the treatment we received, there is only one person who could bring back  pride for the Forest Service and move forward into a better day with the tribe -- and that is you.   I believe you do have the leadership ability to say those strong words which build character.  I believe you can signal a step forward from the injustice, intimidation and ignorance which we were bombarded by during ceremony,   the disrespect of the citations our Chief has had to endure for the past several months. 

Perhaps you are worried how an apology would play in the press?    Doesn't have to be public.  Not at all.  Person to person with the Chief.  Native people do not crow and boast about something as serious as a sincere apology.  It is sacred.  Apology is a signal that someone is understanding right from wrong, and has good will.    You appear not to know the culturally appropriate importance to contact and talk with the Chief directly rather than through two ore more other go-betwees.  I say that because you have never contacted Chief Sisk.  Sometimes the papers get the information of your message first.    She is a leader and more accurately, she is a tribal leader who is respected all around the world and all over this country.   Perceptions are everything is a wise saying I've heard.   By observing your past actions  it is easy to arrive at a perception  of a man who may have a problem with women leaders, or perhaps with tribal people.

 I believe what my grandmother said, and what life has taught  me.    If perceptions of you formed by treatment of the Chief, treatment of the ceremony is not reflective of how you see yourself and your leadership,  I pray you have all the courage you need to show through clear actions what your true ideals are,  your attitudes toward women leaders and tribes,  and how you carry on your own leadership from this day forward.

Sincerely, Misa Joo, Winnemem Wintu

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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.