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Location: Redding, CA, United States

Sunday, January 04, 2009

One year ends; another begins

Well another use New Year is here. As I sit in my office, a great sense of sadness fills my heart.
Over the past year the Winnemem Wintu lost two very important people to our village structure: my mother Mary Franco passed away in September and my right-hand man Randy Ward passed away on January 2.

The Christmas holiday was not all that Christmas usually is. My family and I were still grieving for the loss of my mother and worrying about Randy. And so what normally is a happy time here in the village was much more subdued and introspective. Our holy people who carry our spiritual medicines and spiritual life way, point out that much of the suffering and sadness that we feel is due to the constant worry and constant struggle to restore the status of the Winnemem Wintu so that we can have access to adequate medical and social programs that are so desperately needed by our folks here village.

I say these things not to elicit any sympathy for those of you who may read this but to merely point out the fact: without adequate health care and with the constant worry of trying to provide for people who have nothing, we are unable to do the things the creator had set for us in carrying the needs of these folks. Had we been able to completely apply all of our energies to helping our folks say healthy as opposed to running from one fire to another that are set by the government trying to put them out in order to save the cultural life way of our people we would've been able to make sure that medicines that needed to be prepared and taken were in fact prepared properly and taken and taken as they are supposed to be.

Again as I sit here looking out over the village still feeling the sadness of his recent loss and waiting for the wake and funeral that will be coming later this week I'm trying to reflect on what good has come to the Winnemem Wintu over this past year. It's hard to pick out the good because you see it seems that for every one step forward the tribe makes were pushed back two.
During 2008 the Winnemem Wintu were able to make contact and work with law firm of Reed Smith. This law firm has done more for our tribe in the short period of time that we work together at all of the other law firms that volunteered to help us have done over the past 15 years. That's saying a lot because the issues that any law firm that wishes to help us with are so complex and intertwined that to separate them is almost impossible. But the folks at Reed Smith have been able to distill the issues that we face down to their most basic common denominator and that is that the Winnemem Wintu have suffered great harms at the hands of the federal government and its agencies and agents. And so, we are preparing an answer to the years of abuse and will soon the able to call the government into court to explain their actions and interactions which have over the years cause such great harm.

Also during 2008, Assembly Member Jared Huffman,from Marin County, looked at the issue of the Winnemem Wintu and the harms that were caused on the McCloud River and, taking a great political risk, carried forward Assembly Joint Resolution 39, a resolution calling for the restoration of the Winnemem Wintu tribal status. This resolution finally passed through the California state legislature and Senate and was to be sent to the President of the United States the California Congressional delegation the department of interior and the Bureau of Indian affairs for their consideration and action. As I said, for every one step forward there seems to be two steps backwards and so we are unsure if the resolution made it to those people because we just had an election and a new president coming in, new heads to different departments, and so we need to ensure that the resolution is read by President Obama and by those who will be responsible for the department of interior and Bureau of Indian affairs.

We have also been very fortunate to have when working with us a group of dedicated activists from the state of Oregon who has seen what the Winnemem Wintu tribe have gone through and have committed to helping us getting our message across and so they are working on sending letters signing petitions, and contacting people in positions of power, to help our poor tribe. For those people we are so grateful and so appreciative of the efforts.

I sit here and wonder what tribal people must think: those tribes who have been able to benefit from their casinos, from government assistance, and to their own hard work. I wonder what they think of the efforts of those of us who have sacrificed for what they now benefit from when they see things like this blog or see the efforts of other tribal people in the state of California, for example, to continue a culture that so many have forgotten.

Let's all pray for a better New Year; that our tribal people will live and that all our dreams will be fulfilled and we can be proud of who we are a tribal people.