Winnemem Wintu - The Journey to Justice

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Location: Redding, CA, United States

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Four Funerals and a Wedding

Since my mother passed away last year, I have been to four more funerals and learned about the wedding of a young person we knew when she was a fresh faced new student.

I realize that we are all getting older; people die - that's the nature of life, and people age, find love, and marry. Both of these thing, funerals and weddings are profound events and both can be cause of tears and joy at the same time.

Here at the village we lost, my Mother, our cousin Randy, our niece Erika, and our sister-in-law, Sarah. Each funeral was held at our tribal cemetery, in the traditional way, and we sang our relative home to the other side where we hope we will be fortunate enough to see them again.

The last funeral I attended on behalf of the Tribe was for my Brother Richard and his very large family in Sacramento, who lost their matriarch at the age of 91 this past week. I, unfortunately missed the days before the burial due to the work being done on stopping the water bonds and canal plans, but made it to Sacramento in time for the grave-side service. I was struck by the difference of place:this was a beautiful, flat, park-like place with thousands of grave markers and monuments. The service was short but moving; I am not a church person but understood the connection of the saints to our spirit people and to the passage to a better place. While the location was different and there were no songs to help the departed in their travel, the grief was the same as the funerals I had been to at home.

I cried for this mother who had welcomed me into her family as one of her own and I cried for her children and relatives she was leaving behind in this physical world but, I was happy to remember that her family had been brought up in the best way possible: with love and respect and a sense of duty to their communities. I remembered from other times seeing one son in his police uniform, a grandson in his military regalia, a daughter caring for those who were sick and another who worked in youth corrections but with a firmness that was like an aunt making sure you stay out of trouble and my Brother who educates and counsels the students of the university. These gifts that Tina left for the world erased the tears from my face as they, like the gifts left by the others I have sung to the other side, will remain strong and vibrant with the memory of their mother.

We are losing the golden generation due to disease and age, just as we are starting to lose the "boomers" and the children of Gen-X. At ceremony this year, my 10 year-old great nephew spoke to the people. He talked of a great many things, but what fits for me today is his statement:"the children need to take care of their parents and the parents need to take care of their children." This lady that passed, just like my own mother, did just that. And for the children, I know you all did just that too! We will all continue on until we too join our people on the other side of the river but until then we need to continue what that young boy said and take care of each other.

The wedding, I didn't get to, but I want to add the Winnemem family congratulations to Yvonne C and her spouse. Remember that it is the female eagle who chooses her mate and we know that you have chosen well.

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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Ted Kennedy and the Winnemem

As we all now know, Senator Ted Kennedy passed away. Why is this noteworthy to the Winnemem? Well, although he was from Massachusetts and had a past that was not all that stellar, he made up for it and served the country to the best of his ability.

He died due to a cancer in his brain I hear, and I wonder if the stem cell research he was talking about awhile back might have saved him? I don't know but I do know that of all the Senators in Washington, even including those from our state here of California, Mr. Kennedy, gave the Winnemem some of his time and encouragement.

Caleen and I met him at a dinner we attended and spoke to him about his brother Jack's visit to Redding for the dedication of Keswick Dam. We talked to him about Bobby's committment to Indian people while he was running for President in 1968. We talked to him about the broken promises made to the Winnemem and all California Tribal people and you know what? He listened, offered some suggestions and shared a laugh with us, not at our expense but from his heart.

We join those who knew him and respected him for his work in the Senate in expressing our condolences to his family: one that seems to have had its share of misfortune amidst the fortune it realized. We are sad that he has gone: as I said he, a man from the East Coast, took the time to meet with us and talk with us. Perhaps Senators Feinstein and Boxer will some day do the same.

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Water Isssues in the Delta and the Effect Upstream

I am constantly asked by folks, "Why are you involved in Delta issues - you are from up north and the delta is way south?"

I have to wonder if these folks know where the water in the delta comes from and how, when diverted, like the proposals for a new, Panama Canal sized conveyance canal, will affect the salmon and all of the estuary residents as well as those in streams and creeks up and down the state's water system.

The plans being presented represent the worst in long term thinking imaginable: water for people, not for fish, is a big campaign hot button these days as well as the really swell "congress created dust bowl" signs along I-5 from Tracy to Bakersfield. What is not being looked at is that these large agribusinesses have usurped the small farms and are hoarding water (see Dan Bacher's articles on Westlands), development is rampant in areas that, we all know to be arid, desert like places, and while the water we have is sufficient, if conserved through water efficient systems, the cry is for "More, More, More!"

Folks need to take a better look at the plans being pushed and those that should be pushed and help make better decisions for our "leaders". Those in the State Legislature have good hearts, their heads however, keep them from seeing the entire picture.

I spoke recently at the Capitol and likened the situation we face to a patient (the state) being pushed to take on dialysis because its Kidneys (the Delta) are in bad shape. The bad shape comes from the body, once a powerful California Indian Warrior now reduced to a fat lazy hybrid who won't take any action to lose the fat that is causing the body to shut down. I say, reduce the fat, take better preventative measures (like water use efficiency and conservation) stop being wasteful and thinking that you just have to have that extra doughnut (like another dam or swimming pool) and start looking at how to fix the body rather than subject the delta/kidneys to an unnecessary procedure that is sure to cause more harm than good.

I invite your comments to this and hope this opening salvo makes some sense, coming from this old brain.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Sacramento Court Hearing Postponed

In what may be a sign of hope, the Judge hearing the Government's motion of dismissal in our case in Sacramento Federal Court, has asked both sides in the litigation for additional information in order to make his ruling regarding jurisdiction. The hearing scheduled for Friday the 21st, is postponed until all sides have submitted their documents to the court.

In an email to tribal members yesterday, Tribal Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk-Franco, reported, "At ceremony we danced and prayed for the judge to see us and hear us. Thank all of you for that prayer because it now looks like the judge wants to take a closer look at our complaint. We will keep our fire burning and keep up our prayers. We will let you know as soon as we have a new date for the court hearing."

The tribe continues it efforts to protect the sacred land scape around us and continues to work hard on issues that affect all of your water and land issues being heard in Sacramento.

Thanks again to all who indicated they would join us in Sacramento on Friday, we will keep you informed and hope that you continue to support the tribe's efforts to rectify the wrongs committed against the earth and our cultural places.

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