Each year our tribe holds a Bałas Chonas, or Coming of Age ceremony, near our sacred Puberty Rock along the McCloud River in Northern California.
The sanctity of the two previous Ceremonies have been marred when powerboaters ignored a "voluntary closure" and entered the Ceremony site, some shouting racist and threatening remarks at the Tribe. They called us “fat Indians”, chugged alcoholic drinks in our sacred space, and even flashed us (see a video of the hecklers here).
How would you react if a band of motorcyclists barreled through your daughter’s christening?
This July we are holding a Coming of Age Ceremony for their next young chief, Marisa, and asking local and federal agencies to close a small 300-yard stretch of the river to allow us to transition our next chief to womanhood in peace and privacy.
What is most infuriating is that federal and local officials refuse to protect our religious freedom by closing the river to outsiders during the ceremony. They have the power and authority to provide us the privacy and sanctity we require. They simply lack the will to do what’s right.
The U.S. Forest Service now oversees the ceremonial grounds, a traditional Winnemem village site, and runs it as a campground. But they are dismissive, disrespectful and completely unwilling to acknowledge our special connection to these lands.
This is about religious freedom, but it also about our ability to exist as a traditional culture.
Until our river is closed, we will be delivering our young women from the water’s womb into the middle of a spiritual war zone.
But it doesn’t have to be this way. You can give the authorities the will to respect our freedom to exercise our religion.
Please call on the U.S. Forest Service Regional Forester Randy Moore, Sheriff's Office, Representative Wally Herger and Senators Boxer and Feinstein to close the river for the ceremony.
After you sign the petition, contact at firstname.lastname@example.org and 707-562-8737 to to let him know that ignoring us is unacceptable, and he should have the courage to implement a mandatory closure.
Please keep your messages peaceful and respectful.