After public pressure helped secure a river closure so the Winnemem Wintu could hold our Coming of Age ceremony in peace and dignity free of public harassment this July, the Forest Service displayed their true colors.
While we were threatened by the public on land and water, U.S.F.S. law enforcement harassed us constantly, and used our own closure against us. They tried to stop us from using our own motor boat to ferry elders, including disabled women, across the river for ceremonial purposes.
They ended up writing our Chief two citations, each punishable by $5,000 or 6 months, for using a boat to ferry elders across the river in the closure area.
Getting the elders across the river is an important part of the ceremony, and the citations represent an effort to limit and restrict indigenous religious practices. This is the same government that, in California, sponsored a genocide against Indians, and has a history of making Indian religion a criminal act.
In addition to being a strike against religious freedom, the citations could lead to the Chief being sent to prison for a year. This would mean the tribe could not hold its ceremonies, and its efforts to protect sacred sites would be crippled.
This injustice is unnecessary, and a cruel and unusual punishment against a people who have already suffered greatly at the government's hands. It must be stopped.
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