a friend of mine is working with the Winnemem Wintu people of northern California in preserving and revitalizing their ancient Language. He is a linguist. The last fluent speaker died in the early 2000´s, a honored woman of nearly 97 years of age at the time of her death. This small tribe is also very active in preserving and living its traditional culture, religion and protection of its sacred sites.
The Winnemem Wintu are fighting ( peaceful ) for the upcoming Coming of Age Ceremony.
The Coming of Age Ceremony ( Baɬas Chonas in Winnemem ) are held at the sacred Puberty Rock site (Kokospom in Winnemem), which is located on the McCloud Arm of Shasta Lake and is now owned by the U.S. Forest Service. The tribe has held ceremonies here for millennia. The Baɬas Chonas represents the coming of age for the Winnemem teenage girls who symbolically transition into womanhood by swimming across the river on the last day.
Please, see the video on the Winnemem – homepage :
Since years, the small Winnemem Wintu tribe is fighting for cultural identity and tribal survival. A strong threat for tribal survival is the Shasta Dam raise proposal.
An in-depth article based on months of enthnographic research about the Winnemem Wintu’s sacred places and culture that are threatened by the Shasta Dam raise proposal is featured in the latest Native from Native California issue now available. Titled “Endangered Spaces: A Walk Through Sacred Places with the Winnemem Wintu”, the article was written by Stanford researcher, anthropologist and poet Lyla Johnston (Navajo) who spent several months with the Winnemem Wintu studying their connection to cultural sacred sites that are threatened by the proposal of the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation to raise the Shasta Dam 20.5 feet. After conducting hours of interviews with Winnemem Wintu tribal members and elders and even more hours doing fieldwork using GIS technology, Johnston concluded in her 2013 thesis project that at least 38 sacred and historical sites of the Winnemem Wintu would be severely affected by the dam raise. Losing access to those sites, she concluded, would cause “an acute and irreversible disruption” to the tribe’s medicinal, spiritual and cultural worlds.
“Every culture, no matter how small, has the right to exist,” Lyla Johnston said. She concluded in her report, “If we are to prevent the extinction of one of the few extant indigenous ethnicities of northern California, we must find an alternative to the proposed project and work towards institutional and legal protection of these cultural support zones on the McCloud River.”