Winnemem Wintu Ritual Protest Against Dam in CA

September 14, 2004

Source: New York Times

On September 14, 2004 New York Times reported that, "Sunday night was the opening of a four-day ceremony that had not been performed by the Winnemem since 1887. Known as the Hu'p Chonas, the ritual of dancing and fasting on acorn water signals that the Winnemem are at war, though this is not a battle fought with traditional weaponry against a traditional adversary. The Winnemem are summoning their spiritual masters against a force that they know as 'the concrete barrier,' the 59-year-old Shasta Dam, one of California's biggest. The federal Bureau of Reclamation, in its pressing mission to quench California's seemingly insatiable thirst, would like to raise the dam by as much as 18½ feet... But the Winnemem, a band of only about 125 members, say enough is enough. After the dam was built in the 1930's and 40's, the water behind it swallowed their villages and ancestral homelands along the McCloud River, which is one of several tributaries that feed the reservoir and, the Winnemem say, has sustained them and many other Wintu Indians for a thousand years."