Until I started delving into the issue of California Water and particularly, the Delta, I had never heard of the Winnemem-Wintu tribe. However, members of this tribe have been at the forefront of the effort to Restore the Delta, to return salmon fishing to the Klamath and other water related fights that are vital to all California.
This tribe has a long history of recognition by the Federal Government until the early 1980's when they were suddenly dropped from the list of Federally recognized tribes. At issue is compensation for Winnemem-Wintu lands which now lie under water behind Shasta Dam. At risk is the further loss of their lands and sacred sites if Shasta Dam were to be raised, as has been proposed.
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water provides a good short history of the issues surrounding the Winneman-Wintu and the Central Valley Indian Lands Acquisition Act. It is one more example of a governmental bureaucracy solving it's problems running roughshod over the rights of our citizens.
Recently, Marin County Assembly member, Jared Huffman, introduced AJR 39 which merely asks the Federal Government to restore the rights that have been denied, including the right for just compensation for lands lost to the Central Valley Project's Lake Shasta.
On Jan. 9, the Assembly Governmental Organization Committee will consider AJR 39.
In my mind, standing up for the Winnemem-Wintu in this effort is much more important than what we decide to do about the various Indian Gaming initiative measures. This is not about gaming. It is about basic rights and having a government that can live up to its treaty obligations and follow its own laws.
The Environmental Justice Coalition for Water has provided a sample letter that can be sent, or turned into an email and sent to the Committee. I provide that letter below. If you chose to email the Committee Chairman, Alberto Torrico, please cc Barry Nelson at the Natural Resources Defense Council. If you can fax a letter to the Committee at (916)319-3979, please also fax a copy to the Environmental Justice Coalition for Water as (510)251-2203 and they will hand deliver a copy. Another option is to call the Committee at (916)319-2020 to express your support for AJR 39.
Honorable Alberto Torrico
Chair, Assembly Governmental Organization
Sacramento, CA 94249-0020
RE: Support for AJR 39 (Huffman)
Dear Assembly Member Torrico:
I write this letter in support of AJR 39 introduced by Assembly Member Jared Huffman, of the 6th assembly district, which would codify California’s existing recognition of the Tribe as a legitimate California Tribe and urge the Federal Government to restore the Winnemem Wintu Tribe’s status as a federally recognized tribe.
The Winnemem Wintu, a Northern California Tribe whose home lies along the McCloud River in Shasta County, has a long history of promises broken by the federal government, the most recent being the unexplained loss of their Federal Recognition in the mid-1980s. In 1941, Congress passed the “Central Valley Project Indian Lands Acquisition Act” (CVPILAA) to secure the land necessary to complete the construction of Shasta Dam. Despite the requirements of the CVPILAA, the tribe has not been compensated for the loss of their lands, nor have they received replacement lands. The failure to fulfill the basic requirements of the CVPILAA has left the Tribe to struggle for its very existence.
While the federal government continues to create roadblocks to prevent the Tribe from regaining its recognized status, California state agencies and even federal agencies like the U.S. Forest Service recognize the Winnemem as a legitimate tribe. The Winnemem are included on the list of California Tribes held by the Native American Heritage Commission, and the Tribe has been issued state and federal permits reserved for federally recognized tribes.
The federal government has never terminated the tribe. The tribe believes that their status is the result of an error on the part of the BIA – an error made possible by the failure of the Department of the Interior to comply with the CVPILAA by replacing tribal lands lost when Shasta Dam was constructed and by holding a cemetery in trust by the appropriate Indian Services Agency. The cemetery was created to relocate the remains of tribal dead to make way for Shasta Dam. Because no “like-land” was ever provided and because the cemetery was incorrectly transferred to a federal agency not capable of holding land in trust, the tribe has a reduced role in federal decisions that affect them, and they are denied the basic health, education and housing benefits received by recognized tribes.
AJR 39 will help the Winnemem in their struggle to regain recognition by reinforcing the State’s de facto recognition of the Winnemem Wintu as a legitimate California tribe, and urging the Federal Government to restore the tribe’s Federal recognition. As a California State leader, you have the opportunity to help rectify an injustice long overdue, and we hope that you do.
We urge your aye vote on AJR 39.
Thank you very much,