Two thousand eighteen has been a year of pushing forward for the Wintu Tribe of Northern California. Most of this year has been concentrated on completing our petition for federal recognition, but we have been accomplishing many other things throughout the year as well.
One thing I would like to highlight first is the continued operations of our Tribal Office, our Community Room, and our Museum. I am extremely proud of the tribal staff that have consistently kept the doors open to serve our tribal members as well as serving the community. I am constantly amazed by the pure dedication that these folks have shown, especially when I know that they aren’t getting a paycheck for it.
I would also like to say that we have done a good job at keeping our resolution last year to utilize the Toyon property more. We have had many gatherings at Toyon this year including the Spring Youth Gathering (Egg Hunt, Feather Find, Rock Painting & Story Telling), Elder Gatherings, and Wintu Naming Ceremony where many of our tribal members and children received Wintu names in the Penutian Language. This land is held for us, upon federal recognition, it will be our trust land and it is important that we use it as much as we can.
This year we did not receive the Salmon Distribution funding that has been so instrumental in the past to help us with the expenses of retrieving salmon from the hatcheries and distributing it among our People as well as to neighboring Tribes. Also, the Coleman Fish Hatchery was unable to provide any of their fish for human consumption during the fall run.
The Wintu Tribe pushed forward and reached out to hatcheries in Lewiston and Irongate as well as our Maidu neighbors, the Estom Yumeka Maidu to the Southeast in Oroville. Although we did not have any additional funding, we were able to tighten our budget and have volunteers step up, and we were able to have a smaller, but very successful Fall Salmon distribution and Salmon was provided to our People. The efforts of the Wintu Tribe led the example for others to follow.
Tribal Youth Council
We have pushed forward with our leadership and have recognized how important it is that we invest in our youth, and our future leaders. This year we have launched our Tribal Youth Council for the purpose to provide a place where our young adults can learn to be mindful, strategic and respectful leaders. (Chalabesken)
The Indian Child Welfare Act was enacted in 1978 because an alarming number of native children were separated from their families and tribes and placed into non-Indian foster care and adoptive institutions, thus breaking up Indian families. ICWA is a way to ensure that native children that end up in foster care are able to be cared for by those who can provide the child with a connection to their native culture and people; preferably with family or tribal members.
It is not usual for a non-federally recognized tribe to have an ICWA program, but we have many tribal members moving forward with the ICWA process to foster and care for Wintu children and keep them connected to our Tribe. It is good that we have people in the Tribe that are becoming knowledgeable in the ICWA process as we push for federal recognition.
Bethel Church Honoring
This year our Tribe realized it was high time we give honor to those who have supported in a way that can only be a true blessing from Olyelbus. This year, Tribal Council and Elders met with Bethel Church to show our appreciation for their long time support, both in prayers and donations. We shared with the roughly 400 or more people attending the service a little history of who we are, some of our struggles and where their donations have been going.
We finally were able to honor them with our Tribal flag this year. At the time of this honoring, we have been struggling with a lot of additional operation expenses like taxes, high utilities, stuff going haywire in the building and the list goes on. We had also recently received news that we did not get the McConnell Grant for the youth program that we were hoping to start out on our five acre property. Well, I’d like to share with you that on behalf of Bethel Church, Pastor Bill Johnson committed $10,000 towards our tribal youth program and increased our monthly donation to $2,500 a month! Thanks to Bill and Beni Johnson and the people of Bethel Church. And most of all, Chalabesken Olyelbus!
Petition & Enrollment
Most of all, we have had to push forward this year through the many additional challenges thrown at us by the Office of Federal Acknowledgement. It seems every year we are given extra items to include in our petition to strengthen our argument.
The members our Petition Committee have worked tirelessly this year to finalize our Petition for federal recognition. They are currently finishing up the bibliography, which is the last component before it is to be submitted to the Office of Federal Acknowledgement. Literally years of writing and research have gone into this petition. I believe it will be the most comprehensive petition ever to go before the United States Government, and I think all of those folks that have been working on it deserve PhDs. (Chalabesken)
In an equal effort to support our petition, the Enrollment Committee has worked very hard this year towards ensuring that our tribal enrollment records are flawless as these records will also go before the Office of Federal Acknowledgement. As some of you may have noticed, the Enrollment Committee has also reached out to our members who still needed to provide documentation and they also have been reminding all of us the importance of staying active in this Tribe. Why do they do this? It is for the reason that we may go to the Office of Federal Acknowledgement with full confidence that our tribal members are 100% complete and valid. (Chalabesken)
Well, we are pushing forward and we are pushing through, and I will tell you in this report that the Wintu People are done with further delays and additional requirements for this petition. Too many of our People have passed on without seeing the completion of this process. Too many of our People have devoted themselves to this endeavor and it is now time to see the fruits of their labor as we finish this and send it off.
Finally, I would like to thank all of my Wintu brothers and sisters for being part of this Tribe; for carrying on our traditions and culture, for your willingness to learn more about the Wintu part of who you are.
My challenge to you all this year is to seek out your personal role as a tribal member and ask yourself “What will I do this year to push my Tribe and my People forward?”
But don’t just ask yourself; Pray upon it, smudge on it & sing on it. Find where it is you see yourself in this Tribe and then do it. Come volunteer your time at the office or museum, come to the monthly meetings, work on a grant proposal, bring your ideas to the table.
You are here today because you feel a belonging to this Tribe and believe it or not, this Tribe needs you! Let’s not wait for federal recognition to get involved. This Tribe is doing great things already, and think of what we might accomplish if all 500 plus tribal members work together to reclaim our culture, our land, our social justice, and push the Wintu People forward for generations to come.
Chalabesken Tribal Council, Elders Council and Members at large for your wisdom, your energy and your prayers. Chalabesken Olyelbus for all Wintu People.
Wade A. McMaster, Tribal Chairman