Sisk-Franco, Caleen — Puberty Rights of the Winnemem Wintu

Posted on June 26th, 2018 in American History,American Society,Feminism,Race,Religion by Christina Aanestad

In this edition of Radio Curious, our assistant producer Christina Aanestad is the guest host in a conversation about puberty rights for young women within the Winnemem-Wintu tribe in Northern California. This visit with Caleen Sisk-Franco, the Spiritual Leader and Chief of the Winnemem-Wintu was recorded near Mt. Shasta, California in August 2010. In the last few years, the tribe has revived an ancient ritual, the Puberty Ceremony-which honors and celebrates a girls transition into womanhood.

The “Middle Water People” are a small tribe near Mount Shasta, in Northern California. During World War 2, they were relocated and their homeland was flooded to make the shasta dam. Nearly 80 years later, the tribe has reinvigorated one of its ceremonies, there, called the Puberty Ceremony, which honors a girls transition into womanhood. For 3 days and nights, men sing and dance on one side of a river, while the women, pass on traditions to girls on the other side.

But holding a ceremony on stolen land can be a challenge. The forest service refuses to grant the tribe private access to their ancestral land along the McCloud river, because they are an “unrecognized” tribe. Their ceremony is held with recreational boaters driving by, and camping as the tribe holds it’s right of passage. Under the guidance of their Chief and Spiritual Leader, Caleen Sisk Franco, the Winnemem-Wintu have sued the federal government to protect their rights and their ancestral land. She describes the puberty ceremony and it’s importance to their way of life.

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