The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates Shasta Dam, uses its Visitor Center to share a comprehensive history of the Dam’s construction and purpose. What that history omits is any mention of the Winnemem Wintu, a local Tribe that was flooded out of their homes along the McCloud River when the Dam was built. Leaving the Tribe out of the Visitor Center’s official narrative is intentional, scholars and Tribal members say, because it helps deny legal claims to their ancestral waters and lands now. In recent years, the Visitor Center has become the center of ongoing tensions over how the Dam’s history is told.
News: Indigenous Affairs
The area now known as Shasta County consists of the ancestral lands and waterways of a dense population of Indigenous communities including the Nor-El-Muk Wintu Nation, the Redding Rancheria, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe, the Wintu Tribe of Northern California and the Pit River Tribe. Understanding local Native peoples’ histories, traditional ecological knowledges, and world views are essential to forging our community’s future. We are committed to comprehensive and thoughtful coverage of Indigenous communities and perspectives.
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In July, Run4Salmon participants say they were discriminated against by Dam staff who closed the visitor center and activated increased security protocols in response to their presence. A federal official who manages the Dam said security’s actions were necessary because the group had previously caused a disruption by demonstrating on site. The incident is the latest chapter in ongoing tension between the Tribe and federal officials over the erasure of Tribal history from Dam visitor center narratives.
More than 1500 people attended the Redding Rancheria’s recent Big Time which provided an opportunity for local Native and non-Native community members to socialize and experience traditional dances. For thousands of years, Big Time gatherings have been essential to cement relations among tribal neighbors as well as to pray for harmony and healing. But Big Times have long been absent locally due to Shasta County’s history of violent persecution of Indigenous cultures.
On July 11 the Winnemem Wintu Tribe danced, sang and prayed for 20,000 endangered salmon eggs as they were returned to the McCloud River. The action is part of new collaboration with government agencies and represented a watershed moment for the Tribe. Hot Sacramento River temperatures threaten winter-run Chinook, but government scientists hope acclimating the eggs to the glacial waters of the McCloud River, their ancestral home, will help them survive.
The newly unveiled Wintu Mural on the Cascade Theatre represents a watershed moment for Wintu and Indigenous people’s representation in what is now known as Redding. Conceptually designed by two local Wintu artists, the mural is the culmination of years of advocacy by a collective of Native activists and supporters.
With a focus on promoting community-wide healing, Sky Scholfield, a Shasta College graduate and tribal member, is shooting a documentary about the Pit River Tribe, whose ancestral lands span eastern Shasta and Modoc Counties. The film will explore the Pit River people’s occupations of PGE and national forest lands during the 60s and 70s and as well as their contemporary efforts to reclaim lands and cultural practices.
Caples is running for the position against the incumbent, Judy Flores. During a recent political forum Caples insinuated that Native students are dangerous and suggested placing them in more restrictive educational settings based on their race. Native parents and educators say they fear Caples, if elected, could make public schools more hostile environments for their youth.
The Winnemem Wintu Tribe are part of a larger coalition that’s petitioning California to correct water management plans they say harm the Pacific coast’s largest estuary and its surrounding communities. They connect today’s disastrous conditions in the Delta to California’s legacy of discriminatory and anti-Indigenous water policies.
The land we now know as Redding has been a part of Wintu people’s vast homelands for thousands of years. Today, after surviving state-sponsored massacres, violent removals, and discriminatory legal doctrines, Wintu tribes remain almost entirely landless. For some Wintu people, the proposed sale of riverfront land is inseparable from the need to reckon with this often-suppressed history.