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Program Information
 Steppin' Out of Babylon 
 Colleen Sisk Franco and Mark Franco
 Sue Supriano  
 For non-profit use only.
The Winnemem People of the Mt. Shasta springs area in California struggle to preserve their land, the purity of the water and the sacredness of the land.
Sue Supriano's Steppin' Out of Babylon is a radio interview series covering a broad range of important issues in today's world: peace and war, human and civil rights, communication, the media, the environment, food security, racism, globalization, immigration and matters of the spirit.

Colleen Sisk Franco and Mark Franco have been struggling for their rights to hold their sacred ceremonies on the land of the Winnemem Wintu people. Colleen Sisk Franco is the Chief and Spiritual Leader of her people, the Winnemem Band of the Wintu people who are of the McCloud River area of Mt. Shasta in California. Mt. Shasta is one of the most 20 sacred mountains on the earth. The Winnemem Wintu people are from inside the mountain and came out through the spring in order to take care of the watershed from the spring all the way down until it becomes the McCloud River. The water is very pure and doesn't need to be purified as most of the water in the world does. This is more important than ever these days when there is almost no pure water to drink and water is being privatized. Without pure water we can't live.

They've been working with the forest service for thirty years to preserve the meadows where thousands of tourists go to Mt. Shasta to ski and go to the springs often damaging the fragile ecosystem and root system in the meadows and polluting the water. Some areas are getting so damaged they're not able to use them for ceremonies to help preserve the sanctity of the sacred there. The Winnemem are asking people to realize that when they visit sacred places they don't have to bless the places. They are there to bless you so leave your trinkets and sacred objects at home. Just leave your prayers with the water and you're walking the same way tribal people do. The Franco's say they are caught between the dominant culture that is based on having "rights" while the Native cultures are more based on "responsibility". Now global corporations, like Nestle, Coca Cola, Danon are getting water "rights" to privatize water and as they take the water out of the springs and aquifers they deplete the water that's there for you and for me. So they've been involved in a struggle to keep these companies from coming in and taking water, leaving little or none for you and me unless we pay.

The people sing to the water at the spring once a year to let the the water know they're there. Then others say if the Winnemem can go to the spring this means that others should be able to go there too. However, the Francos say that non-Winnemem often don't realize it's a sacred space. and say that they wouldn't go into someone else's sacred space and do whatever they want. some people even put remains of eight cremations in the spring and the Winnemem had to clean them out because they pollute the water with pollutants from the cremations.

National Park Services, Forest Service, and Dept. of Interior can be helpful but Mark finds it frustrating to get them to understand and write helpful legislation and then by the time they understand they retire and the native people have to start over again. They declared war on the US Government in 2004 and had a war dance to stop the destruction of the McLeod River and the delta area and to the using of the backing up of the sacred water above the dam stopping salmon, their relative, from coming back up.

The Francos live about ten miles from Shasta because the Government took their land and flooded it and they had no place to live-for the second time. When California became a state there were over 14,000 Winnemem on the McLeod river. By 1900 there were only 395. Today there are only 130 Winnemem who carry on and have only the Winnemem Religion guiding them. They all go to the ceremonies and are supported by other Wintu people. They also get support for their issues from the Lakota, Hopi, and many other tribes and non-native people in Oregon, Washington, and Environmental groups in the Bay Area are their support base.

Recorded October 2006.


 winnememwintu Download Program Podcast
00:28:48 English 2006-10-01
 Berkeley, CA
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