Signature needed: Don’t flood sacred lands

The email below is from Caleen Sisk, Chief of the Winnemem Wintu tribe. Caleen started a petition on CREDO Mobilize, where activists can launch their own campaigns for progressive change. Will you help Caleen pressure the U.S. Senate to reject legislation that could raise the Shasta Dam and flood sacred lands by signing her petition and sharing it with your friends and family?

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Sign the petition: Stop the plan to flood Winnemem Wintu sacred lands.

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Dear 5849376,

My name is Caleen Sisk and I'm the Chief of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe in the Shasta Cascade region of California. The sacred lands of my people are threatened by legislation in the U.S. Senate – the California Emergency Drought Relief Act – that could raise the height of Shasta Dam and flood our land to benefit Big Agriculture and Big Oil.

Raising Shasta Dam would cause irreparable ecological damage to the state-designated Wild and Scenic McCloud River and further threaten needed spawning grounds for the already-endangered Chinook Salmon. Worse, it would flood our most sacred pools and ceremonial places, including the last remaining homelands critical to the continuation of our distinctive Winnemem way of life.

If Shasta Dam is enlarged, as advocated by Senator Dianne Feinstein and the Westlands Water District, it would also flood hundreds of miles of reservoir shoreline and imperil species like the Shasta Salamander, which can't be found anywhere else.

We have to speak out now to stop it. That's why I started my own campaign on, which allows activists to start their own petitions. My petition, which is to the U.S. Senate, says the following:

Raising the height of Shasta Dam would drown most of the Winnemem Wintu Tribe's last remaining sacred sites and traditional homelands, decimate endangered salmon and violate the California Wild and Scenic Rivers Act by flooding the McCloud River. It is a criminal waste of taxpayer money, especially since cheaper, faster, state-of-the-art alternatives exist to ensure the state's long-term water supply. Reject the California Emergency Drought Relief Act and any other legislation that could authorize raising Shasta Dam.

Tell the U.S. Senate: Stop the disastrous plan to raise the Shasta Dam. Click here to sign the petition.

When construction of Shasta Dam was completed in 1945, it flooded my people's ancestral homelands and devastated the healthy McCloud River salmon runs on which we depended. The engineers always envisioned a bigger dam and now the Bureau of Reclamation and California's corporate water empire want to add 18.5 feet of concrete. Raising the dam further would double down on an 80-year-old mistake that never should have been made in the first place.

Priceless places of initiation, ceremony and prayer on what is left of the McCloud River are endangered—places like Puberty Rock, Blessing Hands Pool and Sucker Pool. These are places I have known since I was a child, where I was initiated, as was my daughter. Adding insult to injury, the federal government has not consulted the Winnemem Wintu about the proposed flooding of our sacred sites—as required by law.

Senator Feinstein's plan to raise Shasta Dam and increase the size of the Shasta Lake reservoir could be achieved with passage of this broad, vague bill intended to alleviate California's seemingly endless drought. But Congress needs to find sustainable, long-term solutions to the drought that don't destroy sacred Native American lands and salmon habitat and threaten the existence of the Winnemem Wintu people. Rather than a massive, misguided construction project, taxpayer money is better and more efficiently spent on faster, cheaper, surer alternatives like groundwater recharge, improved efficiency, replacing old leaking pipes and conservation measures that actually save water for future use.

Tell the U.S. Senate: Don't flood Winnemem Wintu sacred lands. Click here to sign the petition.

While some of this water would be used by new housing developments and Southern California residents, most of the water that would be held back by the higher dam will be channeled to giant agricultural users who can resell the subsidized water. California's oil industry will also benefit, as it ramps up water-intensive hydraulic fracking in the southern Central Valley, raising fears of chemical contamination of groundwater and increased earthquake activity.

Senator Feinstein's determination to raise Shasta Dam continues even after the Bureau of Reclamation conducted an environmental impact study to better understand the implications. After reviewing a draft of the study, biologists at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service declined to support the proposal due to the threats it poses to salmon populations.

Will you join me and add your name to my petition to the U.S. Senate to demand it reject legislation that could provide funding to raise Shasta Dam?

Thank you for your support.

Caleen Sisk

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CREDO Mobilize helps activists like you make progressive change and fight regressive policies by creating online petitions. Click here to start a petition today.

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