World Bulletin / News Desk
A Native American tribe plans to return to their homeland in the US and perform a ceremony for the first time in 154 years since a massacre almost completely wiped them out.
The 645 member-strong Wiyot tribe plans to perform a ceremony on March 28 on California’s Indian Island, returning to their homeland for the first time since white settlers massacred dozens of tribe members in 1860.
Following the massacre, the survivors were put into concentration camps known as ‘jouwuchguri’, and were forbidden to speak their own language. Their island was later turned into a shipyard, where toxic boat batteries were stored alongside other chemicals. Archeologists also plundered their cemeteries in search of Wiyot bones. A century and a half on, their native language and lifestyle have all but vanished.
In 1958 they were stripped of their tribal status by the US government in a bid to assimilate native tribes, but successfully regained this status in 1990. The late 1960s and early 1970s saw some Native American uprisings in the US, with tribes demanding the return of their land, but they ended unsuccessfully.
However, Cheryl Seidner, the niece of the tribal leader, became the Wiyot’s tribal chair in 1990 and starting campaigning and raising funds to buy the land on Indian Island back. In 2000, this goal was finally achieved, but the site was still a toxic waste dump.
The tribe raised $2.8 million in 13 years to pay for the clean-up, and now the island is prepared to finally facilitate their return.
One tribe member, called Hernandez, told Al Jazeera that many of the cultural customs and dances of the tribe had been forgotten over time, and they are therefore learning Yurok dances to perform at the ceremony.
Seidner went on to tell Al Jazeera, "The world has changed and the Wiyot have changed with it. We don't live in redwood slab houses anymore, but we still need our traditions. We need something to hold on to. And when we gather on Indian Island, we'll be saying, 'We're here, and we're trying to put the pieces of our culture together.'"Last Mod: 27 Aralık 2013, 16:25