It’s Time to Speak Up for Salmon!

Kayla Brown, Hupa, stands with Chief Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu, for Rivers and Water.

The Hupa People are in a crisis situation, with a potential repeat of the 2002 salmon kill on the Klamath and Trinity Rivers. Because the Bureau of Reclamation is refusing to let enough water out of the dams, the rivers are too low and too warm, and the salmon are beginning to show signs of disease.

How to Spot Authentic Native American Fashion

So, someone recently sent us a message asking the following question: “How do you tell real Native American tribes from fake? I’ve heard claims that only recognized tribes are real, but from what I know these claims seem rubbish." We’re going to address this question in three parts–what tribal recognition means, what to look for when trying to confirm that an individual is who they say they are, and ways to determine if a garment or accessory is authentically Native-made. Please note that this post is entirely within the context of the US; our Native American mod is based in the US, so that’s the context we know. That said, we encourage any of our First Nations, Métis, & Inuit relatives to reblog this with an explanation of how it works in Canada or their thoughts on the matter.

In the US, there are three different kinds of tribes: federally recognized, state recognized, and unrecognized. There are 566 federally recognized tribes. The others are either only state-recognized, meaning federal Indian law does not apply to them but state law does, or not recognized by any level of US government at all. Some of these lack recognition or were stripped of recognition for the benefit of settler communities/government, like the Duwamish & Winnemem Wintu peoples. Others are "tribes” created more recently by people looking to assert their identity as Indian, like the Cherokee of Idaho (that’s easy to tell that it’s suspect, considering traditional Cherokee territory is in the South, though they were in part forcibly removed to Oklahoma by the US government). The best way to tell the difference between real unrecognized tribes and fake ones is doing some research–usually a quick Google search will give you a sense of whether they’re accepted by other Native communities or not. 

If someone is enrolled, then they’re definitely Native; unfortunately, there are lots of Natives who have been unable to enroll for a variety of reasons (blood quantum, lack of documentation, etc). So if someone is claiming Native identity but is not enrolled, the next best way to tell is to ask what tribe they are–if they can’t name a specific tribe or their story changes or doesn’t line up, then they’re probably lying. Also if there are inconsistencies in the tribe they claim and the kind of thing they produce or practice (like someone claiming to be Cherokee selling beadwork with NW Coast designs or someone claiming to be Tlingit saying they grew up in a tipi), that’s a red flag. Ultimately, the best way to tell whether someone is telling the truth or not is by their actions–do they rep their culture? Do they advocate for their people? Are they honest about their level of connection or knowledge? Also, how do they interact with other Natives? How do other Natives interact with them? If you spend any time in Native communities, you’ll see that a lot of being Native is community–what kind of community are they a part of? And finally, the two most common questions that Natives ask each other are: where are you from (code for what tribe, band, rez, community, etc are you from), and who’s your family (every rez has big well-known families, so if you’re local or know people from that community, that can be a good question to ask). Those are the kinds of questions to be asking when trying to determine if someone is really Native or not. 

If you’re not indigenous and don’t know what to look for, it can be hard to spot the fake items, especially if you’re shopping online, considering so many people sell in violation of the Indian Arts and Crafts Act. In the US, it is illegal for anyone who is not an enrolled member of a federally recognized tribe to market their goods as “Native American” or with the name of any specific tribe (for example, Urban Outfitters’ “Navajo panties” were illegal because they were not sold by an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation). That said, a lot of people don’t know that or don’t care, and do it anyways, so it’s not always a reliable determining factor. Again, the best ways to determine if something is authentic are (a) to find out whether the artist is enrolled (b) to see if the item matches up with the tribe the artist claims © to see what other Natives have said about that person, item, or business. 

Hope that helps! Thanks for your interest in supporting authentic Native fashion!


Panther Meadows, on Mt. Shasta is the sacred genesis place of the Winnemem Wintu people.  The US Forest Service has ignored numerous requests by our tribe and the Pit River tribe to close the meadow, due to its fragile ecology.  We have led the efforts at restoration to bring the meadow back from years of overuse and ignorant treatment, but it has been an uphill battle.  This weekend, with the possibility of many Rainbow people, who have been partying nearby, converging on the mountain, we decided to protect our sacred site.  Here is one of many of the clueless, disrespectful people we have encountered.


Don’t Drown Our Culture!

The latest video, sharing what will be lost if Shasta Dam is raised.
Let your federal legislators know that they should “Oppose the Plan to Raise Shasta Dam!”

“That’s the weapon of mass destruction, that took our homes, our burials, and our salmon, and left us with nothing.  And now we’re not even Indians any more.”

– Chief Caleen Sisk

This month the Bureau of Reclamation is gloating over its 75th Anniversary Celebration of the Shasta Dam.

The Winnemem Wintu people have nothing to celebrate in this mockery of our loss!

We are still here, holding ceremony at our sacred places, and doing what we need to do to be Winnemem Wintu, of the McCloud River, in Northern California.

The federal government tries to erase us by calling us “unrecognized”, but we have been here long before the United States was invented, and we will be here long after it’s gone.


September 12, 2014
The Shasta Dam already took our lands and many of our sacred places, now corporate agriculture wants to take the small bit we have left that keeps is being Winnemem Wintu.
Please tell your Senators and Congresspeople, “Oppose the Plan to Raise Shasta Dam!”


Make Strong (Shasta Dam version)

Hawai'ian singer/songwriter Hawane Rios shared this beautiful song during her visit to McCloud River country, and she gave us permission to use it to oppose the raising of Shasta Dam.

On Hawane’s Hawai'i Island her people are standing against the desecration of their sacred mountain, Mauna Kea, by the planned construction of an 18-story telescope.

– Music by Hawane Rios
– Video by Will Doolittle

Artist Satement:
“Make Strong” was written in honor of all the people around the world who are choosing to stand up for what they believe in positivity and love. “Make Strong” was inspired by the words of Papa Mau Pialug, who taught us how to voyage again, “make strong like a mountain”. It is my tribute to the Winnemem Wintu and their journey to protect their ceremonial sites.
– na Hāwane

Help to stop the Shasta Dam Raise:

Help to protect, Mauna Kea, sacred mountain on Hawai'i Island:

More Music by Hawane:

Follow Hawane:
Facebook: Hawane Rios
Twitter: @hawanemusic
Tumblr: hawanemusic
iTunes: hawane-rios

No Dam Raise! – No More Broken Promises!

The Winnemem Wintu People stand opposed to the latest scheme to raise Shasta Dam, in Northern California.  We were forced from our lands in 1945, with the building of the dam, and never received the compensation promised in the US Congress’ 1941 Indian Land Acquisition Act.

Now Big Agriculture and Big Oil want to build the dam 18 feet higher, to water cash crops in the desert, and feed the planned fracking of the Central Valley.  This is envisioned in concert with a huge Twin Tunnels project which will take fresh water past the sensitive Bay Delta, and the largest estuary in the world, killing the salmon runs and other marine life, and ruining a fragile ecosystem.

A higher dam will drown the few traditional, ceremonial sites that are still accessible on our river, including the sacred rocks and dance ground of our Balas Chonas (Coming of Age Ceremony).

Please stand with us to oppose this plan!

Contact your Senators and Representatives and tell them to vote against any proposals to raise Shasta Dam.  Thank you!

Please share this far and wide.

— CALL OUT TO CALI NATIVES —Let’s make our presence known

Don’t Frack California

Rally, March 15, 1 pm

Sacramento, Capitol Bldg

Caleen Sisk, Winnemem Wintu Traditional Chief and Spiritual Leader will be the lead-off speaker at this rally to call attention to the poisonous fracking industry which intends on taking California’s water to lfill coffers of Big Oil.

Chief Sisk invites all California Tribal People to join her to represent the original people of this land, who have always taken care of this land, and continue to sing and pray for the Water.