Winnemem Wintu Tribe

Winnemem Wintu arts and culture

The Winnemem Wintu Tribe is indigenous to California with a well-documented history and prehistory of life on the flanks of Mount Shasta down through the McCloud River watershed. Originally there were nine bands of Wintu, which means “people.” Today, three are left: the Winnemem (middle-water), the Nor-El-Muk Nation, and the Wintu Tribe of Northern California (aka Toyon-Wintu Tribe), each with its own story and lifeways. There were over 14,000 Winnemem before contact. Today, the remaining 125 traditional Winnemem continue their cultural lifeway and religious practices.

The Winnemem’s spiritual leader and doctor guides their practice of traditional ways of wellness, through herbal medicines, ceremony, prayers and songs. Critical to the practice of Winnemem religion is the care of many sacred places on what has always been tribal land near and on Mount Shasta. As people deeply connected to nature, the land and water are the foundation of their religion and their place of worship. The tribe is responsible for the care of the mountain, water and its sacred places, a task accomplished through ceremonies, prayers, songs and dances.

As a grantee in ACTA’s Living Cultures Grants Program in 2010, the Winnemem Wintu Tribe received funds for the creation of ceremonial regalia that was lost in a fire in 2009.  Materials such as leather, shells, sinew, needles, and beading supplies will be purchased as well as travel to museums in Northern California where items are kept to review and study techniques used in order to rebuild the lost items.  The tribe plans to document the project via digital video and audio recordings for archival and teaching purposes.