U.N. human rights expert visits California tribe


Arron Sisk took the smoldering sunflower root and undulated it from Catarina de Albuquerque’s feet to the top of her head, its pungent smoke curling above her like a spectral crown.

He then held it beneath her nose, and told her the root would clear her mind from bad thoughts, allow her to see and hear only the good things and to speak honestly from her heart.

“Ho!” the Winnemem Wintu Tribe said in unison. More than 30 of them gathered Sunday in the tribe’s small prayerhouse to welcome a special guest to their small village of Tuiimyali, 42-acres of former allotment land outside Redding, Calif.

Winnemem Wintu Chief and Spiritual Leader Caleen Sisk-Franco discusses her village's sewer system with the U.N. Independent Examiner Catarina de Albuquerque.

De Albuquerque is the first United Nations Independent Expert on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation, and Tuiimyali was her only Western destination during her first fact-finding mission to the United States.

“We’re glad you agreed to meet us at this traditional site, where Winnemem have always lived. It’s hard to tell people about our sacred places and our story from behind a microphone at a meeting,” said Caleen Sisk-Franco, the tribe’s chief and spiritual leader.

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