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Event honors 166th anniversary of Cottonwood Treaty

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REDDING, Calif. - The Native American community in Shasta County honored their heritage Wednesday for the 166th anniversary of the Cottonwood Treaty.

The document was an agreement between the Wintu and Yana tribes and the U.S. government, and would have created a reservation east of the Sacramento River. It was never ratified.

Winter Fox Frank is part of the community that hosted the Indigenous People's Day event. This was the second year they have looked back on the document and wondered how things would have evolved if the treaty was ratified.

"I've lived most of my life in what would have been the proposed reservation," he said.

Frank said the Cottonwood Treaty was one of 18 different treaties that were signed and rejected by the United States Congress after aggressive lobbying by state legislators.

"[They] wanted to survey the area and to see what Indians were there, what their rights might be and then to secure their allegiance to the United States, their friendship," Frank said.

Before the document was rejected, several members of the Wintu and Yana tribes moved into the region and were left without any official land.

Redding Rancheria Chairman Jack Potter Jr. said the events are a sliver of Shasta County history but rarely told in text books. He said that is the reason why they started the event last year to remember and celebrate the Cottonwood Treaty which is looked at as the creation story for the rancheria.

"It was educational, too, because afterwards people were calling down here, like I didn't realize I was living on stolen land or promised land," Potter said.

He said the event also serves to remind the community of the issues tribes are facing today, which are very similar to what they faced during the 1800's.

"It broke up the tribe and created all these fractionated groups that you know some have and some have not and it caused turmoil amongst our people," said Potter.

For Frank, that is why he felt Wednesday's anniversary event is important, to keep the culture and heritage alive.

"How history might develop into the future if people are more aware of it and if people took more action," Frank said.

During the event, officials read the treaty and reenacted the signing. They also discussed the historical context, why the treaty was signed and how the legacy of these treaties continues to affect Shasta County's indigenous people.

They then crossed the Sundial Bridge as a symbol of migrating to the reservation, where they held an open mic for native people to share their story. The event was hosted by the Indigenous People's Day, Shasta County committee, the Shasta Historical Society and Turtle Bay Exploration Park.

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