Updates: Winnemem Wintu, U.S. Religion Census, Dan Halloran

Updates: Winnemem Wintu, U.S. Religion Census, Dan Halloran May 29, 2012

Welcome back! I hope you enjoyed your Memorial Day weekend. Here are a few updates on previously reported stories to ease you back into the work week.

Winnemem Wintu War Dance: This past weekend, as I reported here previously, the Winnemem Wintu tribe blocked off a 400-yard stretch of the McCloud River, an area central to their coming of age ceremonies. The reason for the blockade is due to the Forest Service’s ongoing refusal to grant mandatory closures for these ceremonies, resulting in teenage girls being heckled and abused by boating tourists. The direct action happened peacefully, with the Forest Service only requesting that their banner be taken down.

Winnemem Wintu Tribe members blockading the river.

“I arrived at the ceremony just as the banner was being strung up on a cable over the river. Members of the Winnemem, Karuk, Yurok, Hoopa Valley, Pit River, Miwok and other Tribes and activists from Earth First!, Klamath Justice Coalition, Klamath Riverkeeper, Occupy Oakland and the American Indian Movement worked together to erect the banner and to keep boaters from going up the river. […] After the closure banner had been in place for over an hour, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Coast Guard officials demanded that the banner be taken down. To avoid arrests, the Tribal members and activists complied with the request; this was a “practice run” for the upcoming Coming of Age ceremony.”

Not everything was peaceful, however. On Sunday, after most supporters had left, and the blockade taken down, several boaters buzzed through the waters in a show of defiance. Aware that they were being taped, one can be heard on camera advising his friends to not “flip them off.” Another made the sign of the cross at them, a move that some tribe members saw as an act of hostility. Video coverage of the entire weekend can be found, here. This war dance was a “practice run” for the tribe’s coming of age ceremony, where it seems defenders will risk arrest to ensure the ceremony is undisturbed. I’ll post future updates as I receive them.

U.S. Religion Census and the Least Religious Places: At the beginning of May I noted the release of the 2010 U.S. Religion Census by the Association of Religion Data Archives. At the time I noted that the data showed the growth of non-Christian denominations and houses of worship with “Buddhist congregations were reported in all 50 states, and Hindu houses of worship in 49 states.” Another data-set that has folks talking is the ongoing drop in church attendance in the United States, and that some states, Maine in particular, less than 30% of residents belong to a church or religious organization.

Christian adherents as percentage of state population (2010).

“Maine has fewer residents who claim a religious affiliation than any other state in the union. The Pine Tree State is the only one in the country in which less than 30 percent of the population belong to a religious denomination or independent Christian church, according to a census conducted every 10 years by the Association of Statisticians of American Religious Bodies. This follows a Pew study that found 40 percent of Mainers pray daily — the lowest percentage in the nation. “What’s alarming about those numbers is that more than 300 years after the country was founded by people seeking religious freedom, the large numbers of nonaffiliated folks out here is just the norm,” the Rev. Steve Lewis, academic dean of Bangor Theological Seminary, said earlier this month.”

I happen to live in the second-least Christian state, Oregon, which hovers right around 30%. Much has been written about the lack of formal, congregational, religion in Cascadia, and of the rise of the “nones”in general, with little in the way of a decisive consensus on what these trends ultimately mean for religion in America. The question I have is why, when there are now several American states where formal Christian adherence is in the minority, do we still insist on the fiction of “Christian America” or even “Judeo-Christian America.” Where are the “spiritual but not religious” politicians who do away with a Christian identity entirely? Shouldn’t states like Oregon and Maine be ready to elect non-Christians to high office, so long as their policy stances line up with a majority of voters?

Want to See Dan Halloran’s Scar? Speaking of non-Christian politicians, New York City Councilman, congressional candidate, and Theodish Heathen Dan Halloran recently underwent surgery to remove a benign brain tumor. By all accounts the procedure was a success, and Halloran is already active on social media, sending out a picture of his scar.

Ouch! (Dan Halloran's surgery scar.)

“So I’m home and trying to adjust- my balance isn’t at 100% but I have my health otherwise in tact. The doctors are still somewhat at a loss to explain the rapid progress, lucky circumstances, and I’m not taking it for granted. I can’t push any harder or faster but am doing everything I can. I started using a voldyne 2500 to improve my lung capacity…. but that’s gonna leave a mark.”

We’ll have plenty to say about Halloran here at The Wild Hunt once he’s back on the trail, but for now we simply wish him a speedy recovery.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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22 responses to “Updates: Winnemem Wintu, U.S. Religion Census, Dan Halloran”

  1. I was surprised to see my home state of WV in the 30% category.  To hear residents talk, you’d think we were all a bunch of bible thumpers.  It really just goes to show that the folks who command the most attention are in fact the minority.
    On another note, I’m glad the Winnemem Wintu river blockade was successful and hope it’s even more successful during the actual ceremony to come.

  2. In New England, the three “Northern Fringe” states (ME, NH, VT) were not highly churched to begin with, and quite early they began to serve as a place where people could live who chafed under the Puritan hegemony of Massachusetts and Connecticut.  So the current figures may not represent all that great a change over the long haul.

    The following piece of tradition from the late 1600s illustrates the point well.  At Portsmouth, NH, a visiting Puritan minister “preaching against the depravity of the times, said, ‘you have forsaken the pious habits of your forefathers, who left the ease and comfort which they possessed in  their native land, and came to this howling wilderness to enjoy without molestation the exercise of their pure principles of religion.’  One of the congregation interrupted him; Sir, you entirely mistake the matter; our ancestors did not come here on account of their religion, but to fish and trade.”  [First published by Nathaniel Adams, _Annals of Portsmouth_, 1825, under the year 1691.]

  3. The Pew data is a bit deceptive.  I note that my own state, Massachusetts, is shown as one of the most Christian states–presumably due to the presence of our many Irish-Catholic residents.  But Massachusetts is a very tolerant state around religious diversity, whereas Maine–and particularly rural Maine–is not, despite being the “least Christian” state in the nation.  Small town Maine can be very dogmatically Bible-belt!

    It isn’t just how many residents belong to a Christian church that affects the lives of minority religious people, but what sort of Christian church, and how large a role that church is allowed to play in the minds of its members.  

  4. It is also interesting that that most fundamentalist and conservative of Christian traditions, Puritanism, is actually the institutional ancestor of one of the most liberal of modern Christian denominations: The United Church of Christ (U.C.C.) explicitly welcomes gays and lesbians, for example, and yet, it is the U.C.C. that is the surviving institution that once upon a time, was Puritanism in New England.

    Weird but true…

  5. Jason, thanks so much for the coverage of the civil disobedience among the Winnemem Wintu.  How about a heads-up on the date of the coming of age ceremony?  I’m sure a lot of us who will not be able to assist physically would like to do magic/make offerings on their behalf.

  6. Very true indeed!  The (American) Unitarian Church also came out of New England Puritanism; specifically, both of them arose in Massachusetts (IRRC).

    Basically, old New England was not all Puritan.  Rather, there were four historical areas, each having its own distinct origin and historical development:
    1.  the three original Puritan colonies (Massachusetts, Connecticut, and New Haven, which united with Connecticut in the mid-1600s);
    2.  the Northern Fringe (New Hampshire, Maine and eventually also Vermont, once it separated from New Hampshire and/or New York);

    3.  the Separatist area (Plymouth, the “Old Colony,” which remained distinct from Massachusetts until
    the very end of the 1600s), and which deemed the Puritans insufficiently
    radical in matters of religion, but at the same time were far more tolerant of diversity in
    religious views; and
    4.  the Tolerant area (Rhode Island and the short-lived old Saybrooke colony, in the southeast corner of Connecticut), which had a great deal in common with the Separatist area), but was even more radical and more tolerant. 

    Witch-hunting was distinctively a Puritan thing in old New England.  It seems not to have occurred at all, or only with the greatest rarity, in the other three areas.  In those three areas, instead, you found something else, namely, the old New England “vampire” tradition, where seemingly supernatural ills were blamed only on the dead, and suspected corpses were dug up and “treated” in a variety of related ways.

    Quakers felt very much at home in Rhode Island, and were almost as comfortable in the Northern Fringe and the Separatist area (until the latter was annexed by Massachusetts).

  7. Red Fist up for the tribes!

    Off this topic/ On the “little p” topic; Quote “It’s (homosexuality) just pagan…”


  8. Maine is and can be, but it has a lot more to do with the culture of New England (as opposed to, for example, the South).  Most people in Maine don’t give a damn about what religion you are, that’s between yourself and God (whichever and whatever that may be).  What is more important here is what kind of person you are.

    That being said, Maine, barring North Massachusetts aka Portland, is very socially conservative.

  9. I’m delighted to know that Dan Halloran is alright, but I SO could have lived a rich, full, and happy life without ever knowing what the man’s brain-surgery scar looks like.

  10. The boats buzzing the by after the trail run disgusted me. There’s protesting, like what the Natives are doing, and then there’s being a spoiled entitled pain in the ass. I hope the ceremony goes off without a hitch, but I’m pessemmistic enough to feel that the banner and civil disobidiance will be an invitation for some sort of “prank” or “lesson” said assholes may try to pull to teach the natives a “lesson”. 

  11. On the other hand: is it not a feature of Shamanic Mythology, that a Shaman will bear a visible sign of the rending-apart process that marks the Shamanic Initiation? Seriously, it is, is it not?

  12. The Association of Religion Data Archives is a thinly disguised missionary think tank dedicated to helping Christian churches to improve their messaging and outreach (see below for more details on this). This doesn’t invalidate their work, but it is essential to know when interpreting anything that comes from them.

    The president of ARDA is Roger Finke who has co-authored two books with Rodney Stark, a man who has singlehandedly rewritten the book on modern Christian apologetics. Finke has also co-authored a book with professional stealth missionary Brian J. Grim, who worked for 10 years for Cooperative Services International (link to his cv), a front group established by the Southern Baptist Foreign Mission Board as a way of sending missionaries to countries that officially prohibit Christian missionaries (link to story on “undercover missionaries” from Baptists Today magazine), and who now works with fellow stealth missionary Luis Lugo at the Pew Forum for Religion and Public Life (Lugo used to work for the Center for Public Justice, a right-wing Christian think tank focused primarily on opposition to marriage equality and the promotion of “faith based initiatives”).

  13. About Mr. Halloran’s brain surgery – it is major surgery, and it is the brain.  What he may not know is how the recovery may not go the way he thinks.  I am a traumatic brain injury survivour, and had seen my share of folks who have had ‘mild’ surgery.  It is far more complex and recovery is much longer than he may understand.  I do hope he recovers as well but the road to wellness is a long one.

  14. I find it interesting that Paganistan is located in one of the highest percentage states. I live in the 6th congressional district, and having seen Bachmann reelected again and again, despite her antics, I’d say the numbers here are accurate. Once you get out of the twin cities metro area, it can get uncomfortable for non Christians.

  15. That is relatively true. Hoever, I live outside of the Twin Cities Metro (about halfway between Minneapolis and St. Cloud, and haven’t had much trouble, despite having rituals in my backyard several times a year. The neighbors on one side don’t talk to me much after we made some noise during a Yule ritual years ago, but everyone else is friendly.

  16. Heh, I had a scar similar to Halloran’s (but  for a cochlear implant rather than tumor removal) as a kid, and I LOVED grossing my classmates out with it. Looks like he’s having his fun too.

  17. Just today crazy rural Mainer Mike Heath advocated for the murder of gays in a battle in the streets.  The normal part of Maine needs to get loud.

  18. With respect, Maine is my parents’ home, and a place where I spent a lot of my youth.  And the power and influence of fundamentalist Christianity in rural Maine is pretty profound. 

    Town meeting in my parents’ town, for instance, is opened by exactly the sort of Christian prayer that we’ve heard discussed so often here on The Wild Hunt.  And my father, who is a Unitarian Universalist when he is anything, and a civil libertarian at all times, has taken a fair bit of heat for even suggesting that the practice might not be Constitutional.  He sees no possibility even of seeing moderate Christian preachers rotating with the right-wing ones.

    There are ways that Maine is a pretty complicated place; those who do give a damn about religion can be aggressive about it.

  19. Yeah, here in Old Town/Bangor/Orono, there are the occasional nuts, but luckily the presence of the University of Maine (and to some extents, BGR International Airport and Eastern Maine Medical) and  in the area help keep the crazies (mostly) in check.

    For instance, I generally attend the Old Town Methodist Church (and by attend, I mean I go play with the kids in the nursery while my wife does the nominal Christian thing), and they are quite liberal about most things – we’ve had a number of speakers from different traditions (Jews, Muslims, Baptists, etc) – we did a pretty neat Passover seder this year – but even suggesting doing the same thing in say, Baileyville or Millinocket, would probably get you thrown out into the street.