Tulalip Bay firefighters join strike team, help control eastern Washington wildland fires

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Tulalip Bay Fire Department 

It’s been a long hazy month for Washingtonians as wildfire smoke contaminated our air for the majority of August. At one point, Seattle even made national headlines for having worse air quality than Beijing, which is usually covered by a thick cloud of smog throughout most of the year. Smoke from both the Oregon and B.C. wildfires continues to circulate through the state, causing dangerous conditions for people with respiratory issues as well as pregnant women, elders, children and pets. Thousands of firefighters, covering a myriad of forest fires from all areas of the state, were called upon in an effort to control the flames during peak wildland fire season. 

Among the strike teams deployed across the state was the Northwest 3 Strike Team, comprised of firefighters from Bothell, East Jefferson, Skagit, Shoreline, Arlington and Tulalip Bay Fire Departments. Tulalip Bay’s own Collin Chavez, Patrick Dineen, James Shockley, Lindsay Muller, Shawn Carlson and Jacob Shoresman were on the strike team and bravely fought three large fires in eastern Washington to protect nearby residents and businesses and help bring an end to all of the haze.

“Tulalip Bay Fire is now a part of state mobilizations,” says Tulalip Bay Firefighter, Collin Chavez. “The way that works is when there’s a big incident, a big fire that warrants the need of statewide resources, the state will send over strike teams. The team we were on was the Northwest Strike Team, they’re comprised of departments from all over, typically bigger departments. Now Tulalip’s a part of that strike team, led by Chief Hots of Getchell, and we’re pretty excited to be a part of it.”

The strike team was on duty for seventeen days, serving sixteen hours on the frontline and getting minimal sleep each night. The team setup camp at local schools, sometimes in tents on ball fields and other times inside the school’s gymnasium. 

“It’s a constant rotation but being out there is fun. You work with a lot of different departments so you get to make friendships with people,” says Firefighter Patrick Dineen. “On the Cheney fire we got to work with an inmate crew, it was crazy but really cool. These guys are actually in prison and this is a job that they get to do.”

The crew visited three sites to help suppress the fires at Silver Lake, Grand Coulee and Boyds (Kettle Falls). The reason for the fires is still under investigation but it’s safe to say that the extreme heat and dry air were among the factors.

“The first fire was in Cheney, Washington at Silver Lake. We were the initial attack team.  As initial attack you arrive and you’re the first ones to attack the fire for structure protection of homes and buildings in the vicinity of the fire,” says Chavez. “From Silver Lake we went to Grand Coulee. That was a grass valley fire, it started out very small in acreage around five hundred to one thousand and within two days it jumped all the way to 78,000 acres. It spread very quickly, there were some high winds.

“The third fire we ended up on was the Boyds fire by Kettle Falls in Colville, Washington near the Canadian border. That was a bigger incident because there were a lot more residential and commercial structures nearby. Anytime there’s more threat to homes or towns, the incident usually increases in scale. The first two fires were type three, which is a smaller incident and this one was type two. It can be a little tiring and you get very dirty but there’s a sense of satisfaction. It was really cool to have our Tulalip rigs out there on the strike team. The citizens are a big part of it, there were a lot of evacuations, but there was still a lot of people in the town making signs, stopping by to say hi and just excited to see firefighters there to protect their towns and homes.”

The strike team members returned to their respective departments now that nearly all three of the fires are under containment. The crew still remains cautious, however, ready to return to battle at any given moment. 

“The seasons not over,” warns Dineen. “It’s calmed down a little but one lightning storm or one person throwing a cigarette butt out the window, we could have a whole ‘nother one pop up. Wildland season goes until October.”

“Stay current on the burn bans,” Chavez adds. “Adhere to the burn bans, that’s a huge way to prevent any type of grass or brush fire. Don’t go shooting any fireworks off, especially where there’s dry fuels. And protect your house, it’s always a good idea to have defensible space between your residence and any debris, wood or anything that could burn. And having sprinklers set-up will definitely be helpful. Just be aware and remember how dry it is and that fires can spread quickly.”

For more information, please contact the Tulalip Bay Fire Department at (360) 659-2416.

The Treaty of Point Elliott: A living document

ON THE TREATY FRONT: A new monthly series on the history and meaning of tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, environmental stewardship and issues that threaten these important rights. This is just the first in a recurring series of articles produced by the Tulalip Tribes Treaty Rights Office to help educate and inform the membership. Our Mission is to “Protect, enhance, restore and ensure access to the natural resources necessary for Tulalip Tribal Members’ long-term exercise of our treaty-reserved rights.” 

Longhouse Chiefs.

 

Submitted by Ryan Miller, Tulalip Tribal Member, Treaty Rights Office

As members of the Tulalip Tribes, we hear the words “treaty rights” and “sovereignty” all the time. There is no doubt that to each of us they mean something different, yet there are some core principles that stem from these phrases. 

Sovereignty is the right to self-determination and self-governance. A sovereign government has the right to govern without outside interference from other groups. Our people were born sovereign as the first nations of this land.

This is of course complex, and so are the tribes’ relationships with other governments. We know that we do not govern without interference from outside forces, especially the federal government. The federal government’s policy regarding tribal rights continues to change and has a significant impact on tribes throughout the country. We’ll discuss more issues around tribal sovereignty in a future article.

The second important thing to define is a treaty. A treaty is a legally binding contract between two or more sovereign nations. It outlines the role each side will play in the future of the relationship and sometimes includes the reasons why they have entered into agreement with one another. Treaty rights are generally considered to be the rights reserved by tribes through treaty and are sometimes called “un-ceded rights” which reflects their existence prior to treaty signing.

There were five treaties made with northwest Washington tribes; the Treaty of Point Elliott, the Treaty of Point-No-Point, the Treaty of Neah Bay, the Medicine Creek Treaty, and the Treaty with the Quinault. Compared generally to treaties signed with many tribes to the east of Washington they are much more favorable (that is not to say that tribes did not bear an unfair burden of sacrifice). Part of the reason for more favorable treaties is that the United States had a comparatively small standing army, just 15,911 enlisted men, which were tasked with covering a huge geographical area. They did not have the resources to fight wars with a number of tribes in a far off corner of the country. As a result, Governor Isaac Stevens was assigned to make peace and enter into treaties with northwest tribes in order to secure land for settlers in the Washington Territories.

When our ancestors signed the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855, the federal government, through its territorial Governor, Isaac I. Stevens, affirmed that the tribes had the inherent right to self-governance and self-determination as outlined in the excerpt from the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Worcester V Georgia,

  “The Indian nations had always been considered as distinct, independent political communities, retaining their original natural rights, as the undisputed possessors of the soil, from time immemorial,…The very term “nation,” so generally applied to them, means “a people distinct from others.” The constitution, by declaring treaties already made, as well as those to be made, to be the supreme law of the land, has adopted and sanctioned the previous treaties with the Indian nations, and consequently admits their rank among those powers who are capable of making treaties.” 

Congress itself defines treaties as the “supreme law of the land” and only signs treaties with other “nations” therefore recognizing tribes as nations and affirming that treaties supersede other laws such as those made by state governments. This excerpt also explains that the U.S. government understood that these rights were “natural rights” implying recognition of tribes’ existence as sovereigns before the creation of The United States. 

In the treaty, our ancestors made great sacrifices by ceding millions of acres of land for the promise of medical treatment, education, and permanent access to the resources they had always gathered, including across all of our ancestral lands that lie outside of the reservation.

Tulalip canoe.

Article Five of the treaty addresses the most commonly known and arguably most culturally important right, 

The right of taking fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory, and of erecting temporary houses for the purposes of curing, together with the privilege of hunting and gathering roots and berries on open and unclaimed land.”

Though truthfully this article was never well defined in law until in 1974 when Judge George Boldt gave his decision in the landmark Indian law case US v Washington (commonly known as the Boldt Decision), where he affirmed what treaty tribes had already known: the phrase “in common with” was meant to be an equal sharing of the salmon runs minus the number of fish needed to spawn future generations.. This court decision, along with a series of subsequent decisions recognized tribes as having equal management authority with the State of Washington over natural resources. This has given tribes a significant role in how fisheries are managed as well as managing tribal hunting. Washington tribes have contributed greatly to the process of salmon recovery and restoration of critical habitats and species. Tulalip has also worked to conserve and enhance the plants and wildlife that our people need to continue to practice our traditional ways. 

Tribal and court interpretations of Article Five, secures tribal access to these resources until the end of time and recognizes that any entity whose actions diminish either these resources or our access to them violates the spirit and intent of the treaty. 

We know that the treaty is alive and well. It’s as important to us today is it was to our ancestors at the time of signing. We raise our hands to our ancestors and leaders past and present who fought and continue to fight to protect these rights and our way of life. 

If you have questions, comments, or suggestions for future subjects please send them to ryanmiller@tulaliptribes-nsn.gov

Thank you for reading and we’ll see you next month!

 

 

Coastal Businesses, Citizens Testify Against Offshore Drilling in WA on Day of BOEM Public Meeting

 

Hundreds speak out to protect Washington businesses, beaches

Source: Resource Media Seattle

OLYMPIA—Today, Washington elected officials, business, fishing, tourism and conservation interests voiced their opposition to a Trump administration proposal that would open up 90 percent of the nation’s coastline—including Washington’s—to oil and gas drilling for the first time since 1984, despite decades of bipartisan coastal protection. The Department of Interior issued the 2019-2024 Draft Proposed Program on Jan. 4, for new offshore drilling activities in federal U.S. waters, 3 to 200 miles offshore. The proposed program would threaten Washington’s fishing, tourism and recreation economy, valued at hundreds of millions of dollars. The March 5 “People’s Hearing” was organized in the room adjacent to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s public meeting, because the BOEM did not allow public testimony, only written comments.

The National Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program proposal has been met by fierce opposition by local, state, and federal leaders in almost every coastal state. In Washington, this includes Governor Jay Inslee, Attorney General Bob Ferguson, Public Lands Commissioner Hilary Franz, and members of the congressional delegation. There have not been any new leases in federal waters since 1984.

Coastal business owners and citizens pointed to the long-term impacts from the oil spills of Exxon Valdez, Deepwater Horizon and the 1988 Nestucca spill at the mouth of Grays Harbor, on fisheries and businesses. The group urged a pivot to a clean energy economy that protects Washington’s coastal communities, and our valuable marine and other natural resources.NOAA data from 2015 states that they respond to 100 oil spills in U.S. waters every year. In December, however, the Trump administration announced it will roll back federal safety rules created following the Deepwater Horizon disaster.

 

Kyle Deerkop, Pacific Seafoods:  “Pacific Seafood is built on the mission of delivering the healthiest and most sustainable protein on the planet. To do this, the company employs 2,500-3,500 people on the West Coast and across the country. Drilling off of Washington or any of the other West Coast states would put the livelihood of our employees and the natural resources at risk.”

Contact:  kdeerkop@pacseafood.com, 971-373-3344

 

Johannes Ariens, owner, Loge Camps, Westport, and Surfrider Foundation: “As a hotel owner and surfer on the Washington coast, the idea of offshore drilling this close to home is terrifying. People come from around the world to enjoy world-class recreation on our beaches. Our jobs depend on a clean and thriving coast to survive. I saw what happened to tourism and recreation businesses in the Gulf after their oil spill. We can’t have that happen to us here.”

Contact: chair@seattle.surfrider.org, 206-799-3298

 

Crystal Dingler, Mayor of Ocean Shores: “Nearly 5 million people visited Ocean Shores in 2017. Our beach town’s economy is 100% dependent on tourism, recreation, and fishing, and we will do everything we can to protect our jobs and beautiful beaches from being put at risk from an oil spill. We’ve gone through that before, and have vowed to fight this offshore drilling plan tooth and nail.”

Ocean Shores was the first city in Washington to pass a resolution against the Trump proposal.

Contact: cdingler@osgov.com, 360-581-5386

 

Jess Helsley, executive director, Coast Salmon Foundation, Aberdeen:  “Salmon are arguably the most iconic species of the Pacific Northwest. The Coast Salmon Foundation and partners across the state are fighting to rebuild their populations, but it is an uphill battle. Many populations cannot survive any additional major threat in their waters. We cannot allow the risky business of offshore drilling off our coast. A spill in these waters would devastate our coastal ecosystems, communities, jobs, and our cultural way of life.”

Contact:  jess@coastsalmonpartnership.org, 208-413-1120

 

Rebecca Ponzio, Stand Up To Oil campaign:  “Washington has said loud and clear, we won’t be the doormat for the fossil fuel industry. Drilling off our shores is a needless give-away to dirty energy companies at a time when we should be investing in our transition to a clean energy economy.”

Contact:  rebecca@wecprotects.org, 206-240-0493

 

Washington coastal communities power an economy dependent on the ocean. Tourism, recreation and fishing jobs are all dependent on a healthy coast:

  • In 2014, commercial (non-tribal) fisheries landed a total of 129 million pounds into Washington’s coastal ports with an ex-vessel value of $93 million.
  • Annual recreational fishing on Washington’s coast averaged 47,000 trips on charter vessels and another 98,000 trips on private vessels between 2003 and 2014. In 2014, trip-related expenditures for coastal recreational fishing generated over $30 million in coastal spending, supported 325 jobs in coastal counties, and contributed $17 million in labor income.
  • Shellfish aquaculture in Pacific and Grays Harbor counties provides an estimated 572 direct jobs, supports 847 total jobs, and generates $50 million in total labor income in the coastal region alone.
  • Washington residents took an estimated 4.1 million trips to Washington’s Pacific Coast in 2014, with nearly 60 percent indicating their primary purpose was for recreation. These trips generated an estimated $481 million in expenditures.
  • Recreational razor clamming generates between 275,000 and 460,000 digger trips each season and provides between $25 million and $40 million in tourist-related income to coastal communities in Washington.

 

While the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) is not allowing public testimony at the meeting, it is accepting public comments on the Draft Proposed Program online during a 60-day comment period ending on March 9. Today’s meeting was the only public meeting to be held in Washington to gather additional input for this stage of the plan. After the comments are received and environmental reviews conducted, the Proposed Program will be released, triggering another comment period. The Final Proposed Program is expected by 2019. The current draft proposed plan includes one lease sale off Washington and Oregon.

The livestream of the press conference can be viewed via Stand Up To Oil’s Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/StandUpToOil/  (this link will be archived).

The People’s Hearing, held in conjunction with the BOEM Open House, was organized by members of the Stand Up To Oil coalition, including the Surfrider Foundation, Washington Environmental Council, Sierra Club, Citizens for a Clean Harbor, and 350.org.

National wildlife refuge renamed to honor Billy Frank Jr.

A national wildlife refuge near Olympia, Washington, has been renamed in honor of Native American civil rights leader Billy Frank Jr.

The Associated Press
OLYMPIA, WASH. – A national wildlife refuge near Olympia, Washington, has been renamed in honor of Native American civil rights leader Billy Frank Jr.

U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewel, U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, U.S. Rep. Denny Heck and Nisqually Tribal Council chairman Farron McCloud are among those attending Tuesday’s celebration at the renamed Billy Frank Jr. Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge.

Frank, who died in 2014, was a Nisqually tribal fisherman who led the “fish wars” of the 1960s and 70s that restored fishing rights and helped preserve a way of life for Native Americans in the Pacific Northwest.

He and others were repeatedly arrested for fishing in the Nisqually River as they staged “fish-ins,” or acts of civil disobedience similar to sit-ins, to demand the right to fish in their traditional places. His activism paved the way for the landmark “Boldt” court decision, which affirmed the rights of Western Washington treaty tribes to half the fish harvest in the state.

Tuesday’s ceremony also celebrates the newly established Medicine Creek Treaty National Memorial, which commemorates the spot in 1854 where tribes signed the Medicine Creek Treaty with the U.S. government. The tribes include the Nisqually, Squaxin Island Tribe, Puyallup Tribe of Indians and Muckleshoot Indian Tribe.

The treaty was signed in a grove of trees near what is now McAllister Creek in the refuge. The tribes ceded land to the U.S. government but reserved their rights to fish, hunt and gather in their traditional places. For decades, Frank fought to hold the federal government to those treaty obligations.

In November, Frank was posthumously awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama. A month later, Obama signed into law the “Billy Frank Jr. Tell Your Story Act,” which renamed the wildlife refuge.

The 2,925-acre preserve was created in 1974 and protects one of the few relatively undeveloped large estuaries left in Puget Sound. It’s an important stop for migratory birds along the Pacific Flyway. It’s managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/state/washington/article90499542.html#storylink=cpy

Northwest tribal leaders fight for government to uphold treaties

Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon speaks at the rally.

Tulalip Tribes Chairman Mel Sheldon speaks at the rally. Photo courtesy Theresa Sheldon, Tulalip Tribes Board of Director.

 

 

Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew II and other leaders rally in Washington, D.C., on Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015, to oppose the Gateway Pacific Terminal, which would export primarily coal and expand railways. Ballew says that the project would disregard treaty rights and harm the environment. Grace Toohey McClatchy

 

 

BY GRACE TOOHEY, Bellingham Herald

 

WASHINGTON – A proposed coal terminal and affiliated railway for Cherry Point, Wash., has sparked concern about treaty violations and environmental degradation for many Pacific Northwest tribal leaders, 10 of whom rallied together in Washington, D.C., on Thursday morning against what they said is government disregard for their treaties.

About a block from the White House, three Lummi Nation sisters crooned a song referencing the 1855 U.S. treaty with Pacific Northwest Native American tribes, reserving certain rights for their fishing, hunting and sacred grounds. “What about those promises? Fills my heart with sadness, I can’t do this on my own, we’ve got to come together and be strong,” the women sang.

But Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Nation, said those rights are in jeopardy.

“All the tribes are standing here today in solidarity to protect not just our reservation community but everybody’s community from the impacts that cannot be mitigated,” Ballew said, standing in front of leaders from the Tulalip, Swinomish, Quinault, Lower Elwha Klallam, Yakama, Hoopa Valley, Nooksack and Spokane nations and the president of United South and Eastern Tribes.

The proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, a subsidy of SSA Marine, would act as a trading hub between landlocked domestic companies and markets in Asia, said Joe Ritzman, vice president of business development for SSA Marine. The deepwater terminal would handle up to 60 million tons of commodities, primarily coal, and the project would coincide with a railway expansion.

OUR CURRENT FOCUS IS THE IMPACT ON TREATY FISHING RIGHTS, AND IT’S THE GOVERNMENT’S RESPONSIBILITY TO UPHOLD THE TREATY. Tim Balew II, chairman of the Lummi Nation

But the project’s designated land includes burial sites for Lummi ancestors and artifacts, Ballew said, and the coastal development would harm age-old fishing traditions within the tribe.

“The location of the pier will take away fishing grounds and the increase in vessel traffic would impede access of our fishermen to fishing grounds throughout our usual and accustomed areas,” Ballew said.

Washington state, Whatcom County and the federal government are reviewing the environmental impacts of the proposed export terminal and associated rail expansion, expecting to release state-local and federal environmental impact statements in 2017. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, which is the federal review agency, is also inspecting Native American treaty rights at play.

“Our current focus is the impact on treaty fishing rights, and it’s the government’s responsibility to uphold the treaty,” Ballew said.

The Lummi Tribe, whose reservation is minutes from Cherry Point, entered the Treaty of Point Elliot more than 150 years ago, which ensured the sovereign nation right to “fish at usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory.”

JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation, said his tribe has faced similar treaty battles in Oregon, most recently when the governor halted a proposed coal export plant near their sacred ground and Columbia River fisheries. But now that decision is under appeal, putting their treaty rights at stake again, Goudy said.

“The recognition from us collectively (is) that those reserved rights go hand in hand with our sustained existence as peoples,” Goudy said. “A direct attack on such things, in our hearts and minds, is a direct attack on our sustained existence.”

Not only would the Gateway Pacific Terminal affect the Lummi Nation, Goudy explained, but the proposed railways would transport coal by the Yakama Nation’s portion of the Columbia River.

“This issue affects all of us, we’re connected in ways that the U.S cannot even imagine,” said Tyson Johnson, council member of Nooksack Indian Tribe.

SSA Marine will wait until the state, county and federal environmental reports come out, Ritzman said. But with plans for mitigation strategies and a 75 percent natural buffer of the 1,500 acres for the project, Ritzman said he expects his company’s proposal to meet all state and federal environmental requirements and not impact the fisheries.

President Barack Obama and his administration met with the tribal leaders and many more Thursday afternoon as a part of the White House Tribal Nations Conference.

“I credit the current administration for every year building on our efforts to help us rebuild our nations and I encourage them to continue that,” Ballew said. “We really want them to give this issue its due respect. It’s a human rights issue, it’s a treaty rights issue, and we need our sacred sites protected.”

Read more here: http://www.bellinghamherald.com/news/local/article43286049.html#storylink=cpy

 

Northwest Drought Likely To Extend Into 2016

A lack of water has left apple trees in Benton County dry and brittle as severe drought conditions persist across 68 percent of Washington State.Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

A lack of water has left apple trees in Benton County dry and brittle as severe drought conditions persist across 68 percent of Washington State.
Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

 

by Cassandra Profita, OPB/EarthFix

 

Don’t be fooled by the recent rain and cooler temperatures. Most of Oregon and Washington are still experiencing severe or extreme drought.

With many of the region’s reservoirs and streams still far below normal and a warm winter on tap, experts are predicting this year’s drought will likely continue into next year.

On a conference call Thursday, Washington Department of Ecology Director Maia Bellon said her agency is preparing for the worst: another year of drought that will take hold earlier and take an even bigger toll on the state.

“This historic drought is not over, and we’re already planning for next year,” Bellon said. “We face winter with a huge water deficit. Rains are desperately needed to recharge these reservoirs and even that won’t be enough to get us through next summer. We need winter snowpack – what we call our frozen reservoir – and there’s growing concern we may not get it.”

 

Projections for this year's winter temperature and precipitation relative to normal conditions from 1981-2010.Projections for this year’s winter temperature and precipitation relative to normal conditions from 1981-2010.

Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

Washington State Climatologist Nick Bond said there’s a 10- to 15-percent chance this winter will be just as warm and devoid of snow as last winter.

“There’s been recently some rain and cooler temperatures, but are we out of the woods?” he said. “The answer, I’m afraid, is no. El Nino is rearing its ugly head in the tropical Pacific. It’s of the magnitude and type that is strongly associated with warmer than normal winters around here, and warmer ocean temperatures off our coat, the blob, will be a contributing factor. All in all, the odds are strongly tilted towards another toasty winter.”

Oregon’s outlook is much the same, according to Kathie Dello, associate director of the Oregon Climate Research Institute.

“Nothing is pointing to us having a great winter,” she said. “The warmer-than-normal temperature prediction is the most disconcerting.”

With so many low reservoirs and rivers, Dello said, even slightly below-average precipitation this winter would leave the region with a water deficit going into next year.

Who wants to eat contaminated seafood?

The Sugawara family from Mill Creek fish at Cottage Lake in Woodinville in 2014. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

The Sugawara family from Mill Creek fish at Cottage Lake in Woodinville in 2014. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times)

By  Kevin Davis and Julie Kramis Hearne, Seattle Times 

In many ways, Washington state is a shining example of a local and sustainable food system. Heirloom vegetables, heritage livestock breeds and sustainable seafood all find their way to farmers markets, local grocers and restaurant plates. Our citizens have a proud legacy of growing their own vegetables, raising their own chickens, catching their own fish and harvesting their own shellfish from local waters. It makes our state a great place to live, especially if you love food.

We have a problem, however. Generations of manufacturing industries built up the economy of our state, especially the Puget Sound region, in a time before many pollutants were adequately regulated. These industries left a legacy of pollution. Despite significant improvements in recent years, unsafe pollution continues to this day, and we still have a long way to go. Long-lasting toxics, including PCBs, arsenic, mercury and many others, persist for years and find their way into our fish and shellfish.

As longtime restaurateurs, sports anglers, sustainable food advocates and concerned parents here in the Pacific Northwest, we understand exactly how much people in this region value local fish and shellfish. Whether on the Washington coast, in the Puget Sound region, Hood Canal or Columbia River Basin, fishing, crabbing, clamming and harvesting oysters are ways of life and part of the heritage that makes life in Washington so rich and special. It is also one of the reasons why we are so concerned with the quality of our state’s streams, rivers and other water bodies.

The state Department of Ecology has an opportunity right now to better protect those resources and the health of everyone in Washington who eats local fish and shellfish. Last year, the department proposed a long-overdue update to Washington’s water-quality standards. The current rule is inadequate and out of date, lagging behind our neighbors in Oregon, despite our strong fishing economy and culture.

We want to know that when we harvest salmon or Dungeness crab from the Sound, collect oysters on Hood Canal or catch sturgeon on the Columbia River, that these are safe to feed to our friends and family.”

But the Department of Ecology’s current proposal would fail to sufficiently improve protections because of loopholes that would allow “acceptable” levels of many toxic chemicals in our waters, including PCBs, mercury and arsenic, to remain exactly the same. The new rule would address the unreasonably low daily fish-consumption rate, increasing it to 175 grams from 6.5 grams. The increased consumption rate better would reflect how much fish Washington residents eat. However, the proposed rule would also include a 10-fold increase in the allowable cancer-risk rate. This second change would effectively negate most, if not all, of the important protections that these regulations are meant to provide.

The Clean Water Act requires that states maintain “water quality criteria sufficient to protect the most sensitive of the uses.” Consumption of seafood is one of the most sensitive uses. Many Washington residents, especially tribal members, Pacific Islanders, commercial and recreational fishermen, eat large amounts of fish and seafood from these waters. Our children eat seafood, and are much more sensitive to pollutants. The Department of Ecology’s own research shows that at least 29,000 Washington children eat more than 190 grams of fish — about one fillet — every day.

It’s time for our state officials to fix our water-quality standards. We want to know that when we harvest salmon or Dungeness crab from the Sound, collect oysters on Hood Canal or catch sturgeon on the Columbia River, that these are safe to feed to our friends and family. The state has the authority and responsibility to regulate pollution and clean up our waters. The question is: will it?

 

Kevin Davis is the co-owner and executive chef at Steelhead Diner and Blueacre Seafood. Julie Kramis Hearne is a cookbook author and former restaurant owner living on Hood Canal.

 

When tragedy struck, Washington state boy found healing in a canoe

Hamilton Seymour, 15, of Bellingham, Wash., introduced first lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2015.ROB HOTAKAINEN — McClatchy

Hamilton Seymour, 15, of Bellingham, Wash., introduced first lady Michelle Obama at the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering in Washington, D.C., on July 9, 2015.
ROB HOTAKAINEN — McClatchy

 

BY ROB HOTAKAINEN, News Tribune

 

WASHINGTON — After losing his father to suicide in 2012, teenager Hamilton Seymour said he wanted to find something positive in his life: He found healing by paddling his canoe.

“It’s my personal outlet,” said Seymour, a 15-year-old member of the  Nooksack Indian Tribe from Bellingham, Wash. “It’s where I can get away, even if I’m with people.”

Convinced that exercise is “a stress reliever” and the key to improving mental health, Seymour now is pushing other members of his tribe to deal with grief and celebrate their culture by carving canoes and singing traditional Native songs as they paddle their way to fitness. His efforts are gaining attention.

After Seymour won a national award earlier this year from the  Center for Native American Youth, he found the spotlight on Thursday at the first White House Tribal Youth Gathering, when he was picked to introduce  first lady Michelle Obama before her speech to the group.

“It was just surreal,” said Seymour.

 

 

 

An official in the first lady’s office said Seymour was chosen because his story served as a “source of inspiration” for other Indian youths. But Seymour speculated that there was another reason.

“I’ve been told they did a background check and they looked at our social media,” he said. “And I luckily only have Facebook and I don’t post anything vulgar, inappropriate or like just stupid stuff people post these days.”

Seymour was one of five Indian youths from across the nation cited as a 2015 “champion for change” by the Center for Native American Youth, an award that recognizes youths who are making a difference in their communities. Center officials noted that while most adults are uncomfortable talking about such issues as sexual abuse and suicide, Indian youth leaders are tackling the issues head on.

Seymour, whose parents divorced when he was 6 years old, said he didn’t want to discuss specifics of his father’s suicide. But he said the act of violence leaves survivors suffering.

Growing up, he said, he has learned that “you only get out of this world what you put in,” but he said he doesn’t want to judge others who struggle. He said many Indian kids are growing up in homes where parents are fighting and the children aren’t getting enough sleep or food.

“High school’s tricky,” he said. “You never really know what someone’s going through.”

 

Seymour said his application for the award focused on keeping culture alive through traditional sports. As part of his project, he has lined up 11 other teens to help him paddle canoes in races.

“What paddling is doing for us is getting us stronger – obviously physically, but also mentally, spiritually and emotionally,” he said. “It’s just beautiful.”

Seymour said paddling comes naturally to him, with the tradition strong on both sides of his family.

He said his father, a Canadian Indian who was in his early 30s when he committed suicide, was a champion paddler.

“He was a phenomenal man, and I’d like to carry out his name and his spirit through paddling. . . . I feel like paddling is only one of the few things that I have left of him,” Seymour said.

Some of Seymour’s friends from Bellingham, who are also in the nation’s capital this week as part of various tribal youth events, said Seymour has come a long way.

“I’ve known Hammi my whole life – he’s our baby,” said Sarah Scott, 21, a mentor for the Lummi Nation’s tribal youth recreation program. “In the last year, he’s just blossomed into this natural leader on a national platform, and to me that is just so inspiring.”

 

William Lucero, 18, another member of the Lummi Nation, said it was remarkable to watch Seymour get a hug from the first lady.

“I was jealous,” he said. “It’s so cool.”

Seymour, who will be a junior at Mount Baker High School in Deming, Wash., this fall, said it was a “once-in-a-lifetime experience” to share the stage with Michelle Obama.

“I didn’t know she was that tall,” he said.

When an announcer called his name, saying it was time to introduce the first lady of the United States, Seymour said he temporarily lost his breath.

“I took one step and I felt all the oxygen just leave my body,” he said. “I got told to take three deep breaths. I did that, but my heart was pumping. It was just so great.”

Seymour figures his life is looking pretty bright, too.

“I can’t tell the future, but I’m really hoping, and I really feel like it’s going to be great,” he said.

 

Read more here: http://www.thenewstribune.com/2015/07/10/3910390_when-tragedy-struck-washington.html?rh=1#storylink=cpy

Being Idle No More: The Woman Behind the Washington Movement

Sweetwater Nannauck, Director of Idle No More Washington. Photo/Micheal Rios

Sweetwater Nannauck, Director of Idle No More Washington.
Photo/Micheal Rios

 

Article and photo by Micheal Rios

Idle No More encourages all Native and Indigenous peoples to stand in solidarity with our First Nations brothers and sisters and allies for Treaty Rights, water and land rights, and environmental protection on the sacred land of our ancestors. Decolonization is a vital part of Idle No More, as it is necessary to decolonize ourselves and our way of thinking to keep our Native culture going strong. As our elders have taught us, “what we do today is not for us, but for our children and our children’s children.”

Last month, members of the Idle No More movement held a “Native Women Rising” rally at the Don Armeni Park in West Seattle. Activists joined in a circle for drumming and singing, and reminded those listening about the importance of the Alaskan wilderness soon to be drilled by Shell Oil’s drilling rig, called the Polar Pioneer. The hashtag #ShellNO was born as the Native led protests garnered local and national news attention.

But who was responsible for coordinating the rally and bringing together activists, both Native and non-Native, to stand together in protest of Shell Oil Company? That would be Sweetwater Nannauck, Director of Idle No More Washington. Sweetwater was kind enough to be interviewed by Tulalip News in order to help spread the message of being Idle No More to the Tulalip community.

“I am Sweetwater Nannauck from the Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian tribes of southeast Alaska. I am the Director of Idle No More Washington and I’m here in Seattle standing up for our people in Alaska. I’m here today joined by Native and Indigenous peoples from all different tribal nations, who came to stand united in a spiritual and cultural way. We are bringing our prayers and calling our ancestors for help as we try to bring a peaceful resolution to stopping the arctic oil drilling.”

 

What is the impact when the Indigenous peoples of Canada, Alaska, and the Coast Salish peoples collaborate together?

“Well, I’d say it speaks to all of our ancestors, as our people have traveled down here from Alaska and mixed cross-culturally. I have stories of our people coming down here for trade, so really we’re following in the footsteps of our ancestors by coming together and showing we can stand united for our people and our future generations.”

 

What is the meaning behind having an Idle No More rally titled Native Women Rising?

“I was raised traditionally in Alaska, my grandparents had an arranged marriage, and we only ate our traditional foods. We had a matriarchal society which made my grandmothers strong women, so what I find in doing this work is we come along a lot of patriarchy. In western society, the way protests and activist movements are coordinated and received is usually male dominated. I want people to know, especially our Native and Indigenous peoples that for us our women have power, our women are the life givers, our women were out there on the water singing our songs of strength and healing, and we have that ability in us. What many Indigenous cultures have said and prophesized is when the world gets out of balance our women will step up and bring back that balance. That’s what all the women who take part in Idle No More are here to do, bring balance to our world.”

 

 

What advice do you have for any Native person who wants to become involved with Idle No More?

“I advise that they find other likeminded people and become active. What I’ve found since Idle No More started in 2012, we here in Washington have become much more active. I’ve organized over fifty events since 2012, and I’ll be focused on working with our Native youth in Washington throughout the summer. There are many ways to be active, such as sharing our voice and our message through music, through spoken word, through our culture, and through our ceremonies and prayers.”

 

How do you plan to get Native youth to become active participants in Idle No More?

“I’ll be working with Nataanii Means (Lakota), son of Russell Means, who is an amazing hip-hop artist and we’ll be teaching workshops with Native youth that include video making, spoken work, and how to be active in a cultural and spiritual way. We realize because of colonization and historical trauma that we can’t realistically expect the youth to step up and do this kind of work without addressing their concerns that we face and teach them how to heal from our historical trauma.”

 

What are your thoughts as they relate to oil drilling in the arctic and how that impacts our culture?

“My first thoughts are directed at its name, the Polar Pioneer, and to the other two arctic oil drillers who have similar names, the Noble Discoverer and the Arctic Challenger. To me these represent the colonization that is coming back to our shores again and it’s really time for our people to unite because this impacts all of us. The climate change effects, we’re in a draught presently, our waters are being contaminated, the air is dirty, our animals on land and in the sea are dying. This really is important for every single person who is walking on this planet. We feel Mother Earth’s pain.”

 

Some argue that oil drilling is a necessary evil to sustain the modern day way of living. What is your response to that kind of thinking?

“It’s not a perfect system, it never will be, but these are the cards we’ve been dealt. We need to stand together and fight for our lands, otherwise they are going to take everything away from us because of that greed. Fifty years from now, we want our children and their children to say that their ancestors stepped up and fought for what they believed in, just as today we can say about our ancestors.”

 

There are many tribes and tribal members in the U.S. and Canada who yield great monetary profits from following in western type thinking. They’ve built tribal enterprises that are based on their casinos and because of this they refuse to take an active role in anything that could tarnish their image or result in lost profits. What is your message to them? 

“It’s hard because I understand the root cause of it is colonization. An elder once told me that the colonized have become colonizers, we are part of that system, but we can easily remove ourselves from it. The western term is ‘decolonization’, but it’s really reclaiming ourselves, reclaiming who we are, our culture, reclaiming our ways of doing things, going out on the water, being proud and knowing who we are. That’s where our strength lies, our culture is our medicine and it is healing for us. I invite any and all Native peoples to join us and sing our songs and say our people’s prayers, so that we are standing together because when we stand together, united, we have real power.”

For more information on how to join the Idle No More movement and to follow their events, please LIKE their Facebook page ‘Idle No More Washington’ or visit www.idlenoremore.ca

State money to fix salmon-blocking culverts falls far short

State biologist Melissa Erkel looks at a culvert along the North Fork of Newaukum Creek near Enumclaw. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

State biologist Melissa Erkel looks at a culvert along the North Fork of Newaukum Creek near Enumclaw. (Ted S. Warren/AP)

By  PHUONG LE, The Associated Press

Washington state is under a federal court order to fix hundreds of barriers built under state roads and highways that block access for migrating salmon and thus interfere with Washington tribes’ treaty-backed right to catch fish.

But it’s not clear how the state is going to come up with the estimated $2.4 billion it will take to correct more than 825 culverts — concrete pipes or steel structures that allow streams to flow under state roads and highways.

The state has appealed the judge’s decision. But in the meantime, the Legislature last week approved millions to correct fish barriers statewide.

The 16-year transportation revenue bill includes $300 million for fish passage, dramatically more than in the past but far short of what the state estimates it needs. The House still needs to pass two Senate-approved bills to complete the transportation package.

“I would like to have seen us put more money toward that,” said Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, ranking member of the House Transportation Committee. “We do need to be working on this. I think it’s a good start and I’m glad we’re doing it.”

Lawmakers have referred to this case as the other McCleary decision, which told the state to fix the way it pays for public schools.

“Ultimately it’s something we’re going to have to address; it’s just a question of timeline for when we’re going to get done,” Orcutt said.

The injunction issued by federal Judge Ricardo Martinez stems from the landmark 1974 Boldt decision, which affirmed the treaty rights of Northwest tribes to catch fish. The judge said fish-blocking culverts contribute to diminished fish runs.

“It is a treaty right. Tribes ceded the entire state of Washington to the federal government. In return, we asked that we have salmon forever,” said Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community.

He said he was disappointed with the state’s appeal and questioned how much money the state had spent in appealing the case that could have gone toward fixing the problem.

 The state Department of Transportation, which is responsible for correcting the largest number of culverts under the court order, has been working on fish passage for a number of decades, said Paul Wagner, the agency’s biology branch manager.

This year, the agency plans 13 fish-passage projects across the state. It also completed 13 such projects in each of the past two years.

But Wagner acknowledged that significantly more money will be needed to meet the terms of the injunction.

 Culverts can be a problem for fish in several ways. Stream flows running through a small pipe can be too fast, making it harder for fish to swim upstream to spawn or downstream to reach the ocean. Perched culverts also can be too elevated for fish to jump through.

“It’s a big, big problem,” said Julie Henning, state Department of Fish and Wildlife habitat division manager.

When culverts are removed or fixed, the benefits are immediate because it opens up miles of critical habitat upstream to fish, said Henning, who also co-chairs the state’s Fish Barrier Removal Board.

 That board, created by the Legislature last year, is working to coordinate with counties, private landowners, tribes, state agencies and others to get the most benefit out of projects to remove fish barriers and recover salmon runs.

“When you think about a fish swimming upstream, it goes through all these jurisdictions,” Henning said.

Counties, cities, forest owners and others have worked independently to remove fish barriers only to find that culverts elsewhere on the stream continue to block fish passage.

 On the North Fork of Newaukum Creek near Enumclaw one afternoon, Henning and Department of Fish and Wildlife fish biologist Melissa Erkel pointed out a project King County did several years ago to replace two aging pipes with a large box culvert that is wide enough to allow the stream to meander.

But less than a quarter-mile upstream, two culverts block access for fish.

Erkel said she has provided technical assistance to the private landowner, who plans this fall to replace them with a 35-foot span bridge to allow more water to pass under the private road.

“Fish passage is really important work. We’re not just doing it because of the lawsuit. It’s something that needs to be done,” Henning said.