Yes on I-1631

By Kalvin Valdillez, Tulalip News 

On a sunny autumn afternoon, a gathering was held outside of the Western States Petroleum Association building in Lacey, Washington on October 17. Many participants arrived wearing cedar hats and headbands and carrying traditional hand drums, as tribal members journeyed from around the state to show support of Initiative Measure No. 1631, an effort to charge pollution fees to large greenhouse gas emitters and conserve our natural resources for generations to come. As more and more participants arrived, they began to make signs to wave at local commuters who were taking a shortcut through an I-5 overpass. A number of small drum circles began to form and prayers were shared while they waited in anticipation for the I-1631 rally guest speakers to take the floor, including former Standing Rock Chairman, Dave Archambault and Quinault Indian Nation President, Fawn Sharp. 

“Today we are here to raise awareness and to rally support around I-1631 right in front of the Western States Petroleum Association,” passionately expressed President Sharp. “They have sunk over twenty-two million dollars into their campaign to stop us but we are resilient, we are strong and we want to amplify our voice. We are confident that through our prayers and through the rich legacy of leadership throughout the ages, from the beginning of time to the end of time, we are going to be victorious on election day.”

As this year’s General Election date of November 6 draws nearer, it’s important to understand what I-1631 is and why it’s important for Northwest tribes. The initiative is a climate policy that imposes a fee on organizations that burn or sell fossil fuels, that includes motor vehicle fuel, natural gas and electricity. The measure is expected to generate over two-billion dollars within five fiscal years, beginning on January 1, 2020, and is set at fifteen dollars per metric ton of carbon content, or the carbon dioxide equivalent released from burning fossil fuels. This will increase by two dollars each year until 2035, putting the state on target to reach its 2035 and 2050 greenhouse gas reduction goals.

The monies generated from the carbon fee are prioritized as follows: 70% of carbon fees will go toward a new clean-energy infrastructure for Washington, utilizing clean, renewable energy, providing public transportation that uses cleaner fuels as well efficiency upgrades to homes and businesses to help save money on utilities; 25% of funds from the measure will go toward clean water and healthy forests, ensuring our forests are well taken care of and can protect the air quality, clean-up polluted lakes and rivers, increase the amount of drinking water and ensure cleaner water for salmon; and the remaining 5% will be invested into the local communities, preparing for any future problems that may arise due to climate change. 

Fawn Sharp, Quinault Indian Nation President

“I-1631 is a specific climate policy tribes’ gathered over the last year and a half,” says Fawn. “Quinault has been working on this initiative for well over two years and we’ve been working on climate policy for about twelve years. It was very clear to us that we’re not going to achieve climate policy in Olympia, it’s not going to happen in Washington D.C., but we were also confident that the average citizen understands the role of tribes as leaders. 

If you look to Lummi at Cherry Point or Quinault fighting crude oil in Grays Harbor, the average citizen understands our treaties are the last line of defense to keep corporations out and from continuing to exploit our natural environment. We pulled all those resources together, the brain trust of Indian Country, our scientists, our lawyers, our tribal leaders and we adopted thirteen basic principles of climate policy that we knew were the minimum standards for us to effectively combat climate change.”  

As the rally continued, tribal and community leaders from Tulalip, Quinault, Puyallup, Nisqually, Squaxin and several other sovereign nations shared their traditional songs as well as words of encouragement that got the crowd of over one-hundred I-1631 supporters hyped. Young Tulalip and Tsleil-Waututh Indigenous Activist, Cedar George-Parker, spoke to the youth about the importance of their voice and Earth-Feather Sovereign talked about MMIW (Missing & Murdered Indigenous Women), continuing to bring much needed awareness to the epidemic that is claiming the lives of our Native women. Dave Archambault journeyed from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to show his support of the initiative.

“For me, [I-1631] means the things that happened at Standing Rock lives on,” he says. “The effort that was put forth to protect Unci Maka, Mother Earth, wasn’t lost just because that one battle didn’t work out the way we wanted it to. The policy that fails us is consultation and 1631 is a way to address that and a way to assure that tribes have complicit consent when a project threatens their homelands or threatens their environment, threatens mankind or humanity. When tribes speak up, we will be heard and that’s transcends from Standing Rock and that’s what today means to me.”

I-1631 does in fact have a provision for the tribes of Washington state that requires any state agency to consult with tribes on any decisions that could directly affect the tribes, their land or their usual and accustomed fishing grounds. Projects that are funded or begin on tribal land without prior consultation will be forced to end upon request of the tribe. Keeping the tribe’s sovereignty at heart was the First American Project comprised of several tribal leaders and El Centro de la Raza, a Latino based organization that promotes unity amongst all races. 

“The First American Project was originally founded when tribes organized to take out Slade Gordon and elect senator Maria Cantwell,” explains Fawn. “When it came time to organize for I-1631 we thought it would be a natural fit to revive something that worked so well for tribes in the past. We wanted not only to create space for tribal nations but also our partners like El Centro de la Raza who helped us during the fishing wars. It’s an exciting opportunity for us to join our communities that have worked effectively in the past. We view I-1631 as the first issue we are going to take up. We understand that there are many issues of our generation like immigration that we can partner with El Centro because I think tribal nations have something to say about immigration and separating children from families.”

Theresa Sheldon, Tulalip tribal member and First American Project Board member

Tulalip tribal member and First American Project Board Member, Theresa Sheldon, took up emcee duties during the rally. She is also the project’s Campaign Chairwomen and has been tasked with informing and educating Native Peoples on why the initiative is important.

“It’s important for us because we’re the first ones who feel it,” Theresa states. “Native Peoples are like the canary birds in the coalmines, we’re the first ones to show signs of it not being safe. We’re already seeing that; we’re seeing that in gathering our cedar, gathering our huckleberries, we’re seeing the change in the seasons happen and the change in our plants. Sea level rise is already impacting our nations, look at Taholah, Queets and Hoh who have to relocate. They’re the first ones on the ocean so it’s already impacting them. Tulalip Tribes just did our climate change flood levels and in fifty years we’re looking at a lot of different areas of our reservation that potentially could be under water. That’s scary to think about, that will be during my lifetime so I’ll probably see that.

“It’s also important for Natives because carbon is what warms our water,” she continues. “Carbon pollution warms our Puget Sound and our rivers and that’s what’s impacting our fish. That results in not being able to have our fish, crab, our traditional foods. And once it’s gone, there’s no coming back. All the studies have shown that we’re the ones who can make the change, this generation has to make monumental changes. It has to be radical, it has to be fierce and intense changes, it can’t be to just stop using straws.”

Studies show that climate change is real and is currently happening at an alarming rate. If we continue to emit pollution into the environment, scientists predict that in a hundred years the world will frequently experience deadly, extreme heatwaves for days at a time. And if you think about it, one-hundred years isn’t that far away and the heatwaves are going to be something your great-great-grandchildren will have to live through. As Theresa pointed out, tribal lifeways are already being threatened by climate change, namely the Quinault Indian Nation’s villages of Taholah and Queets. 

“This is important as Quinault tribal leader because we are right now facing an emergency situation where I’m having to relocate two of our villages to higher ground, the villages of Taholah and Queets,” says Fawn. “In my tenure as President of the Quinault Nation, I’ve seen it first hand, it’s created an unreal sense of urgency for me and we’re going to continue to fight this until we achieve those policies that we know are minimally necessary for us to defend ourselves and advance our future.”

If voters pass I-1631, the initiative will create over 40,000 jobs in the clean energy field, developing and maintaining renewable energy resources such as wind turbines. A number of big name supporters including Bill Gates and Pearl Jam recently expressed that they are in favor of the measure. And organizations such as Microsoft, Expedia, Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Lung Association are funding the initiative.

On the other side of the coin, Western States Petroleum has dug deep into their pockets and raised over twenty-five million dollars to run a slew of misleading TV ads against I-1631 claiming that the fee is ‘unfair’ to big oil. The opposition also wants you to believe that a large amount of companies are exempt from the fee, which is true to a degree if they are referring to coal burning factories or power plants that have been legally bound to close no later than 2025. 

A real concern for undecided voters is that the cost of gasoline, electricity and natural gas is expected to rise as a result of the companies’ obligation to pay the carbon fee. However, funds raised from the fee will actually help Washingtonians transition into more of a clean energy lifestyle by utilizing renewable energy resources such as solar and wind power, so we’re not dependent on companies who are harming the environment.  

“The power of our tribal communities is so remarkable and I firmly believe that when we come together, no matter what the issue, we’re unstoppable,” expresses Fawn. “When you look at this last year, we were victorious on the culverts case, we were victorious on eleven different treaty conflicts with the state of Washington. At any time, anyone or anything tries to attack us and we come together, we’re quite successful. 

“We envision a clean, healthy future. A prosperous future where renewable energy, new technologies and new economies are going to be developed and you’re going to see an explosion of growth in Indian Country. The one thing I would like to tell the voters is to get out there and vote. If you’re not registered, register [by October 29] and make sure your voice counts on November 6.”

For more information, please visit

Oil Impacts Could Be Catastrophic

“The Oil Industry’s Sacrifice Zone”


 Source: Water4fish

HOQUIAM, WA (6/11/15)–  Presenters at a Wednesday night public forum here, which focused on the probable economic and environmental impacts of increased storage and transport of oil in Grays Harbor County, concurred that the results could catastrophic, said Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp, who added, “the impacts on tribal culture would be beyond measure.”

“Coastal Washington, The Oil Industry’s Sacrifice Zone,” was held at the Little Theater at Hoquiam High School, organized by a coalition of local organizations rallying against the three proposed oil storage facilities at the Port of Grays Harbor and others along the Washington coast. The facilities, proposed by Westway Terminals, Imperium Renewables and U.S. Development, are currently undergoing environmental impact statements under supervision by the state Department of Ecology. Presenters included Ocean Shores Mayor Crystal Dingler, Washington Dungeness Crab Fisherman Association Vice President Larry Thevik and President Sharp. Numerous other local officials attended to demonstrate their opposition to planned oil expansion and the forum was moderated by Eric de Place, of Seattle-based think tank Sightline Institute.

President Sharp pointed out that tribal members have fished and gathered in the Grays Harbor region for hundreds of years and that increased oil traffic will make that more difficult.

 “An oil spill would devastate the fish, shellfish and plants that sustain the QIN identity and culture, and would decimate the Grays Harbor economy,” she said.

To achieve a direct and accurate analysis of the potential impacts to Quinault rights and interests, the tribe hired an economist firm, Resource Dimension (RD) of Gig Harbor to do a comprehensive economic analysis of potential impacts the three proposed terminal projects would have on tribal treaty rights and economic interests. RD researched economic data, interviewed several tribal fishers and gatherers, and considered various oil spill scenarios to evaluate economic impacts to QIN from these facilities.

 “One thing was clear from the beginning. It is impossible to assign an economic value to the cultural and spiritual aspects of our treaty-protected rights,” said President Sharp. “We will always fight to protect those rights, because they define us as a people. It’s who we are. But measureable economics are also important. In this case, the  quantified economics clearly point out the folly of further expanding oil transportation and storage in Grays Harbor County,” she said.

The RD study found that in 2013  668.5 direct jobs were generated by Treaty fishery-based activities and select fishery-related QIN-owned businesses. Purchases made by these entities supported an additional 132.2 induced jobs in the region. The study also found that 107 indirect jobs supported $32.1 million of local purchases made by businesses supplying services to these firms. Direct wages and salaries amounting to $27.6 million were received by the 668.5 directly employed. Re-spending of this income created an additional $5.0 million of income and consumption expenditures in Washington, principally in Grays Harbor County. Those holding induced jobs received $4.3 million in indirect income. Businesses providing services to these firms received $84.7 million of revenues.

Also, in 2013, other QIN businesses contributed 907 jobs, $36.8 million in direct/indirect income, $84.6 million in business revenue, representing $32 million in local spending.

 “These figures, which will continue to increase as we invest more in sustainable businesses, training and cooperative efforts with our neighboring communities, clearly demonstrate the profound importance of tourism and a healthy environment in the Grays Harbor area,” said President Sharp.

RD modeled three oil spill scenarios: one on the lower Chehalis River, one in Grays Harbor and one just outside the entrance to Grays Harbor to demonstrate potential economic losses from an oil spill. Among numerous other findings, it was determined that due to minimal containment due to limited spill response capability and tidal and climactic conditions, a spill in Grays Harbor would spread throughout the entire harbor and seaward in a matter of hours. Oil would not be able to be stopped before reaching sensitive areas in the harbor, and the oil would persist. It would kill salmon and other life forms, from the time it spills, for years to come. Shellfish would be particularly vulnerable and acute mortality would be expected. The crab and clam populations in and around Grays Harbor would be devastated, as would the economies based on them. At the minimum, modeled spill scenarios indicate that over the three years of the worst economic impact from a spill, between 105 and 151 tribal fishing jobs would be reduced. Tribal fishing incomes would be slashed from between $12.8 million and $17.1 million, and overall fishing incomes could reduce from between $24 million to $40 million.

Impacts to QIN businesses, such as the hotels, casino and QMARTS over a three-year period following a major spill could result in a loss of 118 to 229 jobs, along with personal income losses of $14.7 million to $28 million, QIN business losses of $29million to $70 million, and local purchasing losses of $10.3 million to $23.4 million.

 “It’s important to remember that these are non-Indian as well as Indian jobs, and that ultimately the oil industry proposals result in just a handful of jobs. How much clearer can this decision be? The risk the oil industry is asking us to take is not worth it,” said President Sharp.

 De Place first talked about the large number of proposed and active oil storage sites that have popped up in the Pacific Northwest since 2012, saying the amount of carbon in those projects is roughly equivalent to five and half Keystone XL Pipelines. He estimated the three terminals would result in 300 to 400 additional loaded oil vessels per year taking loaded crude oil out of the Harbor, with about 800 to 900 extra oil trains annually, or two and a half to three dangerous oil trains coming through Grays Harbor daily. He said the federally estimated cost to recover from a worst-case scenario derailment is about $5 billion, or at least ten times the amount of insurance most railways carry.

 “If there were an accident, the local community would be left to pick up the tab,” he said.

Thevik, a commercial fisherman for 45 years, said the oil proposals could have severely damaging effects on the Grays Harbor economy. He cited a recent report that said more than 2,000 jobs and more than $200 million in revenue come from commercial fishing activity in Westport, adding that a National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration study stated 67,000 jobs in Washington State were based on seafood-related activity. In Grays Harbor County 31 percent of the local workforce depends on marine resources. Yet the oil that would move through proposed Grays Harbor and Vancouver sites would equal half of the oil moved by rail throughout the entire country in 2014. He noted that the Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 spilled 11 million gallons of oil, affecting 1,300 miles of Alaskan coastline. On Grays Harbor, proposed oil transport would see tankers carrying upwards of 15 million gallons each.

 “Our members have witnessed first-hand the difficult task of recovery of oil on water and on shorelines. Many have also witnessed the promise to pay for damages and the reality of payment,” he said, adding that Exxon was appealing judgments for payment 19 years after the Alaska spill. A quarter of a century later, the company still owed $92 million and much of the oil is still there, the cleanup job apparently long since abandoned.

Dingler talked about the “Nestucca” oil spill that occurred in 1988 on the Washington coast. She, too, talked of the severe economic effects a spill would have on the region’s economically.    

 “Ocean Shores is known for our beach,” she said, adding “oil spills can easily change that.”

Floods, Heavy Rains Take Toll at Quinault, Emergency Declaration Issued

Moclips Highway Flooding “Worst Ever Seen”

Source: Press Release Quinault Indian Nation

Road leading into Taholah, WA is covered with water making travel dangerous, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, on the Quinault Indian Reservation. (Photo courtesy John Preston)
Road leading into Taholah, WA is covered with water making travel dangerous, Monday, Jan. 5, 2015, on the Quinault Indian Reservation. (Photo courtesy John Preston)

TAHOLAH, WA (1/5/15) – The Quinault Indian Nation has issued a Declaration of Emergency due to extreme rainfall over the past two days which has caused numerous landslides, culvert failures and washouts on the Quinault Reservation. The QIN Property Management Division has ordered an emergency inspection of all the Tribe’s buildings and infrastructure and major access roads into the Tribe have either been closed or are considered extremely hazardous, said QIN President Fawn Sharp.

“The Moclips Highway 109 Bridge near Quinault Village, a main access road to and from Nation has been washed out and closed. That is a major problem for the Tribe,” she said.

“The Moclips River flooding is the worst I’ve seen it. If it is bad as it looks, SR 109 could take days to repair. And if our own Moclips Highway needs major repairs we will have significant commuter problems,” said Sharp.

She added that the Moclips River is flowing over its banks one mile south of the Moclips Highway. For safety reasons SR 109 in Moclips has been closed. “The river has claimed at least two vehicles. One belonged to a Quinault elder and was left abandoned on the highway in the flood. An unknown number of other tribal members who live adjacent to the River were evacuated at midnight last night and are now taking refuge at the Quinault Beach Resort and Casino in Ocean Shores. This section of SR 109 is closed until further notice. SR 109 is very treacherous for motorists currently due to standing water and debris caused by the flooding,” she said.

According to sources in Queets the sewer treatment plant was compromised by the Queets River which overflowed its banks. It is unsure whether or not the sewer plant is non-operational or if the service road is damaged beyond repair at this time. This plant is being monitored closely by the Nation’s managers. This breach has not been verified at this time.

The Nation highly recommends that drivers stay away from the beaches as an alternative route. The surf is up and even at low tide beach driving is not safe.

Our very own Community Services Director, Michael Cardwell, is clearing storm drain covers. The Nation’s responders have been out in force, working hard at everything from clearing drains to evaluating damage, said Sharp. “We are very happy and relieved to report that, to our knowledge, there has been no loss of life or injury caused by this heavy rain and flooding,” she said.

Reports regarding landslides and flooding have come in from across the county, including closures at the Aberdeen Bluff on State Route 12, U.S. 101 at mile marker 73, US 101 S of Ocean Beach Road, State Route109 , the State Route 109 bypass, Wishkah Road at mile marker 6 and numerous streets in Aberdeen and Hoquiam.

Concerns remain high as tribal emergency personnel are on duty checking conditions, rendering aid where necessary and cooperating and coordinating with other jurisdictions. The deluge has also borne down on the Chehalis River where warmer weather is turning snow to rain in the mountains and a flood watch has been issued by the National Weather Service. Quinault Nation retains treaty protected rights on the Chehalis. There, as in many places, habitat modifications by various industries over the years have diminished the popular desire for watersheds to flood within their natural floodplains, and many of the fixes and proposed fixes only make matters worse, she said.

“The good news is that the rainfall is expected to diminish this evening and is not likely to return until Friday. But it is important for people to remain alert for potential slides, lingering flood dangers and infrastructure damage. Please, start this new year off safely,” said Sharp.
“I want to applaud the work done by those who have pitched in to help others during this time of need, particularly our Quinault staff members. They have been tireless and dedicated, a great example to everyone. That, too, is a great way to start the year 2015.”

Seattle Oil-Train Derailment Hits Close to Home for Quinault

Courtesy Dana Robinson Slote Seattle City Council via radio station KPLUNo one was hurt—this time. The first oil train derailment in Washington State happened under the Magnolia Bridge.
Courtesy Dana Robinson Slote Seattle City Council via radio station KPLU
No one was hurt—this time. The first oil train derailment in Washington State happened under the Magnolia Bridge.


Indian Country Today, 7/25/14


Spills. Explosions. Deaths. Injuries.

The oil train that jumped the tracks outside Seattle the other day did not do any of those things, but it still highlighted concerns about rail transport of crude, especially highly flammable oil sands bitumen.

The 100-car train operated by Burlington Northern Railroad, filled with crude from the Bakken oil fields, was pulling out of the Interbay rail yard going five miles per hour when one locomotive, a buffer car carrying sand, and three tanker cars derailed at about 2 a.m. on July 24, the Associated Press reported. Two of the tankers tilted, one to a 45-degree angle, a railway spokesman told AP. That one had to be pumped out and hauled off for repairs.

As with the other half-dozen or so industrial-train derailments over the past year—starting with the runaway train that vaporized the center of 6,000-population Lac Mégantic in Quebec, Canada, along with 47 people last summer—the Quinault Indian Nation was on hand to warn about the perils of this type of transport.

RELATED: Exploded Quebec Oil Train Was Bringing Crude From North Dakota’s Bakken to New Brunswick Refineries

“It was sheer luck that the cars, carrying 100 loads of Bakken crude oil, didn’t spill or even catch fire,” Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp said in a statement. “If that had occurred the chances are there would have been tragic loss. If fire had occurred, the odds are it would have burned out of control for days, and oil would have made its way into Puget Sound. People need to know that every time an oil train travels by, this is the risk that is being taken.”

Tribes are not alone in their unease. Local officials also expressed consternation.

“I’m very concerned that large volatile oil trains pose significant risk for derailment, fire, explosion, loss of property and life,” King County Executive Dow Constantine told “We need to have a conversation about what is appropriate to ship through these heavily populated areas and what kind of notice people deserve that these shipments are taking place.”

The Quinault and other groups fiercely oppose proposals for oil train export terminals at Vancouver and Grays Harbor.

RELATED: Lynchburg Oil Train Explosion Refuels Rail-Terminal Opposition in Northwest

The May 2014 derailment of a grain train in Grays Harbor County did nothing to inspire confidence, either.

RELATED: Grain Car Derailment Could Have Been Oil: Quinault Raise Alarm Again

“These accidents have occurred before,” said Sharp, who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and area vice president of the National Congress of American Indians, after the Seattle derailment. “They will occur again. Even with the new safety measures proposed by President [Barack] Obama and Governor [Jay] Inslee, the accidents will occur. The rail and bridge infrastructure in this country is far too inadequate to service the vast expansion of oil traffic we are witnessing.”

The railroad company’s assertion that there had been no public threat because no oil had escaped also came under scrutiny.

“I have to disagree with the statement that there was no public threat,” said Sharp in the Quinault statement. “There was. In fact, there is a public threat every time an oil train passes by. There have been too many accidents, too many derailments, too many fires and too many spills.”



QIN: Advising the new White House Council on Native American Affairs


Washington, D.C. – The Quinault government issued a white paper to the recently formed White House Council on Native American Affairs during its inaugural session in Washington, D.C. Tuesday. The Quinault paper, issued by Quinault President Fawn Sharp, responds to President Barack Obama’s directives to the new Council that it must work to facilitate “efficient delivery of government services” to Indian communities, and engage Indian and Native Alaskan governments for a “true and lasting government-to-government relationship.”

The document stated that the Quinault government “welcomes this opportunity to offer concrete comments and recommendations … that will strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship” and offered seven specific suggestions for success. It referred to the economic disaster of the last five and-a-half years that has undermined many tribal businesses across the country, and the sequestration of federal funding resulting in an “economic disaster among many tribes creating a profound sense of desperation in Indian Country.”

Commenting on the “chronic underfunding of Indian Country from federal agencies” starting with the Ronald Reagan Administration the Quinault government urged the new White House Council to send representatives to each tribe and Rancheria in the country to “engage in intergovernmental meetings.

According to President Sharp, the economic disaster of the last five and-a-half years has profoundly undermined many tribal businesses across the country, and the sequestration of federal funding resulting from the federal Budget Control Act will result in an economic disaster among many tribes, creating profound desperation in Indian Country in 2014 and 2015.

The White House Council should meet with each tribal government in the country. The purpose of these meetings would be to establish a dialogue with each tribal government to resolve the “disconnect and disparity between federal efforts to meet the needs of Indian Country and the actual on-the-ground needs.”

The Quinault government further urged formulation of federal agency policies based on “understanding current population characteristics, population growth data and the tribal economic environment.” President Sharp specifically urged the White House Council to share census and economic findings with each tribal government to ensure that tribal officials receive information to ensure their “free, prior and informed consent” to decisions that are made.

President Sharp specifically urged establishing funding levels on the basis of “qualified and quantified actual need” through a process of interagency cooperation, intergovernmental cooperation between tribal, state and federal governments, incentives to encourage public-private partnerships and expansion of tribal self-determination. The White House Council should document and assess “tribal government and community needs in terms of types of community needs quantified in terms of financial requirements for the next year and for the next three years,” said Sharp.

To strengthen the government-to-government relationship the Quinault statement to the White House Council called for the designation of representatives from the Department of State, Department of the Interior and the Department of Commerce joined by President Obama’s Senior Policy Advisor for Native American Affairs and Associate Director of Intergovernmental Affairs to enter into a dialogue with a Tribal Government Contact Group to discuss and negotiate a “framework for intergovernmental relations between tribal and federal governments.” The White House Council was also urged to recommend to President Obama the designation of a Special Counsel with the “authority of the President” to negotiate settlement of intergovernmental disputes between Indian nations and the United States government.

Clearly, my government welcomes the opportunity to offer concrete comments and recommendations to the White House Council on Native American Affairs as we enter another milestone in President Barack Obama’s commitment to strengthen the government-to-government relationship with Tribal Nations, said Sharp.

The new White House Council was established in a June 26, 2013 executive order by President Obama to improve coordination of federal programs and the use of resources available to tribal communities. It is chaired by the Secretary of the Interior, Sally Jewell, and is comprised of the heads of numerous federal executive departments and agencies. The council conducted a nationwide conference call Tuesday to help determine its mission and future activities, intended to strengthen the nation-to-nation relationship and facilitate the efficient delivery of government services.

If this new White House Council follows the right path, gets out of Washington D.C., works with the tribal nations on a true government-to-government basis and follows through on the need to work with us to find true solutions to our economic crises, we can and will make progress toward a better tomorrow,” said Sharp.

History Sails Full Circle as Tall Ships Escort Northwest Native Canoes

on Arel/Coastal ImagesLady Washington, left, and Hawaiian Chieftain will escort 100 canoes.

on Arel/Coastal Images
Lady Washington, left, and Hawaiian Chieftain will escort 100 canoes.

Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network

The first tall ships that visited Quinault territory were harbingers of European and American empirical designs. And not all of those visits ended well.

The first European visitors were, presumably, Spanish explorers, arriving off what is now Point Grenville in the schooner Sonora on July 11, 1775 to claim the land for Spain. That visit ended with a bloody battle between Quinault men and the Spanish crew. (Quinault Nation treasurer Lawrence Ralston has a uniform emblem found on the Lower Quinault River confirmed by Spain to be of Spanish origin, circa the 1700s.)

Next came the Americans, in 1788, to trade; then the British, in 1792, to flex their claim on the area and assign British place names. The U.S. inherited Spain and Britain’s claims in the Pacific Northwest through a series of treaties between 1819 and 1846—although nobody asked the Quinaults for their thoughts on the matter. Treaties with indigenous nations and attempts to force the assimilation of the first peoples followed.

The new landing site for cedar canoes hewn by a new generation of Native carvers (Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)
The new landing site for cedar canoes hewn by a new generation of Native carvers (Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission)


Next month, during the annual Canoe Journey, history will come full circle when the tall ships Lady Washington and Hawaiian Chieftain escort up to 100 canoes—from First Nations in Washington and British Columbia—as they travel along the open coast from Neah Bay in Makah Nation territory to Taholah at the Quinault Indian Nation, which hosts the journey, August 1 to 6.

The Canoe Journey has “made a tremendous contribution to public education about the heritage of Native people and tribes and First Nations of the Pacific Northwest and British Columbia,” Quinault Indian Nation President Fawn Sharp says. “The events have also contributed mightily to the cultural reinvigoration of Native people and the connection between Indian and non-Indian governments and communities.

“By inviting the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain to participate in this event, protocols are being followed which were neglected by tall ships of the past. This could thus be viewed as an opportunity to help make some amends for some past transgressions. Moreover, the participation of these tall ships in this event also helps convey a message that tribal and nontribal communities choose to look forward to and work together on a collaborative basis toward common objectives.”

The Quinault Nation invited the tall ships to escort the canoes this year because 2013 is the 225th anniversary of first contact between the U.S. and the Indigenous Peoples of the Pacific Northwest. “We are very excited to be able to participate in this important cultural event,” says Les Bolton, executive director of the Grays Harbor Historical Seaport Authority, which owns the Lady Washington and the Hawaiian Chieftain.

“2013 marks the 225th anniversary of the first contact between the newly independent United States and the rich coastal cultures of the Pacific Northwest,” says Bolton. “Since that first contact seven generations ago, our world has changed significantly. We want to encourage all people to consider where we began, where we are today, and give thought to the world we want our descendants, seven generations from now, to inherit.”

Launched in 1989 as part of the Washington State Centennial, the Lady Washington is a wooden replica of one of the first U.S.-flagged ships to visit the West Coast of North America. In 1788, the original Lady Washington arrived off the coast of what would later become Oregon to trade with the area’s Indigenous Peoples for furs, then sailed north past Quinault territory en route to Vancouver Island.

The modern Canoe Journey traces its roots to 1989, when educator Emmett Oliver of the Quinault Nation and Frank Brown of the Heiltsuk First Nation in British Columbia developed a canoe journey to be held in conjunction with the Washington State Centennial celebration. The resulting event—the Paddle to Seattle from indigenous lands in Washington and Canada—generated interest among other Northwest Coast Native peoples who wanted to revive the traditional form of travel on the ancestral marine highways. The Canoe Journey has been an annual event since 1993; the Quinault Nation last hosted in 2002.

During the journey, canoe families visit indigenous territories en route to the host destination and share their cultures. Each Canoe Journey is a logistical feat for host destinations, which provide meals and gifts to thousands of guests and host about 100 cultural presentations over a period of a week.

The journey is a feat of fitness for pullers. Pulling long distances in a canoe requires emotional, physical and spiritual fitness. Pledges to be alcohol-free, drug-free and, in many cases, smoke-free, are required. That’s had a tremendous impact on younger pullers.


Spanish emblem (circa 1700s) found in Lower Quinault River (Courtesy Lawrence Ralston)
Spanish emblem (circa 1700s) found in Lower Quinault River (Courtesy Lawrence Ralston)


Indigenous languages are spoken on the journey, particularly at the canoe landings when skippers ask hosts for permission for pullers to come ashore, and at evening ceremonies when traditional dances and songs are shared.

The journey features beautiful cedar canoes carved by a new generation of Native carvers. And the participation of Indigenous Peoples from around the world has grown each year. Among the participants in recent journeys: Ainu (an indigenous people in Japan), Native Hawaiians, Maori, Tlingit and Yupik. “Cedar canoes are deeply significant to our people,” Sharp explains. “Not only do they reflect a connection with the art and practicality of our past, they represent a statement of our commitment to sustain our values and legacies into the future. They are a living embodiment of Northwest tribal tradition, a powerful bond that strengthens our cultural, economic and environmental resolve. They are a reflection of our identity, as individuals and as nations.”

The Canoe Journey is empowering to young pullers. Courage and perseverance are learned on the water and from stories shared by elders. At the Canoe Journey skippers meeting February 23, George Adams, Nooksack, told of his grandmother’s residential school experience, how her mouth was taped shut because she refused to stop speaking her language. For his grandmother, the tape “was a badge of honor. She didn’t give up speaking her language. There are people who have stories on the journey. Listen to the stories, listen to the songs.”

The journey has done a lot to build bridges between Native and non-Native communities as well. Exposure to cultural activities associated with the journey has helped break down barriers and grow cultural understanding. “The Canoe Journey is an event that can help tell people throughout the country that the tribes are still here,” said Sharp, a lawyer and administrative law judge who is also president of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians. “We’re not going anywhere. We’re alive and well and we will be heard.”

There are other significant aspects of this Canoe Journey:

Restoring a Sacred Gathering Place
The landing will be at Point Grenville, Washington, where the Spanish landed in 1775 and which the British visited and named in 1792. “We want to acknowledge the historical significance of Point Grenville,” Sharp said. “Our Creator blessed our ancestors with ancient knowledge, a sacred and beautiful gathering place, a rich culture, economy, and heritage that were actively practiced at Point Grenville. After centuries of Quinault occupation, Spanish and foreign greed and a desire to lay claim to our lands led to bloodshed and war.”

In the 1930s, Quinault created a scenic park at Point Grenville. The site later became home to a U.S. Coast Guard LORAN Station. For the past three decades, Point Grenville has been vacant. For the Canoe Journey, Quinault has developed or is developing on Point Grenville beach access trails, lawns, a flag pavilion, and viewing areas. The nation is installing three carved-story poles that symbolize Quinault spirituality, sovereignty, and restoration. “This year, our generation [is] restoring the spiritual, cultural and economic significance of our sacred gathering places, starting at the most westerly point of our tribal homelands,” Sharp said. “This year, the entire world will celebrate this restoration and the beauty of our people, lands and ancestral inheritance.”

Monitoring Marine Health
Several canoes will again be outfitted with probes that collect information about water conditions: dissolved oxygen, pH levels, salinity, temperature, and turbidity. Data collected in each Canoe Journey since 2008 are being processed and mapped by the U.S. Geological Survey to help identify signs of climate change, impacts from development, and changes in the levels and types of nutrients and pollutants washing into the ocean.

It’s the melding of one of the oldest technologies on the sea—the carved cedar canoe—with some of the newest technology. Each stainless-steel probe is two feet long and two-and-a-half inches in diameter, and trails the canoe at a depth of six feet, according to the survey. On the trailing edge of the probe are sensors that collect water-quality data every 10 seconds. The data are transmitted to a data logger on board the canoe, and the latitude and longitude is automatically recorded via global positioning system. “When we are able to so capably use traditional tools to achieve such contemporary objectives, a special connection is made that underscores the significance of knowing and understanding tribal history,” Sharp says.

“That is a lesson I hope people will learn from the journey—that there are solutions to the challenges we face today in the annals of our history. Challenges, such as climate change, ocean acidification, water pollution and even social and economic challenges can all be far more easily resolved if we choose to learn from history. Even with today’s computer technology, so many answers to the challenges we all face today are in the wisdom of the ages.”

Honoring Those in Uniform
The theme of this year’s journey is Honoring Our Warriors, a tribute to Native men and women in uniform. “We feel it is important for people everywhere to know that tribal members have been first to serve in the U.S. Armed Forces,” Sharp said, and at a greater number per capita than any other ethnic group. “They deserve every honor we can bestow on them.”

For further information on the 2013 Canoe Journey, visit