Native Americans protest proposed Arizona copper mine

By David Schwartz, Reuters

Members of a Native American tribe in Arizona took to the roadways on Monday to protest against a proposal for a massive copper mine at a small town east of Phoenix, vowing to protect sacred lands.

A small group from the San Carlos Apache tribe began a scheduled cross-country caravan to Washington, D.C., to try to persuade the U.S. Congress to save an area known as the Oak Flat campground near Superior, Arizona.

The several dozen protesters hope to garner wide public support and get lawmakers to repeal a land exchange signed last year that paves the way for a $6 billion project by Resolution Copper Mining, a company jointly owned by Britain’s Rio Tinto and Australia’s BHP Billiton Ltd.

“This is sacred land to us and what they are doing is a betrayal,” tribal elder Sandra Rambler said in a telephone interview from the caravan. “It’s like someone ripping the guts out of you right when you’re standing there. We will not sit still and allow this to happen.”

Mine supporters tout its expected benefits, including about 3,700 jobs and $60 billion in economic impacts.

Project spokeswoman Jennifer Russo said the company was committed to involving tribal members and has reached out to “open the lines of communication and work cooperatively to address the issues.”

The battle lines were set in December when President Barack Obama approved the exchange of 2,400 acres (970 hectares) deemed sacred to Native Americans and precious to environmentalists.

The exchange was tucked into a defense spending bill and supported by members of Arizona’s delegation including former Republican presidential contender John McCain, who called the bi-partisan bill a “game-changer” for the area.

He also said in a statement last month that no tribal land or land designated as sacred by the U.S. Interior Department was involved and that the legislation includes key concessions to address opponents’ concerns.

Organizers said plans call for the caravan to stop at Native American reservations nationwide, adding to its ranks along the way. The goal is for 1,000 people to descend on the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol on July 21, Rambler said.

“We’re the first Americans, and our voices need to be heard and they will be heard,” she said.


(Editing by Cynthia Johnston and Eric Walsh)

Tribes Object To Forced Opening Of ‘Sacred Mountain’ To Public

Rattlesnake Mountain as seen from the Horn Rapids area near Richland, Washington.Umptanum Wikimedia
Rattlesnake Mountain as seen from the Horn Rapids area near Richland, Washington.
Umptanum Wikimedia


By Tom Banse, Northwest News Network

The Yakama Nation and neighboring tribes are strongly objecting to a Congressional move to offer public access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain, a place tribal members consider sacred.

The mountain lies in the Hanford Reach National Monument near Richland, Washington.

Central Washington’s outgoing Republican Congressman Doc Hastings authored the requirement that the federal government provide some degree of public access. The provision is now tacked on to a must-pass defense spending bill.

Access to the windswept, treeless mountain overlooking the Hanford nuclear site is currently highly restricted. Philip Rigdon supervises the Yakama Nation Department of Natural Resources. He said the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain should remain off-limits to the general public.

“The mountain is a place that is critical to our culture, our religion and the ceremonies that we continue to perform today,” Rigdon said.

But Rigdon’s arguments may be in vain. A Democratic Senate staffer said the defense spending bill now includes so many unrelated member requests, it’s expected to pass by a wide margin this week.

Last week, the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act won U.S. House approval on a bipartisan 300-119 vote. Many public lands provisions that have been bottled up in the divided Congress for years have now been folded into the mammoth bill.

Some of the measures of Northwest interest would expand the Oregon Caves National Monument and Alpine Lakes Wilderness and protect the Hanford B Reactor as part of a new Manhattan Project National Historical Park.

Representative Hastings had long sought to force the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the relevant land manager, through legislation to provide greater access to Rattlesnake Mountain. The House unanimously passed such a bill in 2013, but it died without a hearing in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

“The views of Indian tribes are legitimate, and they have a right to be heard and consulted,” Hastings said during an earlier House committee hearing. “But the views of local communities and all citizens also deserve to be heard and listened to — and there is overwhelming local public support for access to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain.”

“The public should expect that if they can visit the summit of Mt. Rainier, then they certainly should be allowed to the summit of Rattlesnake Mountain,” Hastings said as he described the “unparalled views” of the Columbia Basin from the ridge. A gated, paved road leads to the summit.

The Native American name for Rattlesnake Mountain is “Laliik.” Rigdon said Columbia Plateau tribes such as the Yakama, Umatilla and Nez Perce want to preserve the “spiritual” qualities of a holy place.

“It’s astonishing to me that we continue this total disregard for our religion, our ceremonies and this place that has provided for us,” concluded Rigdon.

“Laliik is our Mount Sinai,” Yakama tribal Chairman JoDe Goudy wrote in a recent letter to U.S. senators. “When our Long House leaders feel that a young adult is ready and worthy, Laliik is where they are sent to fast and to have vision quests. This is not a place for Airstreams and Winnebagos.”

The Rattlesnake Mountain provision is one of several aspects of the defense spending bill that trouble tribes. The Yakama Nation chairman also wrote to oppose the transfer of more than 1,000 acres of surplus land at the urbanized edge of the Department of Energy’s Hanford Site for economic development.

Northwest tribes are also joining in solidarity with Native bands in the Southwest who object to the transfer of Tonto National Forest land to a private company that plans to mine for copper.

Rep. Paul Gosar Calls Native Americans ‘Wards Of The Federal Government’

UNITED STATES - NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) | Tom Williams via Getty Images
UNITED STATES – NOVEMBER 14: Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz., talks with reporters outside a meeting of House Republican Steering Committee meeting in Cannon Building, November 14, 2014. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call) | Tom Williams via Getty Images


By Felicia Fonseca, AP

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. (AP) — U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar’s reference to American Indians as “wards of the federal government” has struck a harsh chord with tribal members and legal experts in the days following a discussion about a controversial Arizona land deal that would make way for the country’s largest copper mine.

The Arizona Republican was responding to concerns from Phil Stago of the White Mountain Apache Tribe when he made the comment that stunned people at the round-table talk.

Stago said the phrase is antiquated and ignores advances made in tribes managing their own affairs and seeking equal representation when it comes to projects proposed on land they consider sacred.

“He kind of revealed the truth — the true deep feeling of the federal government: ‘Tribes, you can call yourselves sovereign nations, but when it comes down to the final test, you’re not really sovereign because we still have plenary authority over you,'” Stago told The Associated Press.

Gosar spokesman Steven Smith said that wasn’t the intent of the congressman, whose constituents in the 4th Congressional District include Apache tribes. He didn’t respond to requests to elaborate further.

“If that’s what he got out of that, I think it’s misconstrued,” Smith said. “If you look at the work the congressman has done, that’s far from the truth.”

Smith said Gosar has been an advocate for strengthening the relationship between tribes and the federal government. He pointed to legislation he sponsored this year that would do so.

Gosar held the discussion Friday in Flagstaff with Democratic Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick, who grew up with Stago on Arizona’s Fort Apache Reservation.

Dozens of people attended the meeting to discuss land, mining and forest issues with the representatives.

One topic they addressed was a proposal to swap 2,400 acres of southeastern Arizona’s Tonto National Forest for about 5,300 acres of environmentally sensitive land throughout the state controlled by a subsidiary of global mining giant Rio Tinto. Stago said the proposal was disrespectful to tribal sovereignty.

Gosar said: “You’re still wards of the federal government,” according to the Arizona Daily Sun.

While former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall described tribes’ relationship with the federal government as that of a ward to its guardian in the 1830s, that characterization has long been irrelevant, experts in federal Indian law said.

Tribal members once seen as incompetent in the Supreme Court’s eyes became U.S. citizens in 1924, and the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 pushed the concept of tribal sovereignty and self-determination, said Troy Eid, a Republican and former U.S. attorney in Colorado.

Congress maintains control over Indian affairs.

However, the Interior Department is moving away from archaic paternalism when it comes to relationships with tribes, a spokeswoman said. The Bureau of Indian Affairs’ website notes the federal government is a trustee of Indian property — not the guardian of all American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Eid said the language that defines core concepts of Indian law is old and often ethnically offensive. “Wards of the federal government” is no different, he said.

“That’s just not appropriate,” Eid said. “In the heated context of what this represents, it’s especially inappropriate to be resorting to what amounts to race baiting.”

The trend has been for tribes to take more control over their affairs while holding the federal government to promises generally born out of treaties. In exchange for tribal land, the government promised things like health care, education and social services in perpetuity for members of federally recognized tribes.

Some tribes are taking advantage of federal laws that allow them to prosecute felony crimes and assert jurisdiction over non-Natives in limited cases of domestic violence. They also have the authority to approve trust land leases directly, rather than wait for BIA approval.

Sam Deloria, a member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who served for 35 years as director of the American Indian Law Center in Albuquerque, New Mexico, said tribes welcome discussion about policy matters.

But when someone makes a comment like Gosar’s, “it doesn’t contribute much to the debate,” he said.

Bellingham council votes to recognize Coast Salish Day

Johnny Moses, a member of the Tulalip Tribe, smiles as he speaks before a signing ceremony by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for a resolution designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous People's Day, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Seattle. Murray invited city council members and tribal leaders to the Monday afternoon signing ceremony for resolution, which the council approved a week earlier, designating it as a day to celebrate the culture and contributions of Native Americans. The second Monday in October is celebrated nationally as Columbus Day, which also has been a day to celebrate people of Italian heritage. ELAINE THOMPSON — AP Photo
Johnny Moses, a member of the Tulalip Tribe, smiles as he speaks before a signing ceremony by Seattle Mayor Ed Murray for a resolution designating the second Monday in October as Indigenous People’s Day, Monday, Oct. 13, 2014, in Seattle. Murray invited city council members and tribal leaders to the Monday afternoon signing ceremony for resolution, which the council approved a week earlier, designating it as a day to celebrate the culture and contributions of Native Americans. The second Monday in October is celebrated nationally as Columbus Day, which also has been a day to celebrate people of Italian heritage. ELAINE THOMPSON — AP Photo

By Samantha Wohlfeil, The Bellingham Herald

BELLINGHAM — By a 6-0 vote, City Council officially recognized Coast Salish Day on the date federally recognized as Columbus Day at its regular Monday night meeting, Oct. 13.

At the Monday afternoon meeting that fell on the federal holiday, all six council members present said they would support an ordinance recognizing Coast Salish Day on the second Monday of October each year, the same date that is nationally set aside for Columbus Day. Council member Jack Weiss, who joined council members Roxanne Murphy and Terry Bornemann in presenting the ordinance, was absent.

At previous meetings, Murphy had announced she would bring the ordinance forward to honor local tribes on the day many still use to honor explorer Christopher Columbus.

Council received an outpouring of community feedback about the proposal, ranging from people who said, “Pick another day,” to young tribal members who said they are still bullied for how they look, to general support from a variety of community members, Murphy said.

“I’m just hoping we can do right by the negativity the Coast Salish have experienced,” Murphy said.

Neither the city nor the state officially recognize Columbus Day as a holiday. For council member Michael Lilliquist, that meant the recognition of Coast Salish Day would not take anything away from the city but serve to celebrate the city’s historical connection with Coast Salish people.

“The names we use for streets and places here are Coast Salish names,” Lilliquist said. “It’s important to recognize that, not just as something of the past, but something that’s still living today. They’re still here. I’m not really happy with focusing on Columbus. I don’t want to get into that fight.”

Bornemann said he was happy to help Murphy bring the ordinance forward.

“We have a shared history with the Coast Salish people here. … Some of it has not been all that good,” Bornemann said.

Bornemann recalled an incident from many years ago when he was downtown and called 911 for someone who needed medical help. He remembered being asked if the person was Native American.

“I said it was none of their … business, they needed to get someone down there,” Bornemann said.

“I think this is one little step of recognizing what valuable contributions (the Coast Salish people) made to this area, and their long, noble history,” Bornemann continued.

Council members Gene Knutson, Pinky Vargas and Cathy Lehman all voiced their support for the ordinance and thanked Murphy for bringing the proposal to council.

In the future, all second Mondays in October could include the raising of tribal flags at City Hall and events featuring speeches from tribal leaders, along with other traditions the Nooksack Indian Tribe and Lummi Nation or other Coast Salish tribes would like to bring forward, according to a proposal accompanying the city ordinance.

“Most fundamentally,” the proposal reads, “the dream is that all future Coast Salish Days will remove any previous negativity from the former holiday and institute a day of celebration, culture, healing and respect.”

Seattle City Council passed a similar ordinance Oct. 6, recognizing Indigenous People’s Day.

Washington is one of several states that do not celebrate Columbus Day as a legal holiday. Banks and federal government offices are typically closed for the federal holiday. Bellingham city offices will not close for Coast Salish Day.

Read more here:

Lamprey Fishing Blessing Ceremony Has Tribal Sovereignty Undertone

By Tom Banse, NW News Network

For centuries, Native Americans from Boise to Wenatchee to the southern Oregon coast have harvested Pacific lamprey, colloquially called eels. The ugly-looking critter resembles an eel, but it is actually a primitive fish with a distinctive, toothy suction cup mouth.

Lamprey pieces (center) sizzle between salmon in a traditional preparation, which was served to attendees at the “blessing ceremony.”
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network


Willamette Falls, just outside Portland, is one of the few remaining places in the Northwest where it is possible — and legal — to catch Pacific lamprey for personal and ceremonial use. Tribal members are about the only ones who go for it.

During a “blessing ceremony” for lamprey and fishermen held at the confluence of the Willamette and Clackamas Rivers Monday, tribal schoolchildren led an eel dance, a sort of snaking Conga line more than 50 strong of all ages.

One of the fishermen there, Patrick Luke, is a Yakama Nation biologist. Luke is still miffed about the ticket he received from Oregon Fish and Wildlife police at the nearby falls in 2011.

“Now they have got folks on the reservation that won’t even come down here because they are afraid that enforcement will intimidate folks like they did in the past,” Luke said. “I grew up living that way in the 1970s seeing the state policemen treat the Indian folks really bad.”

Three years later, the Yakama Nation is still fighting Luke’s ticket. Two other fishermen were also cited and had their catches seized that day for fishing without a state permit. The thing is, Oregon does not “co-manage” lamprey the same as salmon or game.

Yakama Nation biologist Patrick Luke with posters made by tribal school students for the blessing ceremony.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network


“It is not a treaty right,” State Police Captain Jeff Samuels explained. “It is definitely open to all,” with everyone under the same rules, he said of the state’s approach.

From the tribal point of view, they believe they shouldn’t need the state’s permission.

“They don’t set our seasons,” Luke said. “We have our own law enforcement that sets our own seasons.”

At Oregon’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, fishery managers are trying to finesse the issue so it doesn’t escalate. The department’s Tony Nigro said his agency is trying to reach an understanding that at least clarifies the rules.

“The state has its policies and its legal positions,” Nigro said. “They aren’t necessarily in agreement (with tribal positions) at this point in time. But we respect and recognize the differences. I think we’ve been fairly good at putting those differences aside, seeing if we can work cooperatively.”

Children and tribal elders alike danced the eel dance at Clackamette Park on Monday.
Credit Tom Banse / Northwest News Network


Nigro said Northwest states, tribes and the federal government have a common goal to keep Pacific lamprey off the endangered list. Populations of the migratory fish have declined dramatically in recent decades. The reasons are many including dams and water diversions. Lamprey have trouble swimming up fish ladders designed for salmon. However, both sides see room for a limited ceremonial and subsistence harvest within a larger recovery effort.

Evaline Patt, a Warm Springs tribal council member, said lamprey used to be a staple in the diets of Columbia and Snake River basin tribes.

“It’s a rare treat now,” she said, “It’s getting to be a delicacy.”

Patt compared lamprey to oysters. Others said it tastes like fishy steelhead.



Tulalip man known for helping others needs help

Randy Ervin and family. , Photo by Alyson Pennant
Randy Ervin and family. , Photo by Alyson Pennant

Randy Ervin’s GoFundMe campaign opened to help deal with life changing stroke


By Niki Cleary, Tulalip News

Randy Ervin is a guy who loves life. Ask his many friends who have enjoyed, or lovingly suffered, his bizarrely funny bitstrips and constant Christmas countdowns. He’s also a friend, a mentor, a beloved co-worker and leader. He’s a beacon of hope for those in recovery, and a poster child for living better sober than addicted. Since February 25, Randy has been completely incapacitated after suffering a massive stroke. He is looking at returning to a two-story home and full time caregiving, with no prospects of returning to a normal life anytime soon.

Randy’s wife of 23 years, Tina Ervin, painted the picture.

“I left the house on February 25, I was only gone for about half an hour,” she explained. “I came home and he was sitting in the chair and he was just sitting there. He was non-responsive. I pulled up on his face, and I said, he’s having a stroke.”

Randy was in a medically induced coma for a week and a half. Doctors kept him breathing with a ventilator while they monitored the swelling in his brain. It took another two weeks to slowly bring him out of the coma.

“His right side is paralyzed,” Ervin said, describing her husband’s symptoms. “He’s learning how to speak all over again. He lost the ability to form words when he tries to talk and he’s learning to write with his left hand.

“If you write ‘apple, banana’ and leave an open space, he’s trying to figure out what to put in that open space, but he can’t tell you that the line of words means fruit.  His brain is still not firing the way it should. Three hours a day he’s in physical and speech therapy, they’re teaching him how to use the other side of his brain.”

Family and friends aren’t the same for Randy either, many of his memories are missing because of the stroke.

“He didn’t recognize his brother, his best friend,” said Ervin. “Our anniversary is the 23rd of this month [March], and he didn’t even remember that. But he did recognize Pete Warbus from the casino. He loves his crew and his job. Other than his family, that’s his life.”

A family friend, Mike Pablo, helped Ervin set up a GoFundMe account to help raise money for Randy’s expenses, which are numerous. The stroke is the most recent in a cascade of medical complications. In 2013 Randy was diagnosed with a tumor in his colon. Because colon cancer runs in his family, the best option was to remove it surgically. After the surgery, things went downhill quickly.

“He was eating dinner and he coughed,” said Ervin. “His shirt started filling up with blood. By the end of the night it turned brown and started to smell really bad. He stood up and it just gushed out of his belly. I rushed him to the hospital and the surgeon said, ‘Why did you wait so long!’

“They said his small intestine blew out like an inner tube blows out if you fill it too much. From there, his kidneys shut down. He spent more than 48 days in the hospital. It was a long road, but he finally went back to work December 23rd. The aneurysm came out of nowhere.”

Because of his ongoing medical care Randy has no paid time off remaining, leaving his family deprived of the primary breadwinner. Because his leave has been exhausted he will likely lose his job at the Tulalip Resort, a job that currently provides the medical insurance paying for his care. Ervin said they’re doing what they can, but she’s concerned about how to pay for ongoing medical expenses and the necessary remodel of their home.

“I talked to Jay Napeahi in housing because my house is not set up for a wheelchair and I don’t have a full-sized bathroom downstairs. In the meantime they’re going to put us up in a duplex. We’re trying to raise some funds, we’re going to have to buy a wheelchair and some other equipment and I’m not sure how much his insurance will cover.”

His co-workers are doing what they can.

“We are definitely feeling the loss of him not being here,” said friend and co-worker Ashley Hammons. “It was a mess here, and everyone was trying to hold it together. ”

Resort employee Aliana Diaz agreed.

“It was pretty bad to the point where we approached the Employee Assistance Program and let them know that several of our team members were affected by it. I was giving them a heads up that people might need them.”

Slot Assistant Director James Ham, who has known Randy for years, described the outpouring of support, “Randy did a lot to give back. He would talk to anyone in addiction and recovery, he was reaching out constantly. I’ve seen a lot of people donate hours, there’s definitely been an outreach here.”

Coping with medical bills, the trauma of becoming a full time caregiver and the unknown challenges of the future might seem overwhelming, but Ervin’s been too busy to dwell on it.

“Ever since this happened it’s been, ‘What’s the worst case scenario?’ I’ve just tried to get everything going rather than sitting around and crying all the time. Right now we need a different bed, probably just a full size, because our water bed is too big [for the duplex].”

If you would like to help Randy’s family, check out and search Randy Ervin. The family is hoping to raise $15,000 to remodel the family’s home and get Randy set up for full time caregiving. As of March 25, $1,270 has been raised towards that goal. Ervin said every bit helps.


Crowdfunding is becoming the new hand up


At the Tulalip 2014 Annual General Council, Tulalip Tribal citizen Mike Pablo made a motion to create an emergency relief fund for tribal members who are in need, either due to emergent medical situations, or because of natural disasters, fire or other catastrophes beyond their control. When he made the motion he was thinking about Tulalip citizen Randy Ervin who recently suffered a life-altering stroke. The motion was tabled, so instead, Mike helped the Ervin family to set up a crowdfunding site.

Increasingly, crowdfunding has become a way for people to directly support their causes. Whether it’s Matika Wilbur’s use of Kickstarter to launch Project 562, a photo project documenting contemporary Native America, or Randy Ervin’s GoFundMe campaign, citizens are turning to their peers, rather than a government agency, for assistance.

Crowdfunding isn’t new, in 1884 the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty ran short on money and Joseph Pulitzer launched an enormously popular fundraising effort. More than 125,000 people donated (mostly donations of less than $1) ultimately bringing in over $100,000. According to the website, $1 in 1884 is equivalent to $24.50 today. So, a similar donation by modern citizens would mean about $25 each to raise around $2.5 million. This example is clear evidence that financial support for a cause doesn’t have to be a financial burden in order to be effective.

Crowdfunding quickly becoming a way for tiny businesses, broke inventors, and unknown musicians to launch a career. Unlike traditional investing, crowdsource funding doesn’t promise a return on investment, just the knowledge that your money is directly funding a cause that you support. According to the 2013 Massolution Crowdfunding Industry Report ( crowdfunding is anticipated to bring in $5.1 billion in total global funding for the year.

Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native Archaeological Site

Ashley AhearnLummi tribal council member Jay Julius points to an area of Cherry Point that was disturbed by Pacific International Terminals.
Ashley Ahearn
Lummi tribal council member Jay Julius points to an area of Cherry Point that was disturbed by Pacific International Terminals.

BELLINGHAM, Wash. – Three summers ago the company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in North America failed to obtain the environmental permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres of land, including some wetlands.

Pacific International Terminals also failed to meet a requirement to consult first with local Native American tribes, the Lummi and Nooksack tribes, about the potential archaeological impacts of the work. Sidestepping tribal consultation meant avoiding potential delays and roadblocks for the project’s development.

It also led to the disturbance of a site from which 3,000-year-old human remains had previously been removed—and where archeologists and tribal members suspect more are buried.

Pacific International Terminals and its parent corporation, SSA Marine, subsequently settled for copy.6 million for violations under the Clean Water Act.

According to company documents obtained by EarthFix after the lawsuit made them public, Pacific International Terminals drilled 37 boreholes throughout the site, ranging from 15 feet to 130 feet in depth, without following procedures required by the Army Corps of Engineers under the National Historic Preservation Act.

Map showing locations of 37 boreholes that Pacific International Terminals drilled at the proposed site of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.
Map showing locations of 37 boreholes that Pacific International Terminals drilled at the proposed site of the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

(The original document the image is from, is available here.)


The Gateway Pacific Terminal is one of three coal export facilities proposed in Oregon and Washington. Mining and transportation interests want to move Wyoming and Montana coal by train so it can be loaded onto vessels on the Columbia River or Puget Sound and shipped to Asia.

The projects have been met with strong opposition from various groups concerned about increases in train and vessel traffic, coal dust and climate change.

The conflict between Gateway Pacific developers and the Lummi tribe underscores just how deep opposition can run among Native Americans whose homelands are in close proximity to proposed coal-shipping facilities. For tribes, the stakes include the protection of their treaty fishing rights and the sanctity of their ancestral burial grounds.

One of the boreholes at the Gateway Pacific site was drilled within an area designated as “site 45WH1,” the first documented archaeological site in Whatcom County, about 20 miles south of the Canadian border.

Boreholes are drilled to test the soil composition and geology of a site. In this case, the test was to help determine if the ground at Cherry Point could stand up to 48 million tons of coal moving over it each year.

Government regulators and tribal officials say they were unaware of Pacific International Terminals’ non-permitted work at Cherry Point until a local resident was out walking in the area, saw the activity, and reported it.

Pacific International Terminals said it was an accident. The company had planned to drill 36 more boreholes at the site before their activity was reported.

According to a document the company submitted to the Army Corps of Engineers four months prior to the non-permitted activities at the site, Pacific International Terminals knew the exact location of site 45WH1 and had said that “no direct impacts to site 45WH1 are anticipated as the project has been designed to avoid impacts within the site boundaries.”

In the document the company said that to mitigate potential impacts it would have an archaeologist on hand for any work done within 200 feet of site 45WH1. The company also acknowledged that it needed an “inadvertent discovery plan” in case human remains or other artifacts were uncovered, and that it would be required to consult with the Lummi tribe under Section 106 of the National Historic Preservation Act before any work could begin at the site. Pacific International Terminals did none of those things.

“By going ahead and doing it illegally and then saying, ‘oh sorry,’ but actually having the data now, it allows them to start planning now,” said Knoll Lowney, one of the lawyers who represented the Bellingham-based environmental group RE Sources in its lawsuit against the terminal’s backers. “That way if they get their permits someday they’re ready to build right then.”

Pacific International Terminals and its parent company, SSA Marine, declined repeated requests for an interview; Bob Watters, senior vice president of SSA Marine, emailed this statement:

“We sincerely respect the Lummi way of life and … their cultural values. Claims that our project will disturb sacred burial sites are absolutely incorrect and fabricated by project opponents. We continue to believe we can come to an understanding with the Lummi Nation regarding the Gateway Pacific Terminal.”

Site 45WH1

Cherry Point and the waterways surrounding it are a culturally significant place for the Lummi Nation and other tribes. Ancestors of the Lummi peoples hunted, fished and buried their dead at Cherry Point for more than 3,000 years. And there is no shortage of archaeological evidence to prove it.

45WH1, a small section of Cherry Point, just 50 by 500 meters in size, is the most extensively studied archaeological site in Whatcom County. The location is not shared publicly because it is spiritually important to the tribe and they are afraid of people looting the site.

Western Washington University Faculty Herbert Taylor and Garland Grabert conducted seven separate field excavations at the site between 1954 and 1986.

Western Washington University Anthropology Professor Sarah Campbell. (Ashley Ahearn)
Western Washington University Anthropology Professor Sarah Campbell. (Ashley Ahearn)

Both archaeologists have since died. Sarah Campbell, a professor of anthropology at Western Washington University, has studied the artifacts from 45WH1 since the late 1980s. It is a large collection, filling 150 boxes and includes harpoon points, shells, amulets, lip ornaments, reef net weights, beads, jewelry, blades and bone and rock tools, among other things.

Cherry Point is an area rich in potential for future research, Campbell says as she sorts through boxes filled with tiny plastic bags, each one labeled “45WH1.”

The area was used not only to hunt and fish, but also to manufacture reef net weights made of stone, which suggests permanent residence at the site. Campbell and others believe the site was used extensively over a long period of time, spanning from 3,500 years ago until relatively recently.

Arrow point found at site 45WH1. (Ashley Ahearn)
Arrow point found at site 45WH1. (Ashley Ahearn)

The Lummi signed a vast majority of their traditional land away in a treaty with the federal government in 1855. A portion of their traditional land known today as Cherry Point was taken at a later date; the tribe has disputed whether this was done lawfully. It is now owned by SSA Marine and Pacific International Terminals.

“That’s one of those things that makes Cherry Point important is it has a long time span,” she says. “And it provides the chance to see the changing use over time. The chance to do those comparisons through time is really important and useful.”

The Western Washington University collection also includes human remains, and Campbell believes that there are more Lummi ancestors buried at Cherry Point.

“It would be highly, highly, highly unlikely that there are not human remains in unexcavated areas of the site,” she cautions. “It’s absolutely prudent to assume that there are.”

‘My People’s Home’

From the deck of his fishing boat, the God’s Soldier, Lummi tribal council member Jay Julius looks to the shore of Cherry Point. He says that, for the Lummi, the spiritual and cultural value stretches far beyond the boundaries of site 45WH1.

“I see this as my people’s home. I can envision it,” Julius says quietly. “I know what’s there now.”

Reef net weights, carved from the rocks of Cherry Point. (Ashley Ahearn)
Reef net weights, carved from the rocks of Cherry Point. (Ashley Ahearn)

Julius cites Pacific International Terminals’ unpermitted activity at Cherry Point as a major source of tribal opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

“When I come out here, it’s all that’s on my mind—is what took place here at Cherry Point when these guys bulldozed over it and called it an accident,” he said. “It’s obvious. It doesn’t take a genius to figure it out.”

Despite the fact that the Lummi tribal council asserted its “unconditional and unequivocal” opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal in a letter it sent to the Army Corps of Engineers on July 30, the Lummi chose not to take part in the civil suit brought by RE Sources.

That, the group’s attorney Knoll Lowney said, would have strengthened the environmental group’s case against Pacific International Terminals and SSA Marine. The Lummi had standing in a civil court because they could have demonstrated that they were harmed, culturally and spiritually, by Pacific International Terminal’s unpermitted activity at Cherry Point.

“If they don’t take part in the legal process, they’re weakening themselves. They’re throwing away their weapons,” said Tom King, an expert on the National Historic Preservation Act who served on the staff of the federal Advisory Council For Historic Preservation in the 1980s.

The council oversees the permitting of projects that could affect places of historic and archaeological significance, like the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

It is unclear why the Lummi decided against participating in the environmental lawsuit. Diana Bob, attorney for the Lummi, declined to be interviewed for this story.

King said Pacific International Terminals’ non-permitted drilling and disturbance at Cherry Point could put approval of the Gateway Pacific Terminal at risk because the company skirted the requirements of the so-called “106 process” under the National Historic Preservation Act.

“I think the Lummi have a very strong case,” he said. “The site, the area, the landscape—they can show that it’s a very important cultural area and permitting the terminal to go in will have a devastating effect on the cultural value of that landscape.”

The Army Corps of Engineers is now working on finalizing what’s called a “memorandum of agreement” between Pacific International Terminals and the Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation. The Army Corps says the document, which was obtained by EarthFix and KUOW under the Freedom of Information Act, will serve as a retroactive permit.

The Lummi Nation refused to sign the memorandum or accept the $94,500 that was offered as mitigation.

For now, the coal terminal backers are being allowed to move ahead with the permitting process. But that doesn’t mean the larger questions have been resolved around how compatible a coal export terminal is at a location where local Native Americans have lived for millennia.

The tribe and historical preservation officials with the state and federal governments have written letters to the Army Corps objecting to its decision limiting the geographic area studied to determine the potential for damage to archeological resources at Cherry Point—another point of contention as the review continues.


IRS proposes rule to address fishing rights income


Attorneys discuss a proposed Internal Revenue Service regulation that would address income earned from tribal members who exercise their fishing rights:

On November 15, 2013, the Internal Revenue Service published a notice of proposed rule making (NPRM) along with proposed regulations regarding the treatment of certain income derived from Indian fishing rights-related activity when it is contributed to a qualified retirement plan such as a 401(k) or other employer-sponsored pension plan. The notice can be viewed at The proposed regulations clear one of the current hurdles to including employees of an Indian fishing rights operation in a typical employer-sponsored retirement plan, such as a 401(k) plan. Unlike most types of employee compensation, Indian fishing rights-related income is exempt from both income and employment taxes under Internal Revenue Code (IRC) Section 7873(a)(1) and (a)(2). Therefore, Indian fishing rights-related income is not included in a taxpayer’s gross income. The IRS has traditionally taken the position that in order to make a contribution to an individual retirement account (IRA) or a 401(k) plan, an individual must have “compensation” that is included in gross income. The proposed regulations clarify that payments received by Indian tribe members as remuneration for services they perform in fishing rights-related activities will not be excluded from the definition of “compensation” for purposes of IRC Section 415 and underlying regulations, merely because such payments are not subject to income or employment taxes. Consequently, the proposed regulations allow employees receiving such payments to participate in and contribute to a retirement plan qualified under IRC Section 401(a).

Get the Story:
Kathleen M. Nilles, Ariadna Alvarez and Robert B. Bersell: IRS Proposes New Rules On Indian Fishing Rights Income For Retirement Plans ( 11/20)
Username: Password: indianz Federal Register Notice:


Treatment of Income From Indian Fishing Rights-Related Activity as Compensation (November 15, 2013)