Tribal leaders, Commissioner warn of oil train dangers

Washington’s people and environment potentially at risk

Press Release: Washington State Department of Natural Resources

OLYMPIA – Increased oil train traffic on Washington’s aging rail system puts the state’s people and ecosystems at risk, according to an opinion piece by ten tribal leaders and the Washington State Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark, published today in the Seattle Times.

“Crude By Rail: Too Much, Too Soon” calls for federal regulators to improve safety protocols and equipment standards on Washington rail lines to deal with a forty-fold increase in oil train traffic since 2008. Trains carrying crude oil are highly combustible and, if derailed, present serious threats to public safety and environmental health.

Tim Ballew II, chairman of the Lummi Nation; Jim Boyd, chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation; Brian “Spee~Pots” Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community; William B. Iyall, chairman of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe; Maria Lopez, chairwoman of the Hoh Indian Tribe; David Lopeman, chairman of the Squaxin Island Tribe; Fawn Sharp, president of the Quinault Indian Nation; Charles Woodruff, chairman of the Quileute Tribe; Herman Williams Sr., chairman of the Tulalip Tribes; and Gary Burke, chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation joined Commissioner Goldmark in urging policymakers to address critical issues around the increase of oil train traffic through the state.

“The Northwest has suffered from a pollution-based economy,” said Cladoosby in a statement. “We are the first peoples of this great region, and it is our responsibility to ensure that our ancestral fishing, hunting and gathering grounds are not reduced to a glorified highway for industry. Our great teacher, Billy Frank, Jr., taught us that we are the voices of the Salish Sea and salmon, and we must speak to protect them. If we cannot restore the health of the region from past and present pollution, how can we possibly think we can restore and pay for the impact of this new and unknown resource?

“We are invested in a healthy economy, but not an economy that will destroy our way of life. We will not profit from this new industry, but rather, we as citizens of the Northwest will pay, one way or another, for the mess it will leave behind in our backyard. We will stand with Commissioner Goldmark and our fellow citizens and do what we need so those who call this great state home will live a healthy, safe and prosperous life,” said Cladoosby.

“Good public policy demands that we make informed decisions using information based on the best science and perspective that must include cultural values and traditional knowledge,” said Quinault President Fawn Sharp. According to her statement, the Quinault Tribe is leading a movement against three oil terminals in Grays Harbor and most recently joined more than 700 Washington state citizens to testify at an October hearing held by the Department of Ecology.

“The Quinault are national leaders of long-standing in natural resources protection and strive to protect the oceans and waterways across the Northwest,” said Sharp.

For Tulalip Chairman Herman Williams, Sr., endangerment of fish runs by oil train pollution is a key concern.

“For generations we have witnessed the destruction of our way of life, our fishing areas, and the resources we hold dear,” said Williams in a statement. “The Boldt decision very clearly interpreted the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott to reserve 50 percent of the salmon and management to the tribes. The federal government must now partner with tribes to protect the 50 percent of what remains of our fishing rights. The Tulalip Tribes will not allow our children’s future to be taken away for a dollar today. Our treaty rights are not for sale,” said Williams.

According to Commissioner Goldmark, tribal leadership on the oil train issue is essential.

“Tribal leaders bring unique perspective and concern about threats to our treasured landscapes,” said Goldmark. “It’s an honor to join them in this important message about the growth of oil train traffic in our state and the threat it poses to public safety, environmental sustainability, and our quality of life.”

Report: Pedestrian Deaths Disproportionately Affect Native Americans In Wash. State

Bill Kramme Flickr

By Rae Ellen Bichell, KPLU

Listen to report


Pedestrians of American Indian descent at are at higher risk of death in Washington state, according to a report released Tuesday by the National Complete Streets Coalition, a branch of Smart Growth America.

Washington placed 36th out of 50 states and the District of Columbia in a ranking of the most dangerous states to the least dangerous based on the Pedestrian Danger Index, a combined measure of total pedestrian deaths, annual pedestrian deaths and the percentage of people commuting by foot over the past five to eight years. The Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue area ranked 49th out of 51 large metro areas.

But for Washingtonians of American Indian descent, the statistics aren’t as reassuring. Nationwide, Native Americans  have higher rates of fatal traffic accidents than other ethnicities. But that difference is particularly notable in Washington state where all other ethnic groups’ fatality rates are consistently lower than national averages.

Credit Rae Ellen Bichell
Credit Rae Ellen Bichell

‘The Gap, Unfortunately, Is Widening’ 

The Washington Traffic Safety Commission doesn’t plot pedestrian deaths against ethnicity, although it does publish statistics on factors like age and gender. A report on factors in Washington pedestrian fatalities from 2008 to 2012 acknowledges that “Native Americans are disproportionately killed in pedestrian crashes, representing 8.4 percent of pedestrian deaths but less than 2 percent of the total population.”

“The gap, unfortunately, is widening,” said MJ Haught, a program manager and tribal liaison for the Washington Traffic Safety Commission. Over the course of the past few decades, Haught said, the rate of Native American fatalities went from about 2.4 times that of the general population to 3.3. And in 2013, she said, “the data told us that Native American fatalities are 3.9 times higher than the general population. This is obviously not the way we want to go.”

Unlike Other Groups, Native Americans More At Risk On Rural Roads

Both statewide and nationwide, most pedestrian deaths occur in the more populated urban areas. But according to state data, more Native Americans were killed in crashes on rural roads than on urban ones, opposite the pattern seen with pedestrians of all other ethnicities.

Why? There’s no easy answer, but here are a few factors to consider.

Washington state has 29 federally-recognized American Indian tribes. Alaska, California and Oklahoma are the only other states with more tribes within their borders. According to 2010 U.S. Census data, only six states have American Indian and Alaska Native populations greater than that in Washington.

Each reservation is its own sovereign nation with its own laws, which means roads and signs are built and distributed differently. In rural areas, on tribal lands or off, there aren’t always sidewalks, and not all roads are well-lit.

According to the Center for Disease Control and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Americans of Native American and Alaska Native descent tend to be at higher risk of car injuries overall, not just as pedestrians. Some tribes don’t have seat belt laws.

“If you drill down, a huge factor is unbelted fatalities,” said Haught. “The unbelted fatality rate for native Americans is 7.2 times higher for Native Americans in Washington.”

Alcoholism is often cited as a contributing factor. But intoxication, particularly intoxicated pedestrians, is a contributing factor across the board and is not limited to one ethnicity.

Fatality Rate Likely Underreported

Even with the comparatively high rate of Native American pedestrian deaths reported, we may not be getting the full picture. Because each reservation is a sovereign nation, not every tribe shares data with the state, and the data that is available is conservative.

“The rates for fatalities are coming in with death certificates. We’re pretty good at getting all the reports that happen on Washington land, but not necessarily the reports from reservation land. That varies very much by the tribe and the reservation,” said Haught. “We are confident that the traffic deaths are underreported, so it’s an even worse problem than we realized.”

Thomas Holsworth is commander with the Colville Tribal Police Department in Nespelem, in northwest Washington. The reservation covers 1.4 million acres and, as in many rural areas, most of the roadways that crisscross it are narrow, windy country roads without sidewalks.

“The pedestrian walkways are basically the dirt shoulders of the roadways,” says Holsworth. “But I think a lot of it is, they just tend to walk more, sometimes out of necessity, because … they may not own an operable vehicle. There are others that just like to get out and walk, and there’s not a whole lot of safe places to do that.”

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation have gone to great lengths to try to reduce traffic-related deaths on tribal lands, assimilating state traffic codes into their tribal code and launching multiple highway safety programs. Funded by a state grant, the tribes ran a public education campaign to increase awareness about using seat belts, driving under the influence, and launched projects to identify problem roads and walking paths.

In the last five years, Holsworth says, there has only been one pedestrian fatality.

Tribes celebrate opening of $50M fish hatchery

From staff reports
 June 19, 2013


The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation will celebrate the opening of a $50 million salmon hatchery Thursday on the Columbia River.


The Chief Joseph Hatchery will raise chinook salmon for subsistence tribal fishing and non-native sport fishing in the nearby towns of Bridgeport and Brewster. The hatchery is adjacent to Chief Joseph Dam, which is as far north as salmon can swim up the main stem Columbia.


Each year, the hatchery will release up to 2.9 million salmon smolts, which will swim 500 miles downstream to the ocean. A certain percentage will return as adult fish that can be harvested.


John Sirois, chairman of the Colville Tribes, hailed the hatchery as a testimony to the “meaningful work” that can occur when federal, tribal and state governments cooperate on river restoration. In 2008, federal agencies responsible for salmon in the Columbia Basin signed agreements with the tribes and the states, pledging greater cooperation as well as additional funding for salmon projects over 10 years. The completed hatchery is due in part to that accord.


The hatchery will help mitigate for the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, which was built without fish ladders. When the dam opened in 1941, it cut off salmon runs to the upper third of the Columbia Basin. Grand Coulee also flooded Kettle Falls, where one of the Northwest’s most prolific salmon fisheries had flourished for 10,000 years.


The day’s events are open to the public. The celebration begins with an 8 a.m. first salmon ceremony at the hatchery administration building and concludes at 3 p.m. after tours of the hatchery. The hatchery is located on State Park Golf Course Road east of State Route 17.


Click here so view a PDF of Fish Accord Projects of The Confederated Tribes of The Colville Reservation






Chief Joseph Hatchery: A promise from the past holds promise for the future

Little Miss Sunflower Emma Hall presents tribal fisherman Art Seyler with a hat during the opening ceremonies for the Chief Joseph Hatchery on Thursday. Seyler was one of several elder tribal fishermen honored during the event, which drew hundreds of people from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, several other tribes, and numerous state and federal agencies.
Little Miss Sunflower Emma Hall presents tribal fisherman Art Seyler with a hat during the opening ceremonies for the Chief Joseph Hatchery on Thursday. Seyler was one of several elder tribal fishermen honored during the event, which drew hundreds of people from the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, several other tribes, and numerous state and federal agencies.

BRIDGEPORT — Hundreds came Thursday to celebrate the new, $50 million hatchery, its concrete raceways, its incubation building, its state-of-the-art plans to raise and release 2.9 million chinook salmon while protecting their wild cousins.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation officially opened the Chief Joseph Hatchery bordering the southwest corner of their reservation.

Funded by ratepayers through the Bonneville Power Administration along with Grant, Douglas and Chelan County PUDs, the new facility is expected to bring thousands more spring and summer chinook back to the upper Columbia River for both tribal and non-tribal fishermen.

Those who gathered for opening ceremonies spoke largely about the history of events that led to this day, hailed as the fulfillment of a promise made by the U.S. government before the Great Depression.

First, a traditional salmon song and then tribal members caught the hatchery’s first salmon using a pole net.

Whooping cries and large smiles erupted as the salmon was laid on the aluminum platform, then filleted at a table nearby, its eggs and innards tossed back to the Columbia below.

After the riverside ceremony, tribal fishermen were honored, many speaking of times when the fish were abundant, and shared by all.

It was this place where Colville tribal fishermen came to fish after the construction of Grand Coulee Dam, and later Chief Joseph Dam — just across the river. The dams erased Kettle Falls, one of the largest fishing spots on the Columbia River, where tribes from around the region gathered yearly.

With no fish passage, the dams were barriers to spawning salmon, which still return each year to the concrete wall that prevents them from completing their journey.

So fishermen came here to fish from the rocks, and the bridge, or the wall below the dam.


World photo/K.C. Mehaffey


Freshly caught salmon was cooked and dried using traditional methods at opening ceremonies for the Chief Joseph Hatchery on Thursday. Hundreds of people came to celebrate the new facility, which will produce nearly 3 million smolts for release.

“If you needed something, we all shared,” said Lionel Orr, who had offered up the morning’s salmon song. “It was like a community. If I had fishing line, or hooks, I’d give it to you. It was really a good experience.”

Mel “Bugs Hook ‘Em In The Lips” Toulou recalled being accepted into the clan after catching his first salmon on a ten-foot bamboo pole. “What you feel down here is the brotherhood, and the family that you gain,” he said. They used to catch 50 and 60 pound fish, he said, and their fathers and grandfathers reeled in 100-pounders. Today, the salmon average 25 pounds he said.

Ernie Williams recalled catching 750 pounds of salmon in 72 hours once. And then giving it away to elders on their way home. He praised the rain as “soul cleansing,” and said his mother, Mary Marchand, and other elders who had passed on were there with them. “Those past fishermen too. I know they’re all here, and they’re smiling, too.”

Officials, too, spoke of the past.

John Smith, the first director of the Colville Tribe’s Fish and Wildlife Department, talked about the collaborative effort it took to build the hatchery, with not only the tribes, but state and federal agencies, PUDs and the support of other tribes.

He said he hopes people aren’t upset when they see tribal members catching these new hatchery salmon from boats or scaffolds, using nets or spears.

“What you’ve got to remember is, we’ve been denied a lot of good fisheries for a lot of years,” he said. “I’ve seen the devastation that’s been caused,” he said.

Fish were once 50 percent of their diet, and the dams cut off that food source for so many, he said. “That was like cutting you off from Safeway or Walmart. That’s what it did to our people.”

Federal officials also spoke of the impact that these dams without fish passage had on tribal people, and the promises made to for another hatchery.

Tom Karier, a member of the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, said an old document of an 1800s missionary near Kettle Falls revealed that it was not uncommon for tribal fishermen to catch 1,000 fish a day, or count hundreds of salmon jumping out of the water on their way upstream.

“We have come a long way, but we still have a long way to go,” he said. “Today, we celebrate significant progress.”


World photo/K.C. Mehaffey

Sneena Brooks, Robbie Stafford and Dan Edwards were among the drummers singing an honor song for elder tribal fishermen at the opening of the Chief Joseph Hatchery on Thursday.

Leroy Williams, a tribal fisherman who is teaching others the old ways of fishing with hoop nets and dip nets, recalled discovering the letter from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation for a fourth hatchery while sorting through papers for the tribe’s fish and wildlife department. The Great Depression and World War II delayed the project, and he promise had been forgotten until they rediscovered this letter.

Hatcheries had been built at Leavenworth, Entiat and Winthrop, but this one was delayed by the Great Depression and World War II, and then forgotten.

The new hatchery is located on 15 acres owned by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the north bank of the Columbia River, just downstream of Chief Joseph Dam. The complex includes 40 raceways, three rearing ponds, and three acclimation ponds. It draws water from wells and the reservoir behind the dam, known as Rufus Woods Lake.

Colville Tribal Chairman John Sirois expressed gratitude for all the support from tribal members and former council members, agencies, and other tribes.

“This is truly humbling, and a day that we’ll remember forever,” he said.


Related: New Chief Joseph Salmon Hatchery: Restoring the Runs, Restoring the Culture

Elsewhere on the Columbia River, the Nez Perce, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Yakama tribes began commercial sales from their summer fishery on June 17, the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission announced.

“This is the first significant commercial fishery of 2013,” the commission said in a media release. “Pre-season forecasts estimate 73,500 summer chinook and 180,500 sockeye. Depending on the actual run sizes, Indian fishers may harvest approximately 20,000 summer chinook and 12,000 sockeye, most of which will be sold commercially.”