TACOMA, WA (5/4/15)—United States District Court Judge Ronald B. Leighton dismissed a lawsuit this afternoon which had been filed in January against the Quinault Indian Nation and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources seeking to revoke ownership of Lake Quinault from the Tribe.
“This quick and explicit ruling was never in doubt,” said Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp. “As I said back in January, Lake Quinault is undisputedly within the Quinault Reservation. This was a meritless lawsuit. Lake Quinault is sacred to us. It is unquestionably within our Reservation and we take our responsibility to manage it properly very seriously.”
The suit, which was filed by North Quinault Properties LLC, questioned the Tribe’s ownership of the lake. The suit had included DNR for alleged failure to fulfill its management responsibilities. But the challenge actually stemmed from a few local landowners’ reactions to closure of the lake by the Quinault Nation last year, an action taken to protect the lake from pollution problems, invasive species and violation of tribally mandated regulations, said Sharp.
“Our objective is to protect the lake for future generations. We realize it is a popular recreation destination, and we are happy to accommodate those interests, but only as long as the lake is respected and protected at levels we accept,” she said.
“We want to acknowledge the fact that this frivolous lawsuit was brought by a single landowner and that a majority of landowners around the lake understand and support our objectives. They have shown respect for our efforts to reach out to work cooperatively while recognizing the exclusive governing authority of the Tribe. Good public policy among separate and distinct sovereigns requires cooperation, good faith, respect, and, when dealing with tribal nations, an understanding, in principle and practice, that our governing powers long pre-date the United States and its political subdivisions. I want to publicly thank our neighbors and say that we look forward to strengthening our valuable relationship with them. Working together, as we have been able to do, is the best way we can all assure that Lake Quinault will remain clean, beautiful and available for all citizens for many years to come,” she said.
Judge Leighton issued separate dismissal rulings for the Tribe and the DNR. The Court granted the Tribe’s motion to dismiss based on sovereign immunity. The state dismissal was based on the Eleventh Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
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.”
Leaning over a long strip of red cedar placed on her lap, Tulalip tribal member Cerissa “Pipud” Gobin, asked her 4-year-old daughter, Emmy “Pipud” Ramsey, if she knew what was in the center of the cedar tree.
“What is in the center of you? That is right; it is your heart. So in the center of the cedar tree is a heart,” said Gobin, as she continued her methodical rhythm of peeling inner bark from the outer bark on a strip of cedar that was recently cut from a nearby group of trees.
“When I first started pulling I had no idea what I was doing,” said Gobin. “I learned as I went along. I learned to get the little pieces of bark left on the inside off before you leave, otherwise you are going to spend a lot of time trying to get it off later,” she continued, occasionally looking up from the long strip on her lap to watch her son, Coen, pull another strip of bark off a tall red cedar.
Clustered around Gobin and her sister, Chelsea Craig, also a Tulalip tribal member, were long strips of cedar waiting to have their inner bark stripped, which will be used to make cultural items. Outer bark is left for the forest to reclaim. Both women are educators who plan to use the cedar for in-class projects next year.
Gobin, a high school art educator at Heritage High School, uses the cedar to teach students how to make traditional headbands or bracelets, some of which are later used during graduation ceremonies. Craig, a teacher at Quil Ceda & Tulalip Elementary, uses the cedar to teach youth to make baskets, hats, and pins for potlatch giveaways. Although they teach students how to weave different items, together they weave a cultural foundation for Tulalip youth.
These women are part of a large group of Tulalip tribal members participating in a cedar harvest organized by Tulalip Forestry
Department on June 27-28. The event, and others like it, is made possible by a growing partnership between the Tulalip Tribes and the Washington State Department of Natural Resources. The land is owned by DNR, with Sierra Pacific owning the timber. Department of Natural Resources notifies Tulalip Forestry when an area is scheduled to be cleared. This season, 83 acres were available for harvesting cedar.
“Tulalip Forestry worked in conjunction with both agencies’ representatives to coordinate the event and establish ground rules regarding allowable and non-allowable trees to be pulled,” explained Ross Fenton with the Tribe’s forestry department. “The relations Tulalip Forestry has established over the years for cultural cedar bark gathering has gone exceptionally well. Some tribal members base their sole incomes on products they make from cedar bark, so it’s very important we continue to maintain these positive relations.”
“Traditionally we would come out to harvest when the sap would run. That makes it easy to pull it off the tree. This stuff peels so nicely, I am loving it,” said Craig, pausing for a moment to survey the large expanse of trees swaying in the afternoon wind. “It is amazing to sit here and think about how our people used to do this. How they would all come together with their families and gather cedar. Of course they didn’t use the same tools we are using today, but they came out and gathered and made things, some of which we still have today.”
Many Tulalip youth participated in the two-day cedar-harvesting event, gathering strips for elders and learning techniques of separating the smooth inner bark from the rough outer bark. For many, this was their first trip gathering cedar.
“Do you know how the cedar is related to us?” asked Craig to her nephew and nieces, who were struggling to bring the long cedar strips up the steep incline. “She is our grandmother and she is giving us this gift of cedar and we need to thank her.”
“I love being out here,” said Gobin, as she tightly wound her cedar into a bundle tying it off with a scrap of thin cedar. “It is really addicting to be out here stripping the cedar, it is one of my favorite things to do.”
“Yes, grandpa would be proud of us,” remarked Craig.
For more information regarding future cedar harvesting events, please contact Tulalip Forestry at 360-716-4000.
Brandi N. Montreuil: 360-913-5402; firstname.lastname@example.org