Northwest Drought Likely To Extend Into 2016

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


by Cassandra Profita, OPB/EarthFix


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

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

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

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


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

Courtesy of Washington Department of Ecology

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

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

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

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

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

Sacred Lands vs. King Coal

BY STEPHEN QUIRKE, Earth Island Journal


Indigenous struggles against resource extraction are gathering strength in the Pacific Northwest


Under the breaking waves of Lummi Bay in northwest Washington, salmon, clams, geoducks and oysters are washed in rhythmic cascades from the Pacific Ocean. Just north of here is Cherry Point, home for three intimately related threatened and endangered species: herring, Chinook salmon, and orcas. It is also the home of the Lummi Nation, who call themselves the Lhaq’temish (LOCK-tuh-mish), or the People of the Sea. The Lummi have gone to incredible lengths to protect the health of this marine life, and to uphold the fishing traditions that make their livelihood inseparable from the life of the sea — continuing a bond that has connected them to the salmon for more than 175 generations.


cheery point beach

Photo by Nicholas Quinlan/Photographers for Social ChangeThe Lummi Nation is currently fighting a proposal to build the largest coal export terminal on the continent at Cherry Point.



The Lummi Nation is currently fighting the largest proposed coal export terminal on the continent (read “Feeding the Tiger,” EIJ Winter 2013). If completed, the Gateway Pacific Terminal would move up to 54 million tons of coal from Cherry Point to Asian markets every year. The transport company BNSF Railway plans to enable the terminal by adding adjacent rail infrastructure, installing a second track along the six-mile Custer Spur to make room for coal trains.

The project is one of many coal export facilities proposed across the US by the coal extraction and transportation industry. In the face of falling domestic demand for the highly polluting fossil fuel, the industry is pinning its survival on exporting coal to power hungry Asia, especially China.

The Gateway proposal has sparked massive opposition from the Lummi, who say it will interfere with their fishing fleet, harm marine life, and trample on an ancient village site that has been occupied by the Lummi for 3,500 years. The village, Xwe’chieXen (pronounced Coo-chee-ah-chin) is the resting place of Lummi ancestors, and contains numerous sacred sites that the Lummi assert a sacred obligation to protect. The Lummi’s connection to their first foods, and to the village site that holds their ancestors’ remains, goes the very heart of who they are as a people, and the Nation has pledged to protect both “by any means necessary”.

The Lummi are no strangers to stopping harmful development. In the mid-1990s they managed to stop a fish farm in the bay; in 1967 they fought back a magnesium-oxide plant on Lummi Bay that would have turned the bay lifeless with industrial waste.

This article is part of our series examining the Indigenous movement of resistance and restoration.

The new threat to the Lummi Nation is being proposed by the global shipping giant SSA Marine. The coal would be supplied by Peabody Energy and Cloud Peak Energy — companies that mine in Montana and Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. It was also backed by Goldman Sachs until January 2014, when the company pulled its substantial investment from the project.

Jay Julius, a fisherman and Lummi Nation council member had attended the firm’s annual shareholders meeting back in 2013 and urged it to “take a look at the risk” of their investment.

Another coal export proposal of similar scale has been proposed in Longview, Washington about 235 miles south from Cherry Point. This has been opposed by the Cowlitz Tribe, who object to the impacts that coal would bring to the air and water quality along the Columbia River. This terminal would also create serious harm to another Native tribe at the point of extraction, 1,200 miles away in the Powder River Basin.

The Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview is a joint proposal from the Australia-based Ambre Energy and Arch Coal, the US’ second largest coal producer after Peabody.

The terminal, which would export up to 48.5 million tons of coal annually, would be supported by Arch Coal’s proposed Otter Creek Mine in southeastern Montana (bordering Wyoming). If built, the mine could produce an estimated 1.3 billion tons of coal, and would span 7,639 acres along the eastern border of the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. This would be the largest mine ever in the United States.


loaded coal trains

Photo by Mike Danneman Coal trains operated by BNSF would haul coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana to a series of proposed export terminals along the Pacific Northwest coast.


To connect the proposed mine to West Coast ports, Arch Coal and BNSF Railway want to build a new 42-mile railroad — called the Tongue River Railroad — through the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation. Members of the Northern Cheyenne Nation and their allies have pledged fierce resistance if regulators approve the mine and the railroad, which they say, would have significant impacts on public health and the environment. According to BNSF, anywhere from 500 pounds to 1 ton of coal can escape from a single loaded rail car – on trains pulling 125 cars.

At a June hearing on the railroad organized by the US Surface Transportation Board, federal regulators heard nothing but fierce opposition to the proposed mine and its enabling railroad. A significant proportion of the Lame Deer community from the Northern Cheyenne Reservation turned out to the hearing. Their opposition to the project was echoed by local ranchers.

One rancher told the officials that they needed to understand the importance of history when they propose such unprecedented projects. “Northern Cheyenne history is very sad –  it’s tragic – and they have fought with blood to be where they are tonight.”

“My ancestors have only been buried here for about four or five generations,” he said, but “we know of lithic scatters, we know of buffalo jumps, we know of stone circles, camp sites, vision quest sites… and it is my obligation as a land owner, even though I am not a member of this Nation, that we protect what is there.”

One tribal member, Sonny Braided Hair, was more explicit in his history lesson. “Let us heal,” he said, “or we’ll show you the true meaning of staking ourselves to this land.” He was referring to the Cheyenne warrior society known as the Dog Soldiers, who became legendary in the mid-1800s for holding their ground in battle by staking themselves to the earth with a rope tied at the waist.

Such concerns about sacred sites are too often validated. In July of 2011, before applying for any permits, SSA Marine began construction at a designated archeological site in the ancient Lummi village at Cherry Point, where the Lummi have warned of numerous sacred sites, and where 3,000 year-old human remains have been found.

Pacific International Terminals had earlier promised the Army Corps of Engineers that this site would not be disturbed, and that the Lummi Nation would be consulted before any construction began nearby. They also acknowledged their legal obligation to have an archaeologist on staff when working within 200 feet of the site, along with a pre-made “inadvertent discovery” plan if any protected items were disturbed. Despite all of these assurances, the company illegally sent in survey crews to make way for their terminal, where they drilled about 70 boreholes, built 4 miles of roads, cleared 9 acres of forest, and drained about 3 acres of wetlands.

In August, Whatcom County, Washington, (where Cherry Point is located) issued a Notice of Violation to Pacific International Terminals, and the Department of Natural Resources documented numerous violations of the state Forest Practices Act. The total fines and penalties, however, added up to only about $5,000.

That’s a small price to pay for early geotechnical information, says Philip S. Lanterman, a leading expert on construction management for such projects. According to Lanterman, the information provided by those illegal boreholes was probably a huge economic benefit to the planned project. Needless to say, the meager fines don’t come close to discouraging the behavior. For opponents this incident is just a taste of things to come, and one resounding reason to never trust King Coal.

In the face of such blatant violations of their treaty rights, several Native tribes in North America — from the Powder River Basin, through the Columbia River to the Salish Sea —have banded together and declared that it is their sacred duty to protect their ancestral territories, sacred sites, and natural resources.

In May 2013, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (ATNI) unanimously adopted a resolutionopposing fossil fuel extraction and export projects in the Pacific NorthwestIn the resolution, the 57 ATNI Tribes of Oregon, Idaho, Washington, southeast Alaska, Northern California, Nevada and Western Montana voiced, “unified opposition” to investors and transporters and exporters of fossil fuel energy, “who are proposing projects in the ancestral territories of ATNI Tribes.” The resolution specifically calls for protection of the Lummi Nation’s treaty-protected fishing rights, and the sacred places that would be affected by the Cherry Point project.

Indigenous resistance to these projects has been bolstered by allies in the environmental movement who have been fighting the export of US coal to foreign markets in the East. Of 15 recent proposals to build major new coal export facilities across the US, all but four (including Gateway and Millennium) have been defeated or canceled within the past two years.

In January this year, the Lummi Nation asked the Army Corps to immediately abandon the environmental review for Gateway Pacific and the Custer Spur rail expansion, stating that the project violates their reserved and treaty-protected fishing rights. If the environmental review is abandoned, the Army Corps would have effectively cancelled the project. In response to this letter the Army Corps gave SSA Marine until May 10 to respond, but later extended the deadline by another 90 days. Environmental reviews of the terminal and BNSF’s Custer Spur rail expansion are due in mid-2016, but it appears likely that the Army Corps will have rejected the Gateway Pacific terminal by then, rendering any rail expansion redundant.


people gathered around a totem pole

Photo courtesy of Sierra ClubIn 2013, James launched a totem pole journey to build solidarity for Indigenous-led struggles against fossil fuels, including the struggle to protect Xwe’chieXen. Pictured here, ranchers, environmentalists, and members of the Northern Cheyenne totem pole blessing ceremony in Billings, Montana.


In order to keep the pressure on, leaders from nine Native American tribes gathered in Seattle on May 14 to urge the Army Corps to deny permits for SSA Marine. “The Lummi Nation is proud to stand with other tribes who are drawing a line in the sand to say no to development that interferes with our treaty rights and desecrates sacred sites,” said Tim Ballew II, Chair of the Lummi Indian Business Council. “The Corps has a responsibility to deny the permit request and uphold our treaty.”

The Lummi have clearly had important successes in stopping harmful development in the past. But with so much on the line for coal companies, can they really use treaty rights to stop a coal terminal of this size? “Without question,” says Gabe S. Galanda, a practicing attorney specializing in tribal law in Washington State. “Indian Treaties are the supreme law of the land under the United States Constitution, and Lummi’s Treaty-guaranteed rights to fish are paramount at Cherry Point.” If the Army Corps decides to deny their permit, Galanda says that coal developers would find it “very difficult if not impossible” to successfully challenge them. By contrast, he says, “the Lummi Nation would have very strong grounds to attack and invalidate” any approval that the Army Corps might grant to the coal exporters.

In a similar case last year, Oregon’s Department of State Lands denied a key building permit for Ambre Energy’s coal export terminal project in Boardman, Oregon. The terminal was planned directly on top of a traditional fishing site of the Yakama Nation. In both Boardman and Cherry Point, the coal companies have implied that the protected Indigenous sites that would be harmed by their projects either do not exist, or that the tribes using them are too incompetent to know their true location.

Just two years after filing paperwork with Whatcom County admitting that they had “disturbed items of Native American archeological significance”, Bob Watters of SSA marine wrote “Claims that our project will disturb sacred burial sites are absolutely incorrect and fabricated by project opponents.”

One of the Cherry Point Terminal’s most fierce opponents is the diplomat, land defender and master carver Jewell Praying Wolf James. James is the head of the Lummi House of Tears Carvers, and has created a tradition out of carving and delivering totem poles to places that are in need of hope and healing.

In 2013, James launched a totem pole journey to build solidarity for Indigenous-led struggles against fossil fuels, including the struggle to protect Xwe’chieXen. James traveled 1,200 miles with his totem pole in 2013 — from the Powder River Basin to the Tsleil Waututh Nation across the Canadian border. In 2014, he launched another 6,000-mile totem pole journey in honor of revered tribal leader Billy Frank Jr, a Nisqually tribal member and hero of the fishing rights struggle. Frank passed away on May 5, 2014 — the same day he published his final piece condemning coal and oil trains.

These totem pole journeys have gained international attention as pilgrimages of hope, healing, decolonization, and Native resistance to the extractive industries.

At the end of August, James concluded his third regional totem pole journey against fossil fuels, carrying the banner of resistance to many tribes who are standing up as fossil fuel projects get knocked down. He held blessing ceremonies in Boardman and Portland where coal and propane projects were recently shot down, passed through the Lummi Nation and Longview where coal has yet to be defeated, and ended in the Northern Cheyenne Nation at Lame Deer, where the community has rallied in opposition to a mine whose devastation would reverberate from Montana, down the Columbia River, and up to Cherry Point.

“There are many of us who are joining, from the Lakota all the way to the West Coast, to the Lummi, south to the Apache, up to the Canadian tribes,” said Northern Cheyenne organizer Vanessa Braided Hair at a recent Tongue River Railroad hearing. “We’re gonna fight, and we’re not gonna stop.”



Bringing life back to the Qwuloolt Estuary

Partners from the Tulalip Tribes and a dozen other agencies and groups, including Marysville, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA, take in the view of the Qwuloolt Estuary on September 2, 2015. The levee was breached August 28, allowing the return of its native marshland.
Partners from the Tulalip Tribes and a dozen other agencies and groups, including Marysville, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and NOAA, take in the view of the Qwuloolt Estuary on September 2, 2015. The levee was breached August 28, allowing the return of its native marshland.


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News 


The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project took 20 years to complete. The finish line was crossed on Friday, August 28, when massive excavators and bulldozers breached a levee and reopened 354-acres of historic wetlands to threatened Puget Sound chinook salmon. The levee breach culminated what has been recognized as the state’s second-largest ever estuary restoration project.

“This is a great, great day. It’s been a long time coming,” says Kurt Nelson, Tulalip Tribes’ Environmental Department Manager, at the September 2 levee breach celebration. “I’ve been on this project for 11 years and there have been many challenges and hurdles, but we’ve gotten through them all. What we have now is a 354-acre estuary wetland complex that saw its first tidal flows in 100 years last Friday [August 28].

“If you watch the live-stream webcam in fast motion, you’ll notice it’s almost like this site is breathing. The estuary is flooding and draining, flooding and draining with tidal waters, like a lung does with oxygen. It’s a nice comparison to bringing some life back to an isolated floodplain that hadn’t seen that kind of life in a longtime.”

The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project (QERR) is a partnership of tribal, city, state and federal agencies aimed at restoring a critical tidal wetland in the Snohomish River estuary. The Qwuloolt Estuary is located within the Snohomish River floodplain approximately three miles upstream from its outlet to Puget Sound and within the Marysville City limits. The name, Qwuloolt, is a Lushootseed word meaning “salt marsh”.

Historically, the area was a tidal marsh and forest scrub-shrub habitat, interlaced by tidal channels, mudflats and streams. However, because of its rich delta soil, early settlers diked, drained and began using the land for cattle and dairy farming. The levees they established along Ebey Slough, as well as the drainage channels and tide gates, effectively killed the estuary by preventing the salt water from Puget Sound from mixing with the fresh water from Jones and Allen Creeks.

For the past 100 years the estuary was cut off from its connection with the tidal waters and denied the ability to act as a restorative habitat for wild-run chinook salmon and other native fish, such as coho and bull trout.  Through the cooperation of its many partners, this project has returned the historic and natural influences of the rivers and tides to the Qwuloolt.

The purpose of the project is to restore the Qwuloolt Estuary to historic natural conditions, while also mitigating some of the damage caused by the now defunct Tulalip Landfill on Ebey Island’s northwest edge. The former 145-acre landfill was operated on Tulalip Reservation land by Seattle Disposal Co. from 1964 to 1979 and become a Superfund site (polluted locations requiring a long-term response to clean up hazardous material contaminations) in 1995, before being cleaned up and capped in 2000.

Qwuloolt will provide critical habitat for threatened Puget Sound chinook and other salmon, as well as for waterfowl and migratory birds. Native habitat and functioning tidal marsh ecosystem were lost when the estuary was diked and cut off from tidal influence. This project will restore tidal flows to the historic estuary and promote: Chinook, bull trout, steelhead, coho and cutthroat rearing habitat, salmon access to greater Allen Creek, migratory and resident bird habitat, water quality improvements, Native vegetation growth and restoration, and natural channel formation.

Trying to recover these critical estuary habits are crucial to migrating juvenile salmon for the salmon recovery effort in the Snohomish region. The Qwuloolt Estuary can now, once again, provide food and refuge for those fish. The intent of the project is to increase the production and quantity of those salmon that are extremely important to the Tribe and our cultural-economic purposes, as well as to the public and State of Washington.

“[Qwuloolt] is not only a nursery area for hundreds of thousands of juvenile salmon that migrate from the upper basins of the Snohomish that will come through this estuary and feed on various prey species and grow very rapidly, but also contributes to the survival of fish all over the Snohomish basin,” explains Nelson. “It will improve the water quality of Jones and Allen Creek, while being an extremely important bird habitat for migratory waterfowl, as well as restoring native wetland vegetation.”


The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project is overseen by a planning team with representatives from the Tulalip Tribes, NOAA, USFWS, WDOE, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NRCS, and the city of Marysville.  Representatives from each entity were blanketed at a September 2 event celebrating the levee breach.
The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project is overseen by a planning team with representatives from the Tulalip Tribes, NOAA, USFWS, WDOE, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, NRCS, and the city of Marysville. Representatives from each entity were blanketed at a September 2 event celebrating the levee breach.


The US Army Corps of Engineers were responsible for the levee construction and the levee breach, while the Tribes were responsible for the channels, the berms, the planting, and some of the utility work that needed to be done. From beginning to end QERR was all about partnership and working together in getting this project done. The US Army Corps of Engineers, the Tulalip Tribes, the city of Marysville, Department of Ecology, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, along with the Puget Sound Partnership and Fish and Wildlife services, all played instrumental roles in completing this project and it could not have been done without the collaboration each and every partner.

“As evidenced here today, it really has been a tremendous collaboration between the tribes and federal, state and local governments to bring this project through and really make a significant change for our environment,” says Col. John Buck of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. “Over the past century we’ve seen this continuing degradation of our environment in the northwest and it’s through collaboration and partnership we can really affect change.”

*The Qwuloolt Estuary project cost $20 million. That money was obtained over a 17 year period that involved federal, state and tribal money. It also includes settlement and foundation money. Property purchase was $6 million, $2 million in planning, design, permitting and studies, $10 million on the levee, and another $2 million on constructing channels, berms and all the interior work.


Qwuloolt is:

  • Physical stream restoration is a complex part of the project, which actually reroutes 1.5 miles of Jones and Allen creek channels. Scientists used historical and field analyses and aerial photographs to move the creek beds near their historic locations.
  • Native plants and vegetation that once inhabited the area such as; various grasses, sedges, bulrush, cattails, willow, rose, Sitka spruce, pine, fir, crab apple and alder are replacing non-native invasive species.
  • Building in stormwater protection consists of creating a 6 ½ acre water runoff storage basin that will be used to manage stormwater runoff from the nearby suburban developments to prevent erosion and filter out pollutants so they don’t flow out of the estuary.
  • Construction of a setback levee has nearly finished and spans 4,000 feet on the western edge on Qwuloolt. The levee was constructed to protect the adjacent private and commercial property from water overflow once the levee is breached.
  • Breaching of the existing levee that is located in the south edge of the estuary will begin after the setback reaches construction. The breaching of the levee will allow the saline and fresh water to mix within the 400-acre marsh.

Other estuary restoration projects within the Snohomish River Watershed include; Ebey Slough at 14 acres, 400 acres of Union Slough/Smith Island and 60 acres of Spencer Island. The Qwuloolt Estuary Restoration Project has been a large collaboration between The Tulalip Tribes, local, county, state and federal agencies, private individuals and organizations.



 Contact Micheal Rios at






Mountain Camp 2015: Walking in the footsteps of our ancestors

Mt Camp_front_USE


By Micheal Rios, Tulalip News; Photos courtesy of Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst

Wilderness. The wild. Whether intentional or not, using the world “wild” to designate landscape and environment sets the land apart from us. Americans are civilized, Natives are savages, and the land is wild. Sound familiar? Because of American formal education and informal borrowing of traits from other cultures, Americans believe they can visit the wild, but can never live in it. Americans are trained to think that those who do choose to live in the wilderness are either Natives (read savages) or half-crazed tree huggers.

But the concept of wilderness was obsolete the minute it was born. We, as a Native society and Tulalip people, know every inch of this land used to be Indian Country. Every inch. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a “wild” or a “wilderness” on this continent. All things are related. This notion of connectedness to all things was so central to our ancestors, to the very essence of Native culture, but has dissipated as generation after generation of Native peoples have found themselves urbanized; slowly transformed by the contemporary world of independence, big cities, and a relentless dependence on technology.

So then how can we reasonably begin to understand our ancestors, their actions, thoughts, and values? If we live in a modern time that is inherently different in nearly every respect than the time of our ancestors, how can we truly grasp the culture we stem from? The culture we fight to hold onto, both externally and internally, every single day, while the world around us constantly tells us to give it up, get with modern times, and stop looking backward, look forward.

There is no simple solution, yet as we look around we can clearly see a persistence and resurgence of Tulalip culture that we refuse to let die. There is the plan for Lushootseed immersion classrooms, the stead-fast work of our Rediscovery Program, the restoration of the Qwuloolt Estuary, and, most recently, the reintroduction of our ancestral mountainous areas to a new wave of Tulalip citizens, known as Mountain Camp 2015.




Mt Camp_12


The idea behind Mountain Camp helps us begin to answer the critical questions about how we keep in touch with our ancestors in modern times. Instead of bringing traditional teachings to an untraditional space, we learn our ancestral teachings in an ancestral space, to walk as they walked. The pristine swədaʔx̌ali co-stewardship area, located 5,000 feet up in the Skykomish Watershed, was a space where our ancestors once resided. It was a place where they hunted, gathered, and lived only off the sustenance the land offered them. Most importantly, after all these years, the swədaʔx̌ali remains a land our ancestors would recognize today, unhampered by urban cities and deconstruction.

“I think for our youth to be up in the mountains it is critical for them to get a strong, firm understanding of who they really are as Tulalip people,” says Patti Gobin, Tulalip Foundation Board of Trustee. “It’s been a long time since our people, our children in particular, have been allowed into these areas. After the signing of the treaty, we were confined to the reservation at Tulalip, and many of us grew up thinking that’s all we were, Tulalips from a reservation. But we are far more than that. From white cap to white cap, as Coast Salish people, this was our ancestral land and it means everything to have our children up here to allow the spirits of our ancestors to commune with them and talk to them, and for them to experience what it is to be out in the wilderness, the way we have always lived.

“If they are given the gifts of what the woods have to offer them and they have ears to listen, then those gifts will strengthen them as young men and women. They’ll never forget this experience and they’ll always come back here and they’ll always fight for the right to come back here, which is critical for future generations.”




For the inaugural Mountain Camp 2015 (held in mid-August), three camp leaders led eight Tulalip tribal members, all 7th and 8th graders, in the experience of a lifetime. They spent five days and four nights in the swədaʔx̌ali and surrounding areas living as our ancestors lived; setting up and taking down camp as they moved locations, singing, storytelling, making traditional cedar baskets, foraging, berry picking, preparing meals, building fires, using the crystal clear lake to cleanse their bodies and spirits, learning traditional values in the sacred land, and coming together as a supportive family.

In order to give the Tulalip youth the most impactful experience possible, the Natural Resources Department teamed with Cultural Resources and Youth Services to develop two main themes for the camp: reconnecting to the mountains and x̌əʔaʔxʷaʔšəd (stepping lightly).  Both themes aspire to reunite the children with teachings and values central to our ancestors; recognizing the connectedness of all things while respecting the Earth.

“Mountain Camp is all about having a space for kids to come up and just enjoy the outdoors, connect with their mountain culture, learn how to camp, learn how to be out here and be safe,” says camp leader Kelly Finley, Natural Resources Outreach and Education Coordinator. “I grew up in the mountains hunting, fishing, and playing in the trees. It was a vital part of my youth and to this day I love being out there. It is an honor to provide an opportunity for young people to love the outdoors as I do. I hope through this experience there will be a better understanding of our natural world and how we all connect to our environment. I look forward to continue this work next year with new and returning students.”

In keeping with their traditional teachings the youth introduced themselves to the mountains and forest that make up the swədaʔx̌ali region. They took turns stating their names, their parents’ names, and the names of their grandparents. The mountains took notice and later that night swədaʔx̌ali formally introduced itself to the kids in the form of a glorious show of thunder and lightning.

“Thunder is medicine to our people, it was the mountain’s way of welcoming our people back to the place we’ve been absent far too long,” says Inez Bill, Rediscovery Program Coordinator. “The children were in an area where the spirits of our ancestors could see them. We, the elders who volunteered and visited the youth on their camp, did our best to impart the meaning and importance of what they were doing. They were experiencing a place, a spirit of our ancestors that most people will never be able to experience. We hope that experience helps lead those youth to live a good life. As younger people they are in their most formative years. We used to have rites of passage, and for these youth,  Mountain Camp represented a rite of passage for them.”

Indeed, the Tulalip elders and volunteers added to the overall experience of the youth; helping to explain how their ancestors were one with their environment and lived a fulfilled and spiritual life, all without the uses of cellphones, computers, T.V., and the internet. A true highlight was the elders teaching the youngsters how to make their very own cedar baskets so that they could go huckleberry picking during their brief stay in the mountains. The messages of finding strength and beauty in all experiences with nature were taken in by the youth and each did his and her best to internalize those values.

“The elders have been telling us stories about what they used to do when they used to go berry picking, and how it was tradition that they make it look like they weren’t even there. They just picked a little bit and moved along,” explains camp participant Jacynta Myles. “They made cedar bark baskets and used them for berry picking baskets. You can go from blackberries to huckleberries and store practically anything in it.

“I love the area. How we woke up to thunder this morning, I’ve never heard it that loud. I think every area in the woods is pretty special, but being here in this area, all together, makes it even more special. And we’re having fun.”




“It’s all about going into the wilderness, no electronics or nothing like that,” says youth participant Sunny Killebrew. “We’re just like on our own, no parents, just depending on ourselves and making new friends. We’ve been learning that this is the land where are ancestors were raised, grew up, and lived. They hunted, they ate, they slept, they did everything on this land right here. It feels good, like I’m doing something they would want me to do.”

For the tribal elders and everyone involved who contributed to making Mountain Camp a reality, it was a dream come true to witness the camp youth as they one-by-one grasped the importance of walking in their ancestor’s footsteps. The entire project had been in the works over the last few years, allowing Natural Resources the necessary time to find funding and the resources to build a Mountain Camp program for our youth.

“This, as the first year, was a big learning experience for all of us. While there are things we might tweak for next year, overall we believe this first year was a big success and deeply worthwhile, as measured by the experience these eight kids received and all that we, as program leaders, learned as it unfolded,” said Libby Nelson, Tulalip Environmental Policy Analyst. “Success this year can be attributed to the collaboration with our Cultural Resources, Language and Youth Services staff; and a very successful and helpful partnership with the YMCA Outdoor Leadership Program in Seattle, the US Forest Service, and our own Rediscovery Program in Tulalip’s Cultural Resources division.

“This Mountain Camp experience presented an opportunity to reconnect tribal youth to these inland, mountain ancestral territories where their ancestors lived, while also explicitly reserving rights to continue using these areas for hunting, fishing and gathering.”


Mt Camp_11


From practically being inside a thunder and lightning storm at an elevation of 5,000 feet, to storytelling in their Lushootseed language as they witnessed a meteor shower, to creating their own cedar bark baskets for huckleberry picking, the Tulalip youth created many memories that will last a lifetime. As they grow and mature into adults, their sense of appreciation for what they were able to be a part of and experience will undoubtedly grow immensely. It’s a difficult task for anyone to be expected to live as their ancestors lived, let alone asking that of a 7th or 8th grade student. In honor of their efforts and achievements while participating in Mountain Camp 2015 the youth were honored with a blanket ceremony when they got back home to Tulalip.

“The ceremony was to acknowledge what the kids went through. It was an accomplishment for them to go through everything that they did while up in the mountains, living in nature,” continues Inez Bill. “They didn’t have their cell phones or any of the other electronic gadgets they would have back home. They experienced something together, they grew together, and they had a rite of passage together. I covered the kids with blankets as a remembrance of what they went through. The ceremony recognized that rite of passage, of how we want them to be as young people.

“In our ancestral way, they were brought out to nature to find their spiritual strength. I think later in their lives, that spiritual strength will give them direction and confidence when they need it most. And for the parents and grandparents who were at the ceremony, I think they were happy and truly touched.”

Following the ceremony the camp participants mingled a while longer, still wrapped in their blankets, and talking about their favorite moments from Mountain Camp. Going to their ancestral lands, being immersed in their cultural teachings, a rite of passage, experiencing nature as it was meant to be experienced. There are so many possible takeaways, but none bigger than that of camp participant Kaiser Moses who says, “I feel empowered. I feel I can do anything!”




Plans are already underway for Mountain Camp 2016. Stay on the lookout for more details and registration information in future syəcəb and online on our Tulalip News Facebook page.

Hard Work Leads To Recovery of Summer Chum

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission


Hood Canal/Eastern Strait of Juan de Fuca summer chum is the only threatened salmon population in western Washington showing clear signs of recovery.

It’s thanks to a 20-year cooperative effort by state and tribal salmon co-managers, conservation groups, local governments and federal agencies that is balancing the key ingredients needed for recovery: harvest, hatcheries and habitat.

Summer chum were listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act in 1999 along with Puget Sound chinook and Lake Ozette sockeye. Puget Sound steelhead joined the list in 2007.

The program’s success comes from a core principle that salmon recovery must address all factors affecting natural production. For far too long the federal government’s main response to protect ESA-listed salmon has been to cut harvest. Meanwhile, the primary threat to wild salmon and their recovery – ongoing loss and damage of their habitat – continues to be ignored.

Past overharvest and poor ocean conditions combined with degraded habitat to spark the steep decline of summer chum that began in Hood Canal streams in the late ’70s. By the early 1990s, fewer than a thousand summer chum were returning from a population that once numbered 70,000 or more.

The tribal and state co-managers responded with strong harvest management actions beginning in 1992. Fisheries impacting summer chum were reduced, relocated and delayed to protect the returning fish.

But it didn’t stop there. Working with federal agencies and conservation groups, tribal and state salmon co-managers began hatchery supplementation programs to boost populations of summer chum.

A portion of the wild run returning to the Big Quilcene River was moved to a federal fish hatchery and spawned, with the offspring released to rebuild the remaining run. Four years later, about 10,000 adult summer chum returned to the river.

Since then, additional hatchery supplementation efforts have led to summer chum becoming re-established in most of its historic range. To protect summer chum genetics, supplementation programs were limited to three generations, or 12 years. Some programs met their goals and were ended earlier.

Habitat protection and restoration was the third key to bringing back summer chum. Projects such as dike removals, protecting and restoring instream habitat, planting streamside trees and removing invasive plants have all contributed to the effort’s success. Nearly 700 acres of estuary and an equal amount of upland stream habitat have been improved to support the recovery effort.

More work is planned and ongoing in streams, estuaries, and the nearshore throughout the area

Balancing harvest, hatcheries and habitat is the key to salmon recovery. Equally as important is the need for monitoring and evaluation to apply lessons learned and improve effectiveness.

Cooperation is the third essential ingredient. Only by working together can we hope to meet the challenges of salmon recovery. If we are ever going to recover Puget Sound chinook and steelhead, we will need to use the same approach we are using to save Hood Canal summer chum.

Despite the best efforts of fisheries managers to restore summer chum, they remain vulnerable to climate change and ongoing development. Because they arrive in streams to spawn during the late summer months, they are especially threatened by low flows like those we are seeing during this year’s record-breaking drought, which is far from over.

Ongoing loss of habitat and a number of other factors still must be fully addressed before summer chum can be removed from the ESA list. There’s still a ways to go, but at least we are on the right path.

How will we know when we have recovered summer chum? When they are once again abundant enough to support sustainable harvest. To the tribes, that is the true measure of salmon recovery and the commitment to fulfill the promises of the treaties we signed with the U.S. government.

“Is this the world that we want to leave to our children?”

James Jewell, Master Carver of the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers.Photo/Niki Cleary, Tulalip News
James Jewell, Master Carver of the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers.
Photo/Niki Cleary, Tulalip News


by Kim Kalliber, Tulalip News


“Is this the world that we want to leave to our children?”

That is the question posed by Jewell James, Master Carver of the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers, of the numerous coal port projects around the northwest and beyond.

“We know the answer,” continued James. “We want our children to have healthy air, water and land.”

For the third year in a row, Lummi carvers have hand-carved a totem pole that will journey hundreds of miles, raising public awareness and opposition to the exporting of fossil fuels. And the timing couldn’t be more important, as the Army Corps of Engineers may be deciding by the end of this month whether or not it will agree with the Lummi Nation and deny permits for the Gateway Pacific Terminal Project at Cherry Point.  Lummi Nation, in fighting to block the terminal, cited its rights under a treaty with the United States to fish in its usual and accustomed areas, which include the waters around Cherry Point.

This year’s journey, aptly named ‘Our Shared Responsibilities’ began August 21 in Bellingham, the location of the proposed Cherry Point terminal. The pole then traveled through British Columbia, Tulalip, Portland, and Celilo Falls on the Washington/Oregon border, and then on to Yakama, in opposition with the Yakama Nation of the Port of Morrow export project. The journey continues to Spokane, where the Spokane and Blackfeet tribe will unite in their opposition to accelerated hydrological fracking and oil leasing in the northern range of the Rocky Mountains. The journey’s final destination, scheduled for August 28, will be Lame Deer, Montana, to support the Northern Cheyenne, whose sacred lands would be devastated by a proposed coalmine.


Lump carvers hand-carved this totem pole to raise public awareness and opposition to the exporting of fossil fuels. Photo/Kim Kalliber
Lump carvers hand-carved this totem pole to raise public awareness and opposition to the exporting of fossil fuels.
Photo/Kim Kalliber


“The totem pole design includes an eagle, a buffalo, two badgers, two drummers with a buffalo skull and drum, and a turtle with a lizard on each side. These are symbols of their culture,” explains James.  “These people want everyone to know that they love the earth, they love their mother, and they want us to help them protect our part of the earth. “

On August 23, the Tulalip Tribes welcomed the totem pole and guests with songs and blessings. Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon opened the ceremony and tribal member Caroline Moses led a blessing song for the totem pole.


Tulalip tribal member Caroline Moses blesses the totem pole. Photo/Kim Kalliber
Tulalip tribal member Carolyn Moses blesses the totem pole.
Photo/Kim Kalliber


“The salmon are already dying in the river because of the high temperature. The spawning grounds are poisoned.  They [coal companies] have yet to feel the repercussions of that. They are walking away with their hands slapped. These ports, Cherry Point, Port of Morrow, we’re talking about 153 million tons [of coal] annually coming into the Pacific Northwest, loaded with arsenic and mercury,” said James to the group of tribal and community members gathered at the shores of Tulalip Bay. “We’re saying no; we’re united. We’re happy to be at Tulalip because Tulalip is a leader tribe.”

James went on to speak about the united effort to defeat these fossil fuel export projects, saying that, “nobody hears us, because the media doesn’t come to Northern Cheyenne.” The totem pole journey plays an important role in bringing people together, creating new alliances, and empowering the public with information about fossil fuels and the damage they are causing the environment.


Jewell James and Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon Photo/Niki Cleary, Tulalip News
Jewell James and Tulalip Tribal Chairman Mel Sheldon
Photo/Niki Cleary, Tulalip News


“Pope Francis came out with a statement last year that they were wrong and they should have taught the people how to love the earth, not destroy it.  They made a mistake. What we need to do as tribal people is to make sure that they live up to the words they put out publicly.  We’re calling on everybody to join together. We need to get together because the Earth’s dying. July was the hottest recorded July in recorded history. The Earth is burning. Global warming is a reality and they’re syphoning our rivers dry. Our salmon, our fish, and everything else that depend upon it is dying around us.

“We say it simply, love the Earth. That’s the message that we’re bringing to Northern Cheyenne in unison with us.”



Drought, Water Quality on Many Minds

“Being Frank”

By Lorraine Loomis, Chair, Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission


Water – how much we have and how clean it should be – is on the minds of many these days as the drought rolls on in western Washington and state government remains stalled on updating decades-old water quality standards.

Tribal insistence on more restrictive salmon fisheries this year has turned out to be the right call as the hottest and driest summer we’ve ever seen continues, threatening salmon throughout western Washington at every stage of their life cycle.

With no snowpack, record warm weather and little rain, our rivers and streams are running low, slow and hot. That’s bad news for both hatchery and wild salmon, which depend on plenty of cool water for their survival.

Many returning adult salmon died last year before they could reach spawning grounds or a hatchery, while thousands of out-migrating young salmon died before they could reach the ocean. The deaths of those salmon will be felt by all fishermen several years from now when fewer fish return.

Water temperatures 70 degrees and higher can be lethal to salmon. Many streams already have reached those temperatures with a lot of summer left. Warm water can also create a thermal barrier that prevents salmon from reaching hatcheries and spawning grounds. In addition, salmon are more susceptible to diseases when water temperatures are high.

Salmon are getting some relief from tribal and state hatcheries that use cooler groundwater for incubating and rearing fish. These hatcheries are providing sanctuaries to help salmon survive the drought and fulfilling their role as gene banks to preserve salmon for the future.

The outlook for many tribal fisheries is growing steadily darker as week after week slips by with no improvement in weather conditions. We hope enough salmon will return to our fishing grounds so that we can feed our families and preserve our cultures and communities.

It wasn’t easy for the tribes to convince the state co-managers that tougher fishing regulations were needed this year to protect salmon. In fact, the Puget Sound sport-fishing industry was prodding the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife to expand fisheries this summer. But salmon management is not a popularity contest and the effects of our drought are getting worse.

The treaty tribes in western Washington will continue to insist on the highest level of responsible fisheries management and hatchery operations to ensure all of our children have a future that includes salmon.

On the water quality front, the state legislature adjourned a triple overtime session in June without approving Gov. Jay Inslee’s proposal for new water quality standards as part of a statewide toxics reduction program.

State water quality standards already are more than 40 years old. The state admits that current standards don’t adequately protect any of us, especially those of us who eat a lot of fish and shellfish. The state has missed every deadline to update the standards as required by the federal Clean Water Act.

Inslee’s toxics reduction program is a good idea. It’s a lot easier and cheaper to prevent poisons from ever getting into our waters than to clean them up afterwards. But to be effective, such a program must first be based in a strong rule of law that will drive the compliance and innovation needed to meet those standards.

The governor is expected to propose a new set of water quality standards in early August. If not, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will step in to help.

It is important to remember that all natural resources are connected. Water quantity and quality are two sides of the same coin. Both are fundamental to the health of people and salmon.

Protecting and restoring salmon habitat improves the overall health of our watersheds, making them more resistant to drought and able to bounce back more quickly from its effects.

To truly protect our water quality and quantity – and to protect and restore the salmon resource – we must continue to work together to restore salmon habitat. At the same time, we should develop strong rules that can support a statewide toxics reduction program with realistic, truly protective water quality standards that are implemented over time.

Join the plastic-free challenge

Native designed reusable totes can be found at the Tulalip Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop. Photo/Mara Hill
Native designed reusable totes can be found at the Tulalip Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop.
Photo/Mara Hill

By Mara Hill, Tulalip News

People all over the United States go shopping every day. More often than not, you’ll see consumers walking their cart of groceries to their vehicles, so they can take them home and unload their goods. But what is left after the unpacking? A pile of single-use plastic bags that get shoved under a sink or in a trash can. If you’re one of those people who repurpose plastic bags, that’s a good way to get more use out of them. However, the bags will eventually be thrown away, and more likely be added to the landfill despite your recycling efforts.

Changes can be made to your habits by joining thousands of people from all over the world in the Plastic-Free July challenge. The challenge is to refuse single-use plastic during July. You can choose to challenge yourself all month, or do it for just one day. Any amount of time is a contribution to our planet. Get your friends and family involved. Make it fun by turning it into a competition to see who can go without these items the longest. Find ways that will help the effort to raise awareness and the environment by getting creative and refusing to use or buy plastics. Instead, make a one-time purchase of affordable reusable bags, water bottles, and coffee cups that are sold almost anywhere.

If items in other stores don’t quite suit your taste or style, check out some native-themed items in the gift shop at the Hibulb Cultural Center and Natural History Preserve.


Reusable water bottles are a far better option than disposable ones.Photo/Mara Hill
Reusable water bottles are a far better option than disposable ones.
Photo/Mara Hill
The Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop offers a nice array of Native designed coffee cups and travel mugs.Photo/Mara HIll
The Hibulb Cultural Center Gift Shop offers a nice array of Native designed coffee cups and travel mugs.
Photo/Mara HIll


For more information about the Plastic Free July challenge you can visit




‘Small’ Oil Spills Can Add Up To Big Costs

Oiled mallard ducks recuperate in cribs inside heated tents after a Sunnyside oil spill.Rowan Moore Gerety/Northwest Public Radio / Northwest Public Radio
Oiled mallard ducks recuperate in cribs inside heated tents after a Sunnyside oil spill.
Rowan Moore Gerety/Northwest Public Radio / Northwest Public Radio

by Rowan Moore Gerety Northwest Public Radio


State Fish and Wildlife Biologist Brian McDonald is careful not to raise his voice as he approaches a row of baby cribs in a warehouse in Pasco, Washington. Each one holds mallard ducks.

“They’re typically in pretty rough shape—they’re sick, they’re cold, they’re oiled, they’re hungry,” he says.

The ducks were hit by an oil spill in Sunnyside earlier this month. McDonald says oil coats the ducks’ feathers and breaks down their natural waterproofing, “so each time they go into the water, it’s like a scuba diver going in without a wetsuit.”

Though they don’t always make headlines, 95 percent of oil spills in the U.S. are relatively small — less than the size of a tanker truck you might see on the highway. Washington State’s Department of Ecology responds to about 400 oil spills a year, nearly all of them a few thousand gallons or less.

Jeff Lewis, who leads the department’s spill cleanup in central Washington, says: “Early on, it’s usually a lot of detective work. In this case, it wasn’t intuitive where this thing came from.”

With spills to running water like the one in Sunnyside, he says, “they had to find the most upstream pipe they could see that was producing oil, and start narrowing your search.”


Emergency crews responded to a 1,500 gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River in early March, 2015.
Emergency crews responded to a 1,500 gallon oil spill in Central Washington’s Yakima River in early March, 2015. Washington Department of Ecology


Lewis says responders looking for the source of the Sunnyside spill eventually traced the oil over 24 miles of moving water, from the Yakima River through a network of irrigation ditches. The culprit was a single storage tank on an old feedlot. Cleanup took as many as 50 people working 11 days straight.

“Even though 2-3,000 gallons of oil may not seem like a lot where it’s in aggregate form, in a tank, when it spreads out over the water, it can get into the weeds, into the cattails,” Lewis says. That makes cleanup a much more complicated undertaking.

All told, the U.S. spends almost $3 billion annually cleaning up spills on lakes, rivers, and streams. That’s the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez cleanupevery single year.

It’s too soon to say exactly how the Sunnyside spill began, but corrosion and punctures are the most common cause. So-called “structural failures” account for one out of every four inland spills.

“The oil industry in the U.S. has been around 120 + years,” observes geologist Ed Owens. “There are pipelines laid down, which, in some areas, are long since abandoned.”

In rural areas, used motor oil like the stuff in Sunnyside was long used to keep dust down on dirt roads. Everywhere there’s oil, there are tanks or pipes to hold it: everything from farms and gas stations to backup generators.

Since a lot of this infrastructure is underground, Owens says leaks often go unnoticed until it’s too late, as happened with a spill discovered beneath New York City’s JFK airport in the 1990s.

“Thousands of gallons of jet fuel had been spilled over the years,” Owens says, “and only when some of that leaked into a small creek, and it was decided to better look at this, they discovered the problem was really quite huge.”

Over time, the EPA has strengthened regulations on facilities used to store and transport oil. Spills today are just a quarter of what they were in the 1970s.

But those regulations don’t cover everything. “There’s bound to be old tanks out there that predate the regulations,” Owens says. “They’ve never had to fit into the system, because either they went out of use—that doesn’t mean to say they were empty—” or, at a few thousand gallons, they’re small enough that no special permit is required.

The EPA says it didn’t know about the Sunnyside tank until after the spill. And when the agency does do inspections, it finds leaks more than half the time.