Quinault Nation Wins Ocean Fishing Area Case

Source: water4fish

TAHOLAH, WA (7/9/15)—Federal District Court Judge Ricardo Martinez handed down a decision today favoring the Quinault Indian Nation, as well as the Quileute Tribe, confirming the tribes’ right to fish in the ocean. The case, which was first filed in 2009, pitted the two tribes against the Makah Tribe in a territorial battle for fishing rights.

 “We make every effort to avoid intertribal conflicts such as this, and that was certainly the case here, but the Makah Tribe, joined by the State of Washington, brought this lawsuit to limit the Quinault Nation’s treaty ocean fishing so Quinault was forced to defend its treaty rights. We are very fortunate to have federal court to resort to in those rare instances when we need it.”

Judge Martinez ruled that Quinault Nation’s Usual and Accustomed fishing area extends 30 miles out to sea from the Tribe’s reservation on the Olympic Peninsula. 

 “We are obviously very pleased with this decision,” said President Sharp. “We had no doubt whatsoever that our fishing heritage includes the ocean, and that was confirmed by the judge” she said.

The decision confirms that Quinault fishers will be able to continue fishing in the ocean for generations to come.

Judge Martinez accepted the Quinault Nation’s evidence regarding its heritage and reserved treaty rights.  This lawsuit was part of the 1974 U.S. v. Washington (Boldt) case which confirmed tribal treaty fishing rights. That case was supported by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1978.

 “Winning this case will not only help secure our long held ocean fishing heritage for our fishermen; it will also help us continue to manage ocean fish stocks properly. We will work with the Makah Nation, as well as other tribes and other governments to help assure that there are healthy stocks of salmon and other species in the ocean environment for many generations to come,” said President Sharp.

The Quinault Nation was represented in the trial by Eric Nielsen of Nielsen, Broman & Coch of Seattle. Quinault attorney Ray Dodge also contributed significantly to the case, which resulted in an 83 page decision by Judge Martinez, much of which documents the extensive long term relationship of the Quinault people with the ocean. 

Maine American Indians, fishing for millennia, regroup as latest effort for state pact fades

By Patrick Whittle, Associated Press

BANGOR, Maine (AP) — Marie Harnois stands on the banks of the Penobscot River at dusk, swirling a dip net under the water, fishing for eels — something her ancestors in the Passamaquoddy tribe have done for thousands of years.

Fishing has been a way of life for Maine’s American Indians since time immemorial — “Passamaquoddy” is derived from a word that means “the people who spear pollock” — and Harnois thinks it’s past time the state government’s regulators came to the table to share management of fisheries with the tribes.

“I think the tribe should be able to set their standards however they want,” she said, alongside sisters Fawn and Eva, as she emptied wriggling baby eels into a bucket. “They’re perfectly capable of managing resources.”

Like Harnois, members of Maine’s four federally recognized American Indian tribes are regrouping just as a tribal effort to forge a fishery management pact with state regulators is faltering. The tribes proposed an ambitious bill that called for regulators and tribes to craft “memorandums of agreement” about managing marine resources.

The bill, which stemmed from recent squabbles the tribes have had with regulators about quotas and gear used in the lucrative baby eel fishery, was soundly rejected by a key state legislative committee in May, and it appears unlikely to pass if it reaches the full Legislature.

But former Passamaquoddy tribe legislative Representative Matthew Dana, who sponsored the bill and withdrew from his seat in protest last week, said he is hopeful the tribe and state can still reach agreement without passing a law. The tribes feel as though the state is preventing them from beginning an era of cooperation with a government regulatory structure with which they have frequently been at loggerheads, he said.

“I thought this was going to go somewhere, and obviously it did not,” Dana said. “We’re trying to keep the lines of communication open and hopefully meet before the start of the season next year.”

There are about 8,000 Maine residents of Native American descent, about 2,500 of whom are Passamaquoddies. The other recognized tribes are the Penobscot Nation, Aroostook band of Micmacs and the Houlton band of Maliseet Indians. They are descendants of the Algonquian-speaking Wabanaki peoples who lived in Maine before the time of the earliest European settlements. The tribes have harvested everything from lobsters to porpoises from Maine’s waters over the centuries.

In that time, their methods have changed. Oral traditions say Penobscots would fish for eels by poisoning the water with berries and plants. Today the tribes fish mostly with modern gear. The importance of fishing to the tribes’ culture, however, has never wavered, Dana said.

“We know the importance of maintaining the balance of nature and the natural systems,” he said in a presentation to a legislative committee earlier this year. “We take only what we need.”

Tribal-state relations have a long and frequently difficult history in states around the country, particularly in managing resources, but there have been recent breakthroughs. In Washington, Gov. Jay Inslee this month signed a bill into law that creates a method for tribes to enter into pacts with the government to sell marijuana.

Maine Marine Resources Commissioner Patrick Keliher is “open and committed to dialogue with the tribes,” a spokesman said. Keliher opposed the tribes’ plan for shared management of fisheries, and he and his department have sparred with Passamaquoddies in recent years.

Keliher criticized Passamaquoddy leadership last month about the tribe’s use of fyke nets to fish for baby eels. The eels, also called elvers, are a moneymaking species that is highly prized in Asian markets, sometimes selling for $2,000 per pound, and are subject to strict quotas. Both tribal and nontribal members fish for them in the state’s rivers and streams. Keliher said the tribe’s gear could cause the state to exceed the quota, but Passamaquoddy leaders have said the tribe plans to continue using the nets.

The Penobscot Nation and Passamaquoddy Tribe have also said recent actions by Gov. Paul LePage, such as the withdrawal of an executive order that sought to promote cooperation between the state and the tribes, have damaged relations. The two tribes and the Aroostook Band of Micmacs said in a joint document on Wednesday that they are no longer recognizing the authority of state officials, lawmakers and courts to interfere with their “self-governing rights.”

And a year ago, the tribe resisted the state’s effort to enforce quotas on individual tribal elver fishermen. The Passamaquoddies believe natural resources belong to all tribal members and not individuals, but they eventually agreed to the quotas.

Back in Bangor, Fawn Pirruccello, one of Harnois’ sisters, was having better luck with her elver catch than she had expected. All three sisters, in fact, were doing well for the breezy, cool conditions of a May evening. While she said she’s not a big fan of the quotas, for now, state laws leave her little choice.

“Like anyone else, I don’t like them,” she said. “But there’s not much you can do.”

Nisqually Wildlife Refuge would be renamed for civil rights hero Billy Frank Jr.

Billy Frank Jr. poses for a 2014 photo near Frank’s Landing on the Nisqually River in Nisqually, Wash. Frank, a Nisqually tribal elder who was arrested dozens of times while trying to ‘assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and ’70s. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

Billy Frank Jr. poses for a 2014 photo near Frank’s Landing on the Nisqually River in Nisqually, Wash. Frank, a Nisqually tribal elder who was arrested dozens of times while trying to ‘assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and ’70s. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File)

 

By Joel Connelly, Seattle PI

 

The state’s congressional delegation, showing rare bipartisan unity, plans next week to introduce legislation that would rename the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge in honor of Billy Frank  Jr., champion of native fishing rights and a Washington civil rights hero.

The bill would create a National Historic Site to mark the 1854 Treaty of Medicine Creek, which took land from natives but did guarantee them the right to take fish “at all usual and accustomed stations . . . in common with the citizens of the territory.”

“I loved Billy Frank:  He was one of the greatest men I have met in my life,” said U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., the principal author of the legislation.  “He is our Martin Luther King, our Desmond Tutu, our Nelson Mandela.”

Frank was viewed differently when he launched Indian fishing rights protests on the Nisqually in the 1960′s.  He was arrested 50 times, starting at the age of 14, for “illegal” fishing on the Nisqually River, where he was born and lived, and where his ancestors lived.

He died last year, at 83, as a recipient of the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award, a person of vast credibility who began with a simple message.  “He said simply, Treaties are the word of America, and America should keep its word,’ ” ex-Gov. Mike Lowry recalled.

The struggle for fishing rights became a seminal — perhaps THE seminal — episode in the modern history of Native-American rights.

“I have a particular view of how this impacted ‘Indian Country,’ ” said Heck.  The issue of treaty rights to fish gave Native Americans a platform on resources.  It gave them standing on other issues, and led to the National Indian Gaming Regulatory Act.  And that act led to the fastest drop in Indian poverty we have ever seen.”

 

In this file photo from the late 1960s provided by the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, Billy Frank Jr., left, fishes on the Nisqually River near Olympia, Wash., with his half brother Don McCloud. Frank, a Nisqually tribal elder who was arrested dozens of times while trying to assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and '70s, died Monday, May 5, 2014. He was 83. (AP Photo/Courtesy Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, File)

In this 1960′s photo, Billy Frank Jr., left, fishes on the Nisqually River near Olympia, Wash., with his half brother Don McCloud. Frank, a Nisqually tribal elder, was arrested dozens of times while trying to assert his native fishing rights during the Fish Wars of the 1960s and ’70s,. (AP Photo/Courtesy Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission, File)

 

How so? “Billy was the spear point in treaty rights,” Heck added.

An historic moment in Northwest history came in 1974, when conservative U.S. District Judge George Boldt ruled for the Native Americans, that treaty Indians were entitled to 50 percent of the salmon catch and could fish in “all usual and accustomed grounds and stations.”

When he was 14, Bill Frank had told game wardens who arrested him:  “Leave me alone, goddamn it! I live here.”

In later years, Frank would replace confrontation with cooperation in restoring the salmon runs that help define the Pacific Northwest.

“When a bunch of Really Important People get together in a conference room, you can always tell Mr. Frank even from afar,” author Timothy Egan once wrote.  Amid the government and corporate executives, all tasseled loafers and silk ties, he’s the one with the long pony tail, the gold salmon medallion and the open necked shirt.

“And he’s the one with the scars — nicks, cuts and slash marks — from a lifetime of being harassed by people who don’t like Indians, and from an all-season outdoor life.”

The Nisqually Wildlife Refuge is a suitable honor.  Frank lived to see levies and dikes come down at the mouth of the Nisqually River, with estuary habitat restored where salmon can grow up, and where visitors can witness a multiplicity of shore birds.

“The absence of natural estuaries like this is part of the reason why the region is still going backwards rather than forwards on Puget Sound salmon,” Heck noted.

Heck has done his homework on the bill.  He has lined up as a cosponsor influential Oklahoma Republican Rep. Tom Cole, a member of the Chickasaw Nation. He has also signed up Alaska’s crusty Republican Rep. Don Young.

 

Canada geese in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge

Canada geese in the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge, a sanctuary for birds and a place where young salmon can grow up.

 

A cosponsor from this state, Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers, is a usually hyper partisan member of the House Republican leadership.  “Her signing on says to the leadership, ‘This is O.K.’,” said Heck.

He has also secured backing from the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission — long headed by Billy Frank — and the National Congress of American Indians. Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Tribe, is currently president of the congress.

The legislation, officially “The Billy Frank, Jr., Tell Your Story Act” creates an opportunity for the Nisqually, Muckleshoot, Puyallup and Squaxin Island tribes to tell their stories.  The U.S. Interior Secretary will coordinate with then creating materials for the Medicine Treaty National Historic Site.

Bill Frank made his last appearance just over a year ago, at a meeting in Suquamish with U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.

Just over a week later, he died.  “When Billy spoke, you listened: We saw that firsthand just last week when he commanded a room that included tribal leaders, fisheries officials and the secretary of the interior,” U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer, D-Wash., recalled of the meeting.

Not bad for a guy with a ninth-grade education.”Today, because of the Boldt Decision, the state and tribes are partners in the management and preservation of resources that are foundational in the economy of the state,” Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., said in eulogizing Frank.

Just as Frank spoke of cooperation and conservation, the wildlife refuge at the mouth of the Nisqually speaks of Billy Frank Jr.

“If We Cannot Escape, Neither Will the Coal”

Northwest Tribes and First Nations block fossil fuel exports.

Eric de Place (@Eric_deP) and Nick Abraham, Sightline Daily, September 8, 2014

Across the Northwest, Native communities are refusing to stand idle in the face of unprecedented schemes to move coal, oil, and gas through the region. It’s a movement that could well have consequences for global energy markets, and even the pace of climate change.

Now is a good moment for pausing to examine some of the seminal moments of resistance from tribal opposition to fossil fuel exports. Yesterday, the second Totem Pole Journey came to an end with a totem pole raising ceremony at the Beaver Lake Cree Nation in Alberta. As it did last year, the journey showcased the tremendous breadth and depth of indigenous opposition to coal and oil schemes—spanning Native communities from coastal forests to the high plains interior of North America.

The journey was a reminder not only of the particular moral authority of the tribes and First Nations in the face of fossil plans, but also the fact that they are uniquely equipped to arrest these export plans.

British Columbia

Like the United States, Canada is in the midst of a natural gas boom. The industry is trying desperately to move its products to foreign markets, but concerns about public health, fishing rights, and environmental damage have First Nations raising red flags.

Many of the First Nations in British Columbia have banded together against a liquid natural gas facility at Fort Nelson in northeast BC. At what is now being called the “Fort Nelson Incident” Chief Sharleen Gale gave a rousing speech, saying:

My elders said, you treat people kind, you treat people with respect… even when they are stabbing you in the back. So I respectfully ask government to please remove yourselves from the room.

Gale later asked LNG representatives to leave as well, and the event galvanized the BC aboriginal community. Since then, no fewer than 28 BC First Nation organizations have signed a declaration to put the facility on hold.

Elsewhere in the province, aboriginal communities have been in a long standoff with proponents of the highly controversial Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline, a proposal that would move tar sands oil from Alberta to port facilities in BC where it would be transferred to tankers that would move the crude to Pacific markets. At least 50 First Nation leaders and 130 organizations have signed the “Save the Fraser Declaration.” Citing concerns over water quality, fishing, treaty rights, and sovereignty, nine coastal First Nations even went so far as to preemptively ban oil tankers in their territorial waters.

The Canadian federal government gave approval to the Northern Gateway Pipeline in June, and women of the Gitga’at Nation did not take it lying down. In protest, they stretched a 4.5 kilometer (2.7 mile) crochet chain across the narrow channel near Kitimat, where the export facility is proposed to be built.

“It’s to show that we’re prepared to do what it takes to stop them because we can’t let it happen. It’s the death of our community, our culture,” said Lynne Hill, who generated the idea.

Now, similar opposition is mounting against Kinder Morgan’s planned Trans Mountain Pipeline expansion in southern BC, and BC First Nations are challenging it in court.

Lillian Sam, aboriginal elder from the Nak’al Koh River region, put the situation in perspective:

You cannot eat money…you see the devastation of the oil sands: a huge part of that land is no good. What’s going to happen to us? What’s going to happen to our children?

The US Northwest

Like their neighbors to the north, Washington Tribes have had major concerns over fossil fuel exports, not to mention the way they have been treated by proponents of the projects.

In 2011, the would-be builder of the Gateway Pacific coal terminal near Bellingham got into hot water with permitting agencies after it was discovered that they had begun construction without approval. Not only did construction crews destroy acres of sensitive wetlands, they also damaged local Lummi Nation burial grounds.

It was a not-so-subtle “accident” and was the last straw for many in the local tribal community. The Lummi subsequently burned a mock check from the terminal proponents at the site of the planned coal terminal. It was a pivotal moment for activism in the Northwest.

Opposition from the tribes can be a tremendous barrier for the coal, oil, and gas industries to surmount. Above and beyond their sovereignty, most of the Northwest tribes have specific fishing rights guaranteed to them in their treaties with the US government, rights that were subsequently reaffirmed and clarified by the Boldt Decision of 1974. Those tribes have firm legal footing for demanding access to their “usual and accustomed” fishing grounds, which include most of the places where fuel terminals would be located.

Other Puget Sound tribes have also made it publicly clear that they are firmly against coal exports. In April of last year, tribal leaders joined then-Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn in the Leadership Alliance, a coalition against coal export.

Said Tulalip Tribes Chairman Melvin Sheldon:

When it comes to coal… the negative potential of what it does to our Northwest—we stand with you to say no to coal. As a matter of fact, the Tulalip say ‘hell no’ to coal.

Brian Cladoosby, chairman of the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community and one of the state’s most influential Native American leaders, declared:

For thousands of years, Washington State tribes have fought to protect all that is important for those who call this great state home. We as leaders need to protect our treaty resources, our economies, and the human health of our citizens and neighbors.

The Nisqually Tribe likewise has submitted thorough public comment in opposition to a giant coal terminal planned for Longview, Washington. Beloved tribal leader Billy Frank, Jr., who recently passed away, was a persistent voice in opposition to Northwest fossil fuel exports. In one of the last things he wrote, he declared his solidarity with the Quinault Nation, who are fighting against a trio of oil terminals proposed in Grays Harbor Washington. Frank wrote:

The few jobs that the transport and export of coal and oil offer would come at the cost of catastrophic damage to our environment for years. Everyone knows that oil and water don’t mix, and neither do oil and fish, oil and wildlife, or oil and just about everything else. It’s not a matter of whether spills will happen, it’s a matter of when.

East of the Cascades, too, Native opposition has been fierce. The Yakama Tribe came out publicly and powerfully against Ambre’s proposed coal export facility in eastern Oregon, once again citing tribal fishing rights. Yakama protests and tenacity, in conjunction with other regional tribes like the Warm Spring and the Nez Perce, were a major factor in the proposal not being permitted. In Oregon, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation also joined the Yakama in opposition to coal on the Columbia River, batting down ham-fisted attempts by the industry to buy tribal support.

Networks of tribes, like the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission (CRITFC), also voiced their strong concerns about what the proposals would be mean for their communities. The Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission also declared its strong opposition to oil exports from the proposed site at Grays Harbor, highlighting fishing disruption in the Puget Sound, health problems in their communities, and pollution.

In fact, the 57 nations that make up the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians unanimously voted in May of 2013 to officially oppose all fossil fuel export facilities in the Northwest.

Paul Lumley, executive director of the Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission, may have put the tribal community’s view most clearly:

Our communities are wedged between the railroad and the river. We’ve got nowhere to escape. If we cannot escape, neither will the coal.

Lumley’s words are proving prescient. Last month, yet another Northwest coal export terminal was dealt what was likely a fatal blow. The Oregon Department of State Lands denied a crucial permit to Ambre Energy, which plans to ship coal from a site on the Columbia River. Among the most influential factors the state agency cited for its decision: tribal sovereignty.

The decision was, in some ways, recognition of the power that the region’s tribes and First Nations can exercise over the fossil fuel infrastructure projects that are cropping up across the Northwest. By asserting treaty rights and voicing cultural concerns, tribes are presenting a major barrier—are a key part of the thin green line—to a reckless expansion of coal, oil, and gas schemes.

 

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