“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.”

 

 

Coal port faces huge obstacle in Lummi opposition

The totem pole Jewell James is carving to protest coal exports. Photo: Paul K. Anderson, Chuckanut Conservancy.

The totem pole Jewell James is carving to protest coal exports. Photo: Paul K. Anderson, Chuckanut Conservancy.

Cultural concerns and treaty rights to protect fish loom large for a shipping terminal near Bellingham.

Floyd McKay, CrossCut

Lummi Master Carver Jewell James at work. Photo: Paul K. Anderson, Chuckanut Conservancy.

Lummi Master Carver Jewell James at work. Photo: Paul K. Anderson, Chuckanut Conservancy.

Lummi master carver Jewell James is taking another ceremonial totem pole on a long trip, but this time it won’t be going as a healing pole — like those he carved for the three 9-11 sites — this pole is a political and cultural statement aimed at the export of coal from ports in the Pacific Northwest.

The pole is taking shape only a few miles from the proposed site of the largest coal terminal in the region, at Cherry Point north of Bellingham on Georgia Strait.

It’s a site that James and other Lummis regard as sacred; their ancestors lived, fished and died at Cherry Point through the centuries before white men discovered the area, imposed treaties on the natives and pushed them onto reservations.

The reservations are still there, as are the natives, and pressure continues to bring industry with its economic development, jobs, shipping, railroads, pollution, threats to native fishing areas and trampling of ancient grounds. Over the last two centuries, Cherry Point has seen two oil refineries, an aluminum plant and now plans for yet another giant industry.

Now, the Lummis appear to be well-positioned to play a key, perhaps the most critical role, in determining the fate of a huge proposal to export coal to China from Cherry Point. If the tribe’s objections to the port hold and their treaty rights under federal law withstand any legal questions, the path to approval of the port planned by SSA Marine of Seattle faces a giant obstacle. Company officials, for their part, say they believe the plan can win support from the tribe.

SSA Marine wants to export 48 million tons annually of Powder River Basin coal, and this time the Lummis are deeply dug in. Their line was first drawn a year ago when Lummi elders burned a ceremonial million-dollar check on the beach at Cherry Point and declared no compromise or financial offer would change their opposition to the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT).

Lummi speakers were forceful at seven public meetings last year hosted by public agencies charged with reviewing the proposal. Tribal leaders have hosted public events in Whatcom County, where the fate of two key permits will be decided. They even wrote a play, “But What About Those Promises?” to dramatize exploitation of their ancestors.

Up next is the totem pole, which begins its journey about Sept. 19 at the Powder River Basin coalfield in Wyoming and follows by truck the long and winding rail route to Cherry Point. Ceremonies and rallies along the way will reach Seattle and Cherry Point about Sept. 27 to 29.

The Lummis, with regional tribal support, are mounting a two-pronged attack on GPT: the cultural side, headed by James and associates in the Lummi Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office; and a resource side, relying on key federal court decisions protecting “Usual and Accustomed” fishing rights granted in treaties dating to 1855.

Lummi Nation then-Chair Cliff Cultee (left) and Hereditary Chair Bill James with the check they will burn at Cherry Point. Photo: Floyd McKay

Lummi Nation then-Chair Cliff Cultee (left) and Hereditary Chair Bill James with the check they will burn at Cherry Point. Photo: Floyd McKay

Lummis are quick to say the two items are inseparable because salmon is integral to every aspect of their — and all Salish tribes’ — life. Scholars support that claim and note that Salish tribes have never deviated from their relationship with salmon.

“Prior to and following the arrival of EuroAmericans, the shorelines of Cherry Point were used as fishing villages and the tidelands and waters of Georgia Strait were used to harvest fin and shellfish for commercial, subsistence, and ceremonial purposes,” Lummi chairman Tim Ballew II said in 24-page letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers in January. “Although the Lummi Nation still fishes the waters of Georgia Strait, the resources have been degraded by human activities and shoreline development has precluded the use of traditional hunting, fishing, and gathering sites along the shorelines.”

The Corps has jurisdiction over wetlands and piers and it must deal directly with the 5,000-member tribe in a “government to government” manner honoring tribal sovereignty.