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 reservedtreatyrights. 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.
OUTSIDE OF FORKS, Clallam County — There hadn’t been any good fishing on the Calawah River the day last December when Erik Wasankari and his son Reid found the rock.
It was a damp, cold day when the pair, on their lunch break, saw the rock and walked into the river, which was running shallow, to inspect it.
It was big — about 2 feet in diameter, with a domelike top filled with grooves and small depressions. Reid scraped off some moss so they could see it better.
All Wasankari could make out were “just some triangles and rectangles and shapes,” but he realized they had found something special.
“The symbols that we saw were too unique,” said Wasankari, a 44-year-old contractor who grew up in the area and now lives in Gig Harbor.
The rock they stumbled upon appears to be a carving that depicts a legendary battle in Quileute mythology, according to tribal and state officials.
Chas Woodruff, chairman of the Quileute Nation’s Tribal Council, describes the historic find for the tribe as “ the most important, at least in this modern day.”
Up to 1,000 pounds
When tribal and state officials, including Woodruff and state Commissioner of Public Lands Peter Goldmark gathered Wednesday for a ceremony to celebrate the rock’s discovery, you couldn’t walk across the Calawah River. The mud-tinted river was square in the middle of a storm that was dumping several inches of rain on the region and sending whitecaps and dead trees hurtling downstream.
The rock — which could weigh up to 1,000 pounds — had been hauled up to the river bank by a power winch.
Standing near it just before the ceremony were Lee Stilson and Eugene Jackson. Stilson retired just last week as state lands archaeologist for the state Department of Natural Resources; Jackson is a Quileute tribal member.
The two talked about what they could see on the rock’s surface. Stilson pointed out the head of what is believed to be K’wati, a transformative figure in Quileute mythology. With his finger, Stilson traced K’wati’s head, beak and distinctive comb, and then K’wati’s tongue, which leads to another figure on the rock, believed to be the Red Lizard.
The tongue is a power symbol and weapon for Northwest tribes, Stilson explained. Jackson, who has done some carving himself, agreed.
“Anything that comes out of the mouth is an offensive design — that animal is showing his power,” Jackson said.
Stilson and Jackson wondered if the rock could have been a trail marker.
“On the 1893 General Land Office map, they show a trail here,” Stilson said.
As state archaeologist, Stilson helped authenticate the rock. Whoever carved it used not a metal tool but stone, he said. That means it’s a “pre-contact” artifact, one made before Europeans moved into the region. Stilson guessed it dates to around or before the mid-1700s.
Stilson described such a significant discovery as a gift to end his 44-year archaeological career.
“It’s a phenomenal work of art,” he said, more than once.
Jackson’s connection is more personal. He said the rock could have been moved downstream over the centuries from land where his ancestors lived. And he brought his 7-year-old son, Frank, to see the carving and show him “who he is, where he comes from.”
The Red Lizard, according to Quileute legend, made his home near the narrowest point of land between the Calawah and Sol Duc rivers and stopped people using it as a shortcut from one to the other. K’wati, a figure of good who was known as the “transformer” and turned the Quileutes from wolves into people, eventually killed the Red Lizard, who had a much poorer reputation.
“He was a very bad monster … his urine, actually, if you stepped on it, it would kill you,” Quileute Tribal Councilman Justin “Rio” Jaime told those gathered at the ceremony.
The rock will go on display in La Push, as a welcome addition to help tell the tribe’s history. Of this, the Quileute don’t have much — in the late 1880s, a European settler set La Push afire. Along with homes and fishing equipment, the tribe lost almost all its pre-contact artifacts.
But Marion Jackson, Eugene’ Jackson’s younger sister, who also came to the ceremony, doesn’t think of the rock as just something from the past.
“I’m excited,” said Marion Jackson, as she stood just a few feet from it. “I feel like our ancestors are definitely talking to us.”
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.”
SEATTLE (CN) – Native American tribes fighting over fishing rights in Washington asked the 9th Circuit to intervene in separate proceedings last week.
The cases stems from a 1974 injunction by U.S. District Judge George Hugo Bolt in U.S. v. Washington that affirmed certain tribal fishing rights the state had been denying.
Among numerous subproceedings, the Tulalip back in 2005 requested a permanent injunction to prevent the Suquamish from fishing in waters outside their usual and accustomed, or U & A, grounds, an area determined by the 9th Circuit in 1990. The Suquamish were accused in that case of fishing on the east side of Puget Sound, in violation of court order.
U.S. District Judge Ricardo Martinez last year clarified “the geographic scope” of the Suquamish fishing grounds in Bolt’s decision. He said Bolt “relied heavily” on the reports of anthropologist Dr. Barbara Lane, who testified about various tribes’ traditional fishing areas in the 1974 case.
Martinez said it was “nearly certain” Bolt intended to include Possession Sound and waters at the mouth of the Snohomish River in the Suquamish U & A.
“On the other hand, there is an absence of evidence in her [Lane’s] report regarding Suquamish fishing in the waters on the eastern side of Whidbey Island such as Skagit Bay, Saratoga Passage and its connecting bays Penn Cove and Holmes Harbor, and Port Susan,” the July 29, 2013, ruling says. “Therefore the court finds that Judge Boldt did not intend to include these areas in the Suquamish U&A.”
The Tulalip appealed the decision to the 9th Circuit. After a three-judge panel’s Aug. 8 hearing in the Tulalip dispute, it heard the appeal by the Quileute and Quinault tribes of a similar decision by favoring the Makah tribe.
The Makah filed their Bolt subproceeding in 2009 to determine the boundaries of U & A fishing areas for the Quileute and Quinault tribes. The Ho tribe opposed the Makah’s motion as an interested party. In the complaint, the Makah argued the tribes intend to harvest Pacific whiting outside their traditional fishing grounds, which would affect the Makah’s catch. Pacific whiting travel from south to north, so the Quileute and Quinault would harvest the fish before the Makah.
Martinez let the case to proceed to trial by granting the Makah partial summary judgment last year. The Quileute and Quinault objected, arguing they waived sovereign immunity in the 1974 case only for determining their fishing rights in Washington. They claimed the court did not have authority over waters outside the 3-mile limit from the shore.
Martinez found that “incorrect” on July 8, 2013, saying the court’s jurisdiction extends to all treaty-based fishing and not limited to Washington waters.
The Quinault and Quileute’s claims of sovereign immunity also failed.
“The tribes came to Court in 1970 asking the court to determine and enforce their treaty rights, and they subjected themselves to the court’s jurisdiction for all purposes relating to the exercise of their treaty rights,” he wrote. “The Quinault and Quileute objections to the Makah motion for partial summary judgment on jurisdiction are thus without merit.”
Ho intervened in the appeals by both tribes.
With the 9th Circuit hearing the Tulalip case first Wednesday, Mason Morisset, representing the Tulalip, said Judge Bolt never “called out the specific waters we’re dealing with here.”
The lower court erred in finding the Suquamish regularly fished the east side of Whidbey Island in the past, he added.
Although the Suquamish fishing grounds extended north to Canad’s Fraser River, the tribe “would have to go out of their way” to fish on eastern Whidbey Island, Morisset said.
“In this case, there’s no evidence that the Suquamish went out of their way,” he said.
Judge Consuelo Callahan asked Morisset about the findings by an anthropologist that the Suquamish “traveled widely in the Puget Sound area.”
Morisett said this was true of “all the tribes,” and “it’s not evidence to make a general statement.”
The Suquamish may have traveled to the eastern parts of Whidbey Island and done some fishing, “but that doesn’t rise to the level of a usual and accustomed fishing place,” the attorney added.
Though Morisset called it “very telling” that the Suquamish did not contest Judge Bolt’s definition of their territory for 30 years, Callahan said “that doesn’t negate that they may have a right to do it.”
Howard Arnett, representing the Suquamish, said the tribe regularly fished in East Puget Sound based on historical reports.
“The testimony is clear,” he said. “They went there often. They went there frequently and they fished along the way – enough to establish that the entire area is a U & A.”
The Quileute, Quinault and Ho tribes dispute the finding they waived sovereign immunity, their attorney, Lauren King, said. The tribes agreed to court determination of fishing rights only in Washington State waters, she added.
With Callahan asking why the court shouldn’t “rule here that if you’re in for a penny then you’re in for a pound,” King said it would contravene Supreme Court precedent. “The Supreme Court said if you’re in for a penny, you’re in for a penny,” King said.
Callahan countered that “every single one” of the fishing rights cases involved interpretation of the same treaty.
King did not get far with her explanation that the tribes waived sovereign immunity only for one part of the treaty involving Washington fishing rights.
“If it involved all things in the treaty, we’d be here talking about hunting, about making war on other tribes,” King said.
But Callahan said the tribes’ approach seems to be “we waive sovereign immunity piece by piece until we don’t like what a court does.”
The Makah, represented by Marc Slonim, repeated their position that sovereign immunity was not an issue.
“Sovereign immunity is not a defense as to how an issue will get decided,” Slonim said.
He argued that the determination of the Quileute and Quinault traditional fishing grounds is “no different” from all of the other tribal determinations under the original U.S. v Washington case.
Callahan asked if the subject matter of this case was “inextricably linked” with U.S. v Washington.
“Absolutely,” Slonim replied.
The heart of the original case was the determination of usual and accustomed fishing grounds, the attorney added.
“You have to know where usual and accustomed fishing grounds are to adjudicate the treaty rights,” Slonim said. “The United States has said explicitly that the place these issues should be resolved is in U.S. v. Washington.”
Washington Assistant Attorney General Joseph Panesko also weighed in on the tribes
claim of sovereign immunity, saying it was “patently false” to claim the state has no regulatory authority over the waters in dispute.
He called the tribes “disingenuous” for claiming they never waived immunity over the waters. He said if they succeed in arguing Judge Bolt’s decision doesn’t affect the ocean waters, the state wouldn’t be bound by an injunction in the case.
“The state would be cleared to start regulating all tribal harvests of crab and a few other resources that the state does manage beyond the three mile line,” Panesko said. “The state could require regulatory permits, impose excise taxes on fish that tribal members bring in from beyond that 3-mile line – ”
Laughter broke out in the courtroom as Callahan translated.
“You’re saying be careful what you ask for,” she said.
Judges Jay Bybee and Richard Paez joined on the panel.
It is no secret that American Indian communities are at the forefront of climate change. From low-lying nations facing sea-level rise, to villages located on melting permafrost, to drought-plagued lands, these are some of the more dramatic examples of American Indian tribes that are taking a direct hit from extreme weather events likely linked to climate change. Although several tribes, including some on this list, are already adapting or laying out plans for the inevitable, this list highlights those that are seeing dramatic, tangible changes.
The Hoh road to the beach has washed out, and the ocean has destroyed the homes that once lined their beach. In 2009, Hog tribal officials told a U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee hearing in Washington, D.C., that they face constant threats from floods and the Hoh River.
Seaside villages up and down the Pacific coast are at risk, from rising sea levels. Some stark evidence of this came with the recent state of emergency declared by the Quinault Indian Nation. Earlier this year, its headquarters in Taholah faced an increasingly dangerous situation with sea level rise and intensified storms. The situation came to a head with the breach of a sea wall that caused serious damage.
The Quileute are squeezed on a sliver of land between the Pacific Ocean and the Olympic National Forest. Rising sea levels and a river’s changing course through the reservation has exacerbated not only fears of flooding, but also of what could happen if an earthquake occurred powerful enough to wreak the damage that was seen in Fukushima, Japan, in 2011. Just a couple of years ago a tribal school attended by 80 children was just a foot above sea level. A powerful storm surge threw car-sized wood trunks into their schoolyard. But now the Quileute are relocating an entire village.
Along Alaska’s northwestern coast, melting sea ice has reduced natural coastal protection. Increased coastal erosion is causing some shorelines to retreat at rates averaging tens of feet per year. In Shishmaref and Kivalina, Alaska, severe erosion has caused homes to collapse into the sea, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, forcing these Alaska Native Village populations to relocate in order to protect lives and property.
“Climate change is slowly tipping the balance in favor of more frequent, longer lasting, and more intense droughts,” states the 2013 Assessment of Climate Change in the Southwestern United States (SWCA). The Navajo Nation is a prime example, with a drought that pre-dates the one that has crippled parts of California. From runaway sand dunes, to dying horses, the Navajo Nation is suffering from a lack of water.
Sea level rise is washing away the land of this small tribe in Louisiana. The Biloxi-Chitimacha moved to the Isle de Jean Charles on the Gulf Coast in the 1840s and made a way of life there. The island—along with the rest of Louisiana’s coastline—is disappearing into the Gulf of Mexico at a speed almost visible to the eye, reported Truthout in April.
“There was land on both sides of the bayou,” tribal member Chris Chaisson told Truthout. “Now, it’s just open sea.”
While the tribe faces a multitude of problems, sea level rise remains at the root of the tribe’s most pressing.
8. Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation
An April 2014 study by scientists at the Utah State University has linked this year’s California drought to global warming, the Associated Press reported. That brings us to two tribal nations that issued drought state of emergencies. The Yocha Dehe Wintun Nation declared a drought emergency in April, calling upon its members to cut their water use by 20 percent.
Tribal chairman Marshall McKay put out a statement that said, “The drought threatens how we eat and drink everyday, how we manage our businesses, how we protect our environment and how we plan for our families’ futures.”
The Hoopa Valley Tribe had declared a drought state of emergency two months before the Yocha Dehe, in February. The Hoopa began formulating a drought mitigation plan that would plan out water use for three to five years, with measures such as storing water from the mountains that is currently not being tapped, beefing up fire prevention initiatives and shoring up backup water systems.