As hundreds attended a memorial service in Lac-Megantic on Saturday July 27 for the 47 people killed in the train explosion that flattened the center of the 6,000-population town, the horrific accident resonated with a tribe all the way over in the Pacific Northwest.
The Quinault Nation is fighting a plan to transport oil by rail through their territory and across ecologically sensitive areas. Indeed, the July 6 accident in Quebec, in which the brakes failed on a Montreal, Maine & Atlantic Railway train and it sped downhill from its overnight resting place to derail and slam into the center of the small town, highlighted a drastic increase in rail transport of oil across the U.S. and Canada.
“It could have easily been Hoquiam,” said Fawn Sharp, President of Quinault Indian Nation, in a statement soon after the crash.
About 234,000 carloads of crude oil were moved around the U.S. in 2012, up from 66,000 carloads in 2011 and 9,500 in 2008, USA Today reported. That makes for a more than 2,000 percent increase over four years, the Quinault Nation pointed out in its July 9 statement.
“It is not a matter of ‘if’ these shipments will cause a major spill; it’s a matter of ‘when’,” said Sharp.
The Quinault are battling plans by the Westway Terminal Company out of Louisiana and Texas to build an oil shipping terminal in Grays Harbor with the capacity to store 800,000 barrels of crude. The company expects to transport 10 million barrels of crude through the ecologically sensitive harbor every year, the Quinault said in their statement.
In addition two other facilities to receive crude oil via rail shipments also being proposed in the Grays Harbor area, which includes marine shipping, would create “major environmental risks” to the community and the Quinault.
“The massive train, oil barge and ship traffic this project will bring to Grays Harbor is a tragedy waiting to happen,” Sharp said. “There will be spills and they will harm salmon, shellfish, and aquatic life, trample our treaty rights and cultural historic sites, and tie up traffic for extensive distances.”
Moreover the expansion of the Westway Terminals’ Port of Grays Harbor facility violates treaty rights as well as the tribe’s standards of “good stewardship and common sense,” Sharp said. “The risk is not worth a few more, unsustainable jobs. Far too much is at stake, and there is simply no way oil train proponents can pass the straight face test and tell us that their proposal is safe. Lives are at stake. Fish and wildlife resources. Water quality and much, much more. These are the same type of rail cars that will come pouring through our area, and unquestionably threaten the lives and safety of our people and resources.”
Back in Quebec, the tragedy hit home anew. Nearly 1,000 people crowded into Ste-Agnes Church for the morning Mass presided over by Archbishop Luc Cyr of Sherbrooke, the Associated Press reported. Also attending were Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Liberal Party Leader Justin Trudeau, Quebec Premier Pauline Marois and Mayor Colette Roy-Laroche, as well as the Crown representative, Governor-General David Johnston. Maine Governor Paul LePage also attended.
“This has been an emotional day followed by a very emotional period,” Harper said outside the church, according to AP. “It is very difficult to absorb all this when you see all of these families who have been affected.”
Several lawsuits have been filed as a result of the explosion, and both the police and federal transportation safety officials conduct investigations, AP reported.
Richard Walker, Indian Country Today Media Network
Two Native Americans in Washington state and an environmental adviser to Quinault Nation’s president were named in May to key positions influencing the arts, the environment and historical protection. Earlier, an environmental lawyer who is Mescalero Apache was named director of the state’s Department of Ecology.
Suquamish Tribe Chairman Leonard Forsman was appointed by President Barack Obama to the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation. Forsman said he will continue to serve as Suquamish chairman; the advisory council meets quarterly and members are not paid.
The Advisory Council on Historic Preservation (ACHP)is an independent federal agency that promotes “the preservation, enhancement, and productive use of our nation’s historic resources,” and advises the President and Congress on national historic preservation policy.
According to the agency’s website, “The goal of the National Historic Preservation Act, which established the ACHP in 1966, is to have federal agencies act as responsible stewards of our nation’s resources when their actions affect historic properties. The ACHP is the only entity with the legal responsibility to encourage federal agencies to factor historic preservation into federal project requirements.”
Forsman has been chairman of the Suquamish Tribe since 2005. He earned a bachelor of arts in anthropology from the University of Washington and a master of arts in historic preservation from Goucher College.
Forsman was director of the Suquamish Museum from 1984 to 1990, and has served on the museum Board of Directors since 2010. He was a research archaeologist for Larson Anthropological/Archaeological Services in Seattle from 1992 to 2003. He has served on the Tribal Leaders Congress on Education since 2005, the Suquamish Tribal Cultural Cooperative Committee since 2006, the Washington State Historical Society board since 2007, and was vice president of the Washington Indian Gaming Association in 2010. He also served on the state Committee on Geographic Names.
Forsman said, “I want to build on the advisory council’s efforts to recognize and protect those cultural resources that are important to tribes — the cultural landscape and sacred places that have been neglected — and provide tribes more resources to protect those places to the best of our ability.”
Maia D. Bellon, Mescalero Apache, was appointed director of the state Department of Ecology by Gov. Jay Inslee. Several Olympia insiders say Bellon may be the first Native American appointed to a cabinet-level position by a governor of Washington.
Upon taking office, she helped resolve a dispute that threatened a cleanup plan for an old mill site on Port Gamble Bay, one of seven bays identified as cleanup priorities under the Puget Sound Initiative.
Ecology wants two old docks with creosoted pilings removed as part of the cleanup; the mill site owner, Pope Resources, wanted to keep the docks in place until it had approval for a new dock, which it considers critical to its plans to further develop its upland community of Port Gamble.
The final agreement puts the docks’ removal later in the cleanup timeline. Pope has no guarantee it will get a new dock, but it may be able to use removal of the old docks as mitigation when it applies for a new-dock permit; in other words, Pope could say the environmental impacts from the new dock would be offset by the removal of the old docks.
Bellon’s handling of the negotiations won praise. “In her first weeks in office, [she] brought a focused effort on reaching an equitable resolution to this complex cleanup project,” Pope president and CEO David Nunes said.
Bellon is the daughter of Richard Bellon, executive director of the Chehalis Tribe; and Rio Lara-Bellon, a writer and educator. She graduated from The Evergreen State College in 1991 and Arizona State University Law School in 1994.
In the ensuing years, she served as an environmental attorney with Ecology and the state Attorney General’s office. In 2011, she became manager of Ecology’s water resources program, responsible for management of the state’s water resources, the allocation of water, and protection of water rights, instream flows and environmental functions.
In that role, she shepherded an agreement ensuring sufficient stream flows for salmon without jeopardizing local water-use rights in the Dungeness River basin. Among its many provisions, the agreement established necessary stream flows for salmon habitat, and set up a “water bank” through which land owners can buy, sell or lease water-use credits, or water rights.
Bellon said she works to help all sides see the other’s perspective and keep everyone focused on shared goals. “I strive to serve as a bridge,” Bellon said. “When people are in the same room, when they’re engaged closely, they find they share many of the same values. That’s where we need to start.”
Tracy Rector, Seminole/Choctaw, was appointed by Seattle’s mayor and City Council to the Seattle Arts Commission.
Rector is executive director of Longhouse Media, which works to break down negative stereotypes of Native people in the media, and help Native youth develop the skills necessary to tell their own stories through digital media. She produced the award-winning film, “March Point” (2008), a coming-of-age story about three Swinomish teens who make a documentary about the impact of two oil refineries on their community.
Rector’s film work has been featured at the Cannes Film Festival, ImagineNative Film + Media Arts Festival, the Smithsonian’s Museum of the American Indian, and on PBS’s Independent Lens. She has a master’s in education from Antioch University.
Gary Morishima, natural resources adviser to Quinault Nation President Fawn Sharp, is a new member of the U.S. Geological Survey Climate Change and Natural Resources Science Committee, and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Native American Policy Team. He was appointed by U.S. Interior Secretary Sally Jewell.
In her announcement, Jewell said the climate change committee will work to “develop sound science that will help inform policymakers, land managers and the public in making important resource management decisions.”
Morishima said in an announcement released by the Quinault Nation, “Because Tribal communities are place-based and critically dependent on natural resources, they are among the most vulnerable to climate impacts and among the most experienced in adapting to changing conditions. Tribal perspectives need to be an integral part of the committee’s dialogue. Awareness and respect for both tribal wisdom and western science will be crucial to our collective ability to understand, confront and overcome the scientific, economic and political challenges that lie ahead.”
Morishima said of his appointment to U.S. Fish and Wildlife’s Native American Policy team, “It’s a big responsibility and an exciting opportunity to strengthen working partnerships to care for the land and people.”
Morishima has an undergraduate degree in mathematics and a Ph.D. in quantitative science and environmental management from the University of Washington. He has served the Quinault Nation since 1974 in forestry, fisheries and natural resources management. He has testified before Congress on natural resource management, trust reform, and Indian policy. He is one of the founders of the Intertribal Timber Council.
“I am very proud of the many achievements and contributions Dr. Morishima has made in his 40 years of service to the Quinault Nation and to Indian country,” Quinault’s president said in the announcement. “I have full confidence that he will do an exceptional job and that his efforts will make a substantial difference in meeting the challenges being addressed by these two important committees.”
The Quinault Nation, based in Taholah, Washington, released the following statement approving the President’s 2013 National Drug Control Strategy, released on April 24. The policy builds on the foundation laid down by the Administration’s previous three strategies and serves as the Nation’s blueprint for reducing drug use and its consequences. The collaborative and scientific-based approach involves 1) prevention through education; 2) expanded access to treatment for Americans struggling with addiction; 3) reform of the criminal justice system to break the cycle of drug use, crime and incarceration while protecting public safety; and 4) support for Americans in recovery by lifting the stigma associated with those suffering or in recovery from substance abuse disorders.
We enthusiastically applaud President Obama’s announcement today that his Administration will pursue a 21st Century Drug Policy to replace the ‘tough on crime’ policy with a new ‘smart on crime policy’,” said Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.
Far too long, the U.S. approach to drug control has been focused on a “war” that has long since been proved to be unwinnable, rather than an approach based on holistic healing and education as well as a logical approach that combines enforcement with opportunities for victims and potential victims of drug addiction to overcome and prevent addiction as the disease that it is, said Sharp.
“The failed approaches of the past have cost this country dearly. Every year, the price tag in lost productivity, healthcare and criminal justice has mounted to hundreds of billions of dollars. But the cost in lost lives and lost human potential has gone way beyond dollars and cents, diminishing the potential of hundreds of thousands of individuals, jeopardizing the health and safety of entire families and communities,” she said.
“Indian tribes have by no means been immune to this curse. Right here in the Northwest, and throughout the country, drugs have cost native people dearly, and we have been working hard to meet this challenge head on,” she said.
“This President’s vision is very welcome and way past due. We embrace it and we at Quinault will do all we can to support it,” she said.
This is a disease that can be cured, if we approach it properly. President Obama’s approach is a science-driven plan, backed by clear research and evidence. Progress is already being made under his leadership and guidance. The use of certain drugs is on the decline, as is drug-related imprisonment, said Sharp.
“We absolutely concur with the President’s holistic approach, which is based on attacking drug abuse as public health issue as well as a criminal issue. Tribes have already seen it to be true, that going to the source of the disease and working toward a cure makes far more sense than approaching it through enforcement alone,” she said.
The President’s policy is based on four primary objectives:1)Preventing drug use before it begins through education; 2)Expanding access to treatment for Americans struggling with addiction; 3)Reforming the country’s criminal justice system to break the cycle of drug use, crime and incarceration and 4)Supporting Americans in recovery and lifting the stigma associated with substance use disorders. These policies are based on definitive research that shows drug addiction is a disease of the brain.
“Drug abuse has no place in the lives of our tribal members, or any other American. For generations our Native American people have been healing from a number of challenges and diseases brought on through our interaction with non-tribal society. Drug and alcohol abuse have been among the worst of these challenges. But we are dealing with these challenges, and we are making progress. With the help of insightful policies such as this President’s new policy on drug abuse, combined with our own and with our reliance on the healthy and holistic traditional values of our ancestors, we will continue to make progress, and our people will continue to become all that they can be,” said Sharp.
Most notably, the President’s Budget includes a request for an increase of copy.5 billion over the FY 2012 level to fund drug treatment and prevention services in America – a 16 percent increase over FY 2012. As a result, the President’s Budget requests more for treatment and prevention—copy0.7 billion—than for Federally-funded domestic drug law enforcement and incarceration – $9.6 billion.
“This is what a 21st century approach to drug policy looks like,” said Sharp. “It will be critically important to assure that an adequate amount of this funding is appropriated to Native American programs.”