In this space we will be building the story of the Salish Sea, sharing the indigenous perspective and interpretation of the gifts and wonders of this sacred space. We have very challenging issues here with the fossil fuel and other industries, pollutants and toxins on land and in the water, congestive vessel traffic and shipping noise, severe adverse impacts on wild/marine life to the point of several Endangered Species Act listing, disputes with Treaty Rights, and more.
It’s a space with a place in time immemorial, with a sacred name. It deserves our respect and our due diligence.
Here are some resolutions passed by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians:
ATNI Resolution-18-32: 2018 Mid-Year Convention – “TOKITAE, THE SOUTHERN RESIDENT KILLER WHALE POPULATION, AND THESALISH SEA: OUR SACRED OBLIGATION”
ATNI Resolution 19-29: 2019 Mid-Year Convention – “THE SALISH SEA AND OUR SACRED OBLIGATION”
But despite the fact the LNG terminal has been nixed, TC Energy isn’t giving up on its plan to build the pipeline. No other LNG terminals have been publicly proposed for the Prince Rupert area, but the company appears to be holding out hope that someone pitches one —and gets it built.
“Continuing to force communities, First Nations and stakeholders to spend their time and energy responding to ill-advised project extensions like this one is an exercise in futility and a waste of taxpayer and investment dollars,” he wrote in a letter to TC Energy. “You guys are like zombies, you keep trying to rise from the dead.”Read more here.
A growing number of tribal nations and intertribal organizations have adopted climate assessment and adaptation plans, according to the National Congress of American Indians. In Washington State, several tribes have included relocation as one of their adaptation strategies. . . . NRDC senior policy analyst Anna A. Weber, who studies the impacts of climate change and climate adaptation policies, says other factors also contribute to positioning Indigenous peoples like the Quinault Indian Nation on the front lines of our climate crisis. “The people who are the most likely to be displaced by climate change are likely to be low-income families and families of color because of long-standing policies like redlining, which have disproportionately led to communities of color being located in areas that are more susceptible to environmental hazards,” she says. “Relocation is a challenging topic for anyone, but add to this the fact that you’re dealing with communities who have been living on their ancestral lands for perhaps thousands of years and the toll is just unimaginable.” Read more here.
Sumas First Nation Chief Dalton Silver said the spill happened just south of the Lightning Rock site, a cultural and burial ground of great significance to their people. He said it's the fourth time in 15 years that there has been a spill from the pipeline on their land. "Our main concern is for the cleanup of this spill and preventing further impacts to our territory. We need to have our monitors on the ground immediately." Read more here. More on the spill Trans Mountain Pipeline spill in Abbotsford estimated at up to 190,000 litres of crude oil
Environmental groups, regional tribes and fishing organizations head to court in defense of community health and critical protections for the consumption of fish. Today, a coalition of organizations, in cooperation with regional tribes who have been leading this fight, filed a lawsuit to uphold these hard-won, critical human health protections. They include Columbia Riverkeeper, North Sound Baykeeper, the Pacific Coast Federation of Fishermen’s Associations (PCFFA), Puget Soundkeeper Alliance and Spokane Riverkeeper, represented by Earthjustice. “The degradation of water quality standards is a direct assault on the Makah Tribe’s rights reserved under the 1855 Treaty of Neah Bay and constitutes a direct attack on our sovereign interests and our way of life. Fish and other seafoods have always been fundamental to our diet, economy and culture,” stated Makah Tribal Council Chairman T.J. Greene, Sr. “Our people require safe water and seafood to survive. We absolutely oppose the EPA’s actions and the agency’s failure to meaningfully consult with the Tribe in its decisions.” Read more here.
Earth Law Center joins effort to free Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) Press Conference
WHAT: A virtual press conference at which individual Lummi tribal members Tah-Mahs (Ellie Kinley) and Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris) will announce the next step of their work to bring Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) home from the Miami Seaquarium to the Salish Sea: partnership with Earth Law Center.
The event will include a ceremonial invocation, remarks from Tah-Mahs, Squil-le-he-le and their traditional witnesses, from the Earth Law Center, and questions from the press.
WHEN: 11:00 am-12:00pm. Wednesday, June 10, 2020
WHY: Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut (Tokitae/Lolita) was stolen from her family in the Salish Sea in 1970 and has been held captive at Miami Seaquarium ever since. As part of their Xa xalh Xechnging (sacred obligation) to Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut, Tah-Mahs and Squil-le-he-le announced last summer their intent to sue Miami Seaquarium for her release and return.
In Lummi language, the word for “orca” is qwe’lhol’mechen, which means “our relations under the water.” Sk’aliCh’elh-tenaut is kin not only to her immediate L-pod family, but also to Lummi people. Bringing her home will help heal her pod, her larger Lummi family, and the Salish Sea. Tah-Mahs and Squil-le-he-le will now be legally represented by Earth Law Center in this work.
- Opening and closing prayer songs by Lawrence Solomon, Chairman of Lummi Nation
- Squil-le-he-le (Raynell Morris) of Lummi Nation tribal member
- Tah-Mahs (Ellie Kinley), Lummi Nation tribal member
- Michelle Bender, Ocean Rights Manager, Earth Law Center
- Witness Jay Julius, former Chairman of Lummi Nation
- Witness Sit Ki Kadem, Lummi Nation
- Witness Alan Salazar, Fernandeño Tataviam Band of Mission Indians
Earth Law Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit environmental law organization working around the world to transform the law to recognize, honor and protect nature's inherent rights to exist, thrive and evolve. They began a campaign in 2018 to recognize the inherent rights of the Southern Resident Orcas.
Throughout April, in the thick of the COVID-19 pandemic, BLM held “virtual” public hearings to gather input on ConocoPhillips’ Willow Project, a massive oil-and-gas drilling plan that will transform a vast expanse of Arctic tundra into a sacrifice zone for industry. Earthjustice is representing Nuiqsut in litigation against other ConocoPhillips oil and gas development in the region. Read more here.
Over the past few weeks, as the potential impacts of a dam have become clear, lines have been drawn between members of a group bound by state law to work together. The Chehalis Tribe has opposed construction of a dam on the river for years, and the Quinault Indian Nation declared its opposition to the project in April. But the Chehalis River Basin Flood Authority — which represents the three Washington counties and 10 cities most affected by flooding along the river — subsequently endorsed the dam. Read more here.
It’s easy to find high praise for Democrat John McCoy, Tulalip, within Indian Country or from members of his own party. But praise that comes from the other side of the aisle tells volumes about the relationships McCoy nurtured during his 17 years representing the 38th District — 40 miles north of Seattle — in Washington’s state Legislature. . . . McCoy, 76, resigned April 17 from the state Senate because of health reasons. The Snohomish County Council will select an appointee in May from a list of three names submitted by the district’s Democratic Party precinct committee officers. The term expires Dec. 31, 2022. McCoy’s retirement caps a long public service career that includes 20 years in the U.S. Air Force, four years as a computer technician in the White House, and 10 years as general manager of Quil Ceda Village, an incorporated village on the Tulalip Reservation. Read more here.
Moving audio interview by Eleanor C. With Kurt Russo of Lummi Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office and Howard Garret of the Orca Network on Sk’aliCh’elh (Tokitae/Lolita).
The short film from the Lummi partnership with The Natural History Museum for the exhibition "Whale People: Protectors of the Sea" has won an award in three categories at the Best Shorts Competition and the film is also an official selection at the Cannes International Film Festival, American Documentary and Animation Film Festival, Toronto Short Film Festival, and Dreamspeakers International Film Festival. Thank you so much to our friends Beka and Jason at the Museum for their work in making this second collaboration come to fruition. They extend their hearts and thoughts out to Lummi and shared "We are so honored to play a role in bringing Lummi Nation's message of reciprocity and kinship relations to the killer whales and the broader Salish Sea to an international audience. Chief Bill James and Jewell James and Amy George of Tsleil-Waututh Nation are powerful messengers to remind us all that what we do to the waters, we do to ourselves. They tell us of our sacred obligation to generations past, present and future. In the face of the existential crisis that climate change, habitat destruction and biodiversity loss pose to the future of life on this planet, their words could not be more timely or urgent." Film was part of the 2018-2019 Museum of Natural History Totem Pole Journey. Will get info out on exhibition tour. Facebook post.
- What: “Removing Lower Snake River Dams to Protect Salmon and Orcas” video conference
- When: May 12, 2020, 4-5 p.m. PST
- Who: Columbia Riverkeeper Senior Attorney Miles Johnson sets the record straight on the impact of Snake River dam removal on water temperature.
- Why: Without significant changes to the status quo, including dam removal, salmon and steelhead will likely go extinct from the Snake River in coming decades. sing threat to human health and the environment.
- How: RSVP today
The Defense Alliance is comprised of Bristol Bay Native Association, United Tribes of Bristol Bay, Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association, Bristol Bay Reserve Association and Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. These Bristol Bay Tribal and fishing organizations are working together to protect the region from the proposed Pebble Mine, and ensure robust salmon runs for future generations. Together, they filed a lawsuit against the Environmental Protection Agency in October on behalf of all those who rely on the Bristol Bay fishery. While waiting for a ruling, these organizations and their members will continue their work to protect the fishery and all it sustains.
“It’s both a risk and an opportunity for indigenous peoples,” said Preston Hardison, policy analyst at the Tulalip Tribes Natural Resources Treaty Rights Office in Washington state. According to Hardison, many elders feel that they’d like to help the world heal, but they want their knowledge to be employed in the right way (without any sort of exploitation). For instance, sharing their knowledge about their land and how they use it could be employed to indigenous people’s detriment by limiting their access to it. Even when the government taps indigenous groups for input, many of the resulting collaborations don’t show respect for the tribal people or the accumulated knowledge they possess. Take, for instance, in 2011, when the Saint Regis Mohawk received an EPA grant to create a climate adaptation plan for its natural resources — their animals, their crops, their medicinal plants. Initially, the EPA called for a plethora of scientific vulnerability and risk assessments to parse what resources were important for the Akwesasne way of life. But tribal members felt the testing was an unnecessary step to get to the heart of the issue. Read more here.
Across North America, other indigenous communities are stepping up to formulate and enact climate action plans to protect their way of life. In 2019, the Karuk tribe of northern California released its climate adaptation plan with a recommendation to return to prescribed burning, an old idea that might help to ease California’s wildfire problems. The Tulalip tribes of Washington state are relocating nuisance beavers from urban areas back to traditional watersheds to help lower river temperatures and aid salmon populations; they are also redirecting agricultural runoff for electricity generation. The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe in Washington is removing invasive butterfly bushes from the banks of the Dungeness River to help protect its salmon. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of Montana are gathering and planting seedlings of the whitebark pine that are more resistant to warming-related diseases such as blister rust. Alaskan tribes are using microscopy to identify harmful algae blooms spurred by warming waters. The list goes on. Read more here.
The Snake River dams in Washington would stay in place under the federal government’s preferred plan for the Columbia River System. On Friday federal agencies released a draft plan to manage the 14 dams in the Columbia River System, including the four Lower Snake River dams. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Bureau of Reclamation and Bonneville Power Administration laid out a range of six alternatives in a draft environmental impact statement. The most controversial measure would have been to remove or alter the four Lower Snake River dams. Read more here.
Canada is at a critical crossroads. The Wet’suwet’en conflict brings us to a deciding moment in Canada, one that will shape the future of the nation. The divisive conflict is about land, Indigenous law, human rights and the nature of civil disobedience. . . . Indigenous resistance to encroachment on their own lands is being viewed as unlawful rather than as a conscientious act of civil disobedience, similar to historical figures like Rosa Parks, M.K. Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Peaceful demonstrations by Indigenous Peoples and allies are acts of conscientious objection to laws that need to be re-examined if we are to move to peaceful co-existence, joint resource governance and wealth management. Read more here.
Alberta, Canada - The past month has been strained, emotional, tense. Covering the Wet'suwet'en crisis as an Indigenous journalist has been a challenge.
In British Columbia, the hereditary chiefs of the Wet'suwet'en tribe are opposing the construction of a natural gas pipeline through their traditional lands - a protest that has sparked a David and Goliath-style battle with industry, governments and Canadian law enforcement. It set off an uprising of Indigenous peoples and their allies across Canada and beyond, inspiring many to stand in solidarity and uphold their own rights.