Journal of the San Juan Islands


Opposition by Lummi Nation against Gateway coal deserves support | Letters

August 10, 2013 · Updated 7:02 PM

The Lummi’s July 30, 2013 letter to the Army Corps of Engineers “unconditionally and unequivocally” opposing the Gateway Pacific Terminal project is significant and laudable.

The tribal opposition to the plan to export 50 million tons of coal from Cherry Point could potentially stop the project by invoking their treaty rights. Because Cherry Point is within the Lummi’s Usual and Accustomed grounds and traditional areas, the tribe has a strong legal case against the project due to its likely interference with treaty guaranteed fishing rights.

This legal case is separate from the Environmental Impact Statement process. Though independent of each other, the two processes may impact one another.

A Corps official stated at a recent press conference that the Lummi position might influence the agency to stop processing the GPT permit. Historically, the Corps has refused to process permits on other projects that tribes said would violate treaties.

The Lummi signed the Treaty of Point Elliot in 1855 to trade vast amounts of land in exchange for sovereignty and protection of fishing rights. Treaty fishing rights were reaffirmed by the 1974 “Boldt decision”.

It is a common misperception that treaty rights are given to native people. Actually, the US government does not “give” treaty rights to anyone — native people reserved them when they signed treaties in a government-to-government relationship.

The Lummi’s firm stance not only protects their fishing rights and economic benefits, but also ours.

Their letter and action demonstrated their efforts to preserve their Schelangen, “way of life”, in which “everything is connected,” as are all the plant and animal lives, including ours, in the Salish Sea.

It is with great humility and gratitude that I applaud their leadership and stewardship in defending the seventh generation of their people and ours against potential global harm by GPT coal exportation.

With the Lummi’s courageous lead, it is our turn to do our part. Let’s write to politicians to urge authorities and jurisdictions of all levels to give the Lummi Nation the needed acknowledgement and support they deserve.

Chuenchom Greacen/Lopez Island


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