Missoula, Montana Blessing Event Coming up!

Missoula Coal Train

Coal train passing under the North Side Pedestrian Bridge by Chad Harder

Montana is home to the Northern section of the Powder River Basin, a geologic region in Montana and Wyoming that supplies approximately 40% of the coal in the United States. Trains carrying coal from the Powder River Basin travel through Missoula, bisecting the northern part of the city with an east-west rail line. Surrounded by hills and mountains, Missoula is vulnerable to air inversions in the winter months which result in hazardously-low air quality. Particulate matter from coal trains passing through Missoula exacerbate air quality problems, disproportionately imposing health risks on disenfranchised and vulnerable communities who live nearest the rail lines.

Earlier this year, Montana succeeded in stopping the Otter Creek mine, a proposal for the largest new coal strip mine in North America. The Otter Creek mine would have increased coal production in the United States, releasing an estimated 2.5 billion tons of carbon dioxide in total when burned. Montanans also succeeded in preventing the construction of the Tongue River Railroad, a railroad system dependent on the Otter Creek Mine that would have enabled more coal by rail to travel through Missoula. With constant transportation of coal through Missoula, however, and continual fights against proposed coal export terminals on the Pacific Coast, the fight to protect the safety and well-being of human health, natural resources, and our global climate is ongoing.

~Naomi Price-Lazarus, Stand.earth

Location: Salvation Army of Missoula
355 S. Russell Street
Missoula, Montana, U.S.
Time: 4:00 pm

 Inside Remarks and the Totem Story

  • Welcome:  Loreen Hamilton
  • Framing:  John Lund
  • Context:  Betsy Mulligan-Dague
  • The Story:  James Jewell and the Lummi team
  • Response:  George Price

Outside Remarks, Gifts and Blessings:

  • Hand Washing:  Amy Carter and John Daniels  (others may step in)
  • Remarks:  Kathy Little Leaf, Shelly Fyant
  • Gift giving:  a group of us
  • Salish Blessing:  Arleen Adams

Dinner will be offered after the presentations and Blessing

Sandpoint, Idaho Blessing Coming Up!


Sandpoint Coal Train

Sandpoint, Idaho is a city built on railroads. While trains historically transported lumber from Sandpoint to Eastern markets, Sandpoint now serves as a point of convergence for trains carrying coal from the Powder River Basin and oil from the Bakken Oil Fields as they travel to terminals and refineries on the West Coast. Recent proposals by coal and oil companies threaten to double the number of coal and oil trains passing through Northern Idaho every day. The proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal in Longview, WA, for example, would export 44 million tons of coal per year, increasing rail traffic in Sandpoint by 18 trains per day. As trains make their way through the Idaho Panhandle, they make a one-mile crossing over Lake Pend Oreille, Idaho’s largest lake. Crossing over this trestle endangers the safety of Sandpoint’s water supply, in addition to the wildlife that rely on this resource. The consequences of increased fossil fuel transports through Sandpoint include the accumulation of pollutants and toxins in the air and water, decreased diversity of local fish populations, increased traffic delays for residents, and a continued economic reliance on fossil fuel production. (Resource:  WIRT Newsletter: Recent Idaho & Montana Oil & Coal Train Issues)

~Naomi Price-Lazarus, Stand.earth

Location: Sandpoint City Beach (turn right off of 1st Avenue in Sandpoint and head to the end of Bridge Street. The Blessing Ceremony will take place on the paved area behind the concession stand, left or east side of the beach).
Time: 9:00 am

Guest Presenters:

  • Gary Payton, Idaho Conservation League and Presbyterian for Earth Care
  • Shannon Williamson, Sandpoint City Council member

The Earth is Our Mother, We Must Take Care of Her . . .

The Bellingham Blessing Ceremony
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler

The Totem Pole Journey 2016 departed from Bellingham the morning of August 23rd, following a beautiful blessing ceremony at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship with about 70 people in attendance.

Reverend Paul Beckel of the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship and Reverend Charis Weathers of ECHOES – affiliated with the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ECLA) presided over the blessing ceremony that included a remarkable benediction by a young married couple, Matthew and Lucia Pearson, with their infant son, Graham. Below are readings for the benediction by the Pearson family.

Pope Francis’ ENCYCLICAL LETTER LAUDATO SI’ (169) With regard to climate change, the advances have been regrettably few. Reducing greenhouse gases requires honesty, courage and responsibility, above all on the part of those countries which are more powerful and pollute the most. The Conference of the United Nations on Sustainable Development, “Rio+20” (Rio de Janeiro 2012), issued a wide-ranging but ineffectual outcome document. International negotiations cannot make significant progress due to positions taken by countries which place their national interests above the global common good. Those who will have to suffer the consequences of what we are trying to hide will not forget this failure of conscience and responsibility. Even as this Encyclical was being prepared, the debate was intensifying. We believers cannot fail to ask God for a positive outcome to the present discussions, so that future generations will not have to suffer the effects of our ill-advised delays.

This is for Future Generations
by Alexa Torontow
I dream of a world
Where we smile at diversity
Instead of propel further adversity
Where the people of this planet
Feel safe to do, think and say
As they wish
A place where we live for love
Instead of locked in fear
Where we take care of our neighbors
As we would our own kin
A place that sees the instability
Of competition
A place where re-generation
Is the only way
A kind of world
Where we live to lift each other up
Not knock one another down
A place where nobody
At any time In any space
Feels alone
A place that’s a potent container
For creativity and inspiration
For you
For me
For the future generation
A place of love
For love
In love
For all


Master Carver Jewell James and his brother, Lummi Elder Doug James, provided the traditional Lummi song for the event, followed by a short address by Jewell about the purpose and meaning of the Totem Pole Journey, and an explanation of the figures carved into the totem pole.

The Totem Pole was then anointed with waters drawn from Whatcom Falls in Maritime Heritage Park in memory of one the first recorded encounters between Coast Salish and Captain Henry Roeder and Russell Peabody in about 1852.

In song, prayer, and blessing, the Totem Pole departed for its long journey to Manitoba, Canada at about 10:30 am PST.

One heart, one soul . . .

By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler

Totem Journey 2016 visited Vancouver on August 23, stopping at Grandview Park in east Vancouver at 5 pm. The ceremony was punctuated by fiery words and challenges to the world that we are in crisis and that we must come together, one heart, one soul, to stop and then repair the damage we do to Mother Earth. About 400 people were in attendance at the event hosted by the Tsleil-Waututh Nation.

Reuben George challenged the entire audience and beyond to continue their judicious work to stop the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, as well as to join with the greater effort to protect Mother Earth and to end fossil fuel extraction activities that are so severely damaging our planet. Tsleil-Waututh environmental lawyer, Eugene Kung, spoke about all the work he has done to bring the legal challenges for the Enbridge and Kinder-Morgan pipelines.

Doug and Jewell James sang their song of the whale, Aich Shwalowem Siem, and then Jewell provided the audience with the most inspired and spiritual address about our sacred responsibility to the Earth.

Environmental activist Ben West had some encouraging words about the work to stop the Kinder-Morgan pipeline, which included a clear explanation of the origins of the company. He termed them “Enron in BC.”

Vancouver City Council member, Andrea Reimer, came as representative of Mayor Gregor Robertson. She told of all the city of Vancouver has accomplished to reduce waste, reduce water usage, and reduce fossil fuel use in the past 7 years since the city committed to be the greenest city by 2020. And she was clear that the Kinder-Morgan pipeline project would wipe out all of the progress the city has made.

Chief Phil Lane, Jr., Hereditary Chief of the White Swan Dakotas, continued the inspired words to action for us all. At the close of his powerful words for action in the fight for the environment, he urged us to remember that we are all sacred and we must all be treated and respected as sacred.

Actor Dwayne Howard, from Nuu-Cha-Nulth First Nation, spoke about his desire for greater spirituality to help us all with reconnecting to Mother Earth and to the Creator.

Cedar Parker of the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation represented with his words as a teenager who faces the serious challenges that our use of fossil fuels is leaving for his generation.

The event culminated in a drum circle that continued for an hour as participants came to touch the pole and share their blessings and prayers with the pole and each other. It was a profoundly moving event with intense memories that will last a lifetime for anyone who attended. And the event inspired many to take action to ensure a future for their grandchildren and their grandchildren’s grandchildren.

Our deepest thanks to all who attended and for all you are doing in this struggle for our future.

A Vision in the Making

Totem Pole Journey Day Three at St. Mark’s Cathedral in Seattle, Washington
By Kurt Russo, Totem Pole Journey Organizer

Mural created during the Totem Pole Journey of 2014

There are moments on the road when the monotony of the journey makes more room for inspired conversation. Passing across the border and making our way through Lummi Indian territory, my Lummi companion imagined how the landscape had changed since the arrival of the settlers. He could almost see how it had been seen.

We know that the sockeye salmon run, since the early twentieth century, has been reduced by 95%. This year there will not be a sockeye fishery. Blame it on the “blob” or intervention on the high seas. One thing we do know, one of the world’s most remarkable temperate rainforests that once stretched unbroken from British Columbia to northern California has been reduced to isolated, fragile remnants, in the span of a few generations. It made my companion wonder—not for the first time—when, as the writer Wendell Berry put it, will the settlers finally be home, here?
Forest Map.jpg

Forest Cover in the United States


The beauty still makes wonder, but also makes us wonder: what happened? It also makes the event in Seattle that much more inspired and inspiring. Over 500 people from across western Washington came to St. Mark’s cathedral on Thursday to see, touch and sense the totem pole. They were greeted at the entryway to the church by a lineal descendant of Chief Seattle, and regaled and sung into being present by the Seattle Peace Chorus. For the next two hours they were able to escape the acid bath of what passes for politics in the American Nation. They heard from the Episcopalian speaker that announced the Episcopalian Church had issued a statement the day before in support of the resistance at Standing Rock to the Dakota Pipeline. Chief Phil Lane, Jr. of the Yankton Sioux Nation spoke about how all persons are sacred beings and how the earth was being torn and terrorized by those with no care for tomorrow, for their grandchildren, or this great good earth. Shasta Cano Martin of the Lummi Indian Business Council called upon those present to be involved and stay involved. She talked about the against-all-odds Lummi victory over a proposed coal port at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point) in which the Lummi Indians, their voices amplified by tens of thousands of non-Indians, prevailed over a juggernaut of corporate power. She called it a turning point not only in people working together towards the power of one, but also in bringing to an end the onslaught of coal and oil that threatens us all, and the place we call home.

One of the final speakers, the totem pole carver and Lummi tribal member Jewell James, received a long and enthusiastic ovation when he reminded us all: “Governments give permits, but the people give permission! And we say NO!” As Mr. James often reminds his audiences, “It is our Constitution, not theirs! It is a government of the people, and corporations are not people! They have no children or grandchildren, or any moral conscience!”

Behind the speakers, above the altar, was the Sacred Obligations mural. This 24’ by 14’ artwork, directed by the participatory muralist Melanie Schambach and created by individuals across the Pacific Northwest and Canada, illuminated the event with its sublime beauty. The mural manages to say it all in a collage of the circle of life in which one image creates the other. It speaks to Mr. James’ imploring people to get involved and stay involved: never give   up!

It was a witness to Chief Lane’s beseeching those visible and unseen to be of one mind in a celebration of the creation.

It was a moving experience. It always is when the totem pole is blessed at St. Mark’s by good, decent, and caring people who, as Lummi tribal member and totem pole journeyer “came to share this moment of time, this breath of life.” It was a day for the angels.

Upcoming Events:

  • Sandpoint, Idaho, 9:00-11:00 August 28
  • Missoula, Montana, 4:00-6:00 August 28
  • Standing Rock, August 29-August 31
  • Cheyenne River, September 1-3
  • Winnipeg, Manitoba, September 5-7