2013 Totem Pole Journey Archive

Friday, 27 September: Free and open to the public
12:00 noon – 4:00pm: Northwest Indian College
5:00-6:30pm: Xwe’chi’eXen / Cherry Point

The Kwel hoy’ Totem Pole Journey is a 1,700-mile, 16-day trip following the coal train rail lines from the Powder River Basin to British Columbia. The Journey’s goal is to raise awareness of the cultural, spiritual, social, and environmental consequences of the proposed transport, storage, and shipment of coal on Pacific Northwest Communities.

The totem pole, carved by House of Tears Carvers, was born on Lummi land.  There will be blessings and ceremonies as the totem pole and carvers comes back home for a day. Events will be held at the Northwest Indian College and also at Xwe’chi’eXen / Cherry Point, which is  the proposed site of the coal port and, too, is a fishing grounds and sacred landscape for the Lummi people.  After being blessed here, the totem pole will continue on to British Columbia, where it will be raised to stand sentinel over the Salish Sea.

JOIN US IN WELCOMING THE TOTEM POLE BACK TO LUMMI LAND AND XWE’CHI’EXEN

WHEN: Friday, September 27, 2013
12:00 noon – 4:00 PM at Northwest Indian College

  • Meet & Greet Carvers
  • Invocation, Al Scott Johnny
  • Welcome by Candice Wilson, Vice Chair, Lummi Indian Business Council, & Justin Guillory, NWIC President
  • Blessing Song by Solomon Family
  • Interfaith Solidarity Statement, Deborah Cruz
  • Lummi Fisherman: Jay Julius, Elden Hillaire, Larry & Ellie Kinley, John Felix, Vernon Lane II, Rena Priest

4:30PM – Leave NWIC for a Blessing at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point)
5:00PM – Blessing Ceremony, Water Ceremony
6:30 PM – Depart from Cherry Point

Our Jerusalem
By Jay Julius

Does anyone believe that we would ever stand by while our sacred ground – our Arlington, our Jerusalem – is sacrificed for profit? Those who are promoting this ill-conceived project should understand the Lummi Nation will not step out of the way: kwel hoy’ (“we draw the line”).                                                                                 

As I look out the window this morning the wind is blowing with gusts up to 40 miles an hour. I pictured Capesize ships plying these white-capped waters, moving through our fishing and crabbing areas near Cherry Point. I am a fisherman and crabber. I recently lost 30 crab pots from Sandy Point to Cherry Point due to tanker traffic. Imagine how many thousands of crab pots and their trapped crab now lay on the bottom.

We hear in Gateway Pacific Terminal’s public relations campaign about the promise of jobs. We are no strangers to promises. What we know is true, is that the fishing industry supports many families at Lummi and throughout Whatcom County. The Lummi Nation has the largest native fishing fleet in the United States, with more than 450 boats employing at least 1,000 tribal members, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy. We know it is a sustainable source of income and that it is part of our heritage.

Do the people at Goldman Sachs, SSA Marine, PIT, Carrix, Peabody Coal, Burlington Northern and Berkshire Hathaway really understand that word heritage? Do they know it cannot be quantified, compromised or traded for promises of jobs and money? Do John Hemingway of SSA Marine and Warren Buffett of Berkshire Hathaway really understand what their profits would cost the Lummi people?

I also wonder if they understand what Cherry Point – Xwe’chi’eXen in our language – means to the Lummi people? Do they understand that we trace our heritage at Cherry Point back to at least 1500 B.C.? That our ancient ones are at rest there?  Does anyone believe that we would ever stand by while our sacred ground – our Arlington, our Jerusalem – is sacrificed for profit?

There have been 52 documented spills at Cherry Point. Studies have shown there are two-headed herring there. The crabs are confused, molting early in the waters off Cherry Point. We must not allow any further degradation or denaturing of our fishing and crabbing grounds, any further violation whatsoever of our treaty rights and the promises made to our people.

The passage of the Pacific Railway Act in 1862 prompted a parade in which a float bore the legend “Little Indian Boy, Step Out of the Way for the Big Engine.” Those who are promoting this ill-conceived project should understand the Lummi Nation will not step out of the way: kwel hoy’ (“we draw the line”).

Jay Julius is a fisherman and member of the Lummi Indian Business Council.

An Introduction

The Lummi people have  created a tradition of carving and delivering totem poles to areas struck by disaster or otherwise in need of hope and healing. Now it is Lummi Nation’s own sacred landscape, Xwe’chi’eXen, that needs hope, healing and protection. The most imminent threat to the burial grounds and treaty rights associated with Xwe’chi’eXen comes from a proposal to build North America’s largest coal port on this sacred landscape. The terminal would result in significant, unavoidable, and unacceptable interference with treaty rights and irreversible and irretrievable damage to Lummi spiritual values. As a result, in 2012 the Lummi Nation adopted a formal position opposing the proposed project. As Lummi Councilman Jay Julius, in opposing the proposed coal port, has said, <i>Kwel hoy'</i>: “We draw the line.” The sacred must be protected. Treaty rights must be honored. <i>Kwel hoy.'</i>

The Journey Begins . . .

KWEL HOY’ (“We Draw the Line”)
Reclaiming the Sacred and Protecting Xwe’chi’eXen from Coal

The House of Tears carvers of the Lummi community has created a tradition of carving and delivering totem poles to areas struck by disaster or otherwise in need of hope and healing. Now it is Lummi Nation’s own sacred landscape, Xwe’chi’eXen, that needs hope, healing and protection. The most imminent threat to this sacred landscape and to treaty rights associated with Xwe’chi’eXen comes from a proposal to build North America’s largest coal port: the Gateway Pacific Terminal.

THE JOURNEY

The Kwel hoy’ Totem Pole journey,  September 15-29, 2013, will start in the Powder River Basin and follow the coal train route through Indian Country, up to Xwe’chi’eXen.  The journey will conclude in British Columbia, where the totem pole will be placed in the homeland of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, demonstrating unity with the Canadian First Nations’ position opposing the transport of Tar Sands by pipelines across their territories.  There, the totem pole will be met by  Tribes and First Nations that have travelled from all direction.  The Totem Pole will be placed as a means of  reinforcing the message: Kwel hoy.’

The House of Tears Carvers and a team of support people and witnesses will accompany the Totem Pole on its 1,200 mile long journey. At each event, Tribal members, non-Tribal local citizens, elected officials, and the press will be invited to attend.

 CONNECTING THE PEOPLES OF THE WEST

One primary goal of the journey is to connect tribal nations along the coal corridor.  Tribal Nations innately understand and honor the need to protect sacred landscapes and treaty rights.  Uniting the Tribal Nations is important for this particular issue and for Tribal communities that would be affected by coal transport and export.

The proposed coal rail line and port brings very different cultural communities together in a common cause. The proposal has unique ramifications not only for Tribal Nations, but also for communities all along the rail lines and shipping lanes that would be affected by coal export. Communities, commerce, livelihoods, public health, tourism, agriculture, fisheries, air and water safety, natural resources, quality of life would all be adversely impacted. In asking for blessings and strength from communities along the coal transportation corridor, the Kwel hoy’ Totem Pole brings together the Peoples of the West. People of many faiths can stand united in protecting the sacred, and people of many traditions can support honoring treaty rights and the traditional livelihoods they ensure. People from all affected communities can stand against this project.

BACKGROUND
by Jewell James (House of Tears Carvers)

Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point) has deep spiritual and cultural significance to our people. It is a sacred landscape that includes ancient reef-net sites and a 3,500 year-old village site. Our Hereditary Chief of the Lummi Nation tsilixw (Bill James) describes it as the “home of the Ancient Ones.” It was the first site in Washington State to be listed on the Washington Heritage Register and is eligible for the National Register of Historic Places.

If built, the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point (Xwe’chi’eXen) in Washington State would be the largest coal export facility in North America. The mines are connected to the proposed port site by rail lines that run from Wyoming and Montana through Idaho, eastern Washington, along the Columbia River Gorge, and then up the coast of Puget Sound. Bulk cargo carriers would ship the coal through the Salish Sea to Asia.

The project will result in significant, unavoidable, and unacceptable interference with treaty rights and irreversible and irretrievable damage to Lummi spiritual values. As a result, the Lummi Nation in 2012 adopted a formal position to oppose the proposed project. As Lummi Councilman Jay Julius, in opposing the proposed coal port, has said, Kwel hoy’: “We draw the line.” This position was also adopted in 2013 by the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians.

DOCUMENTATION/WITNESSES 

Witnesses will document and publish (via this blog) photos, writings, sketches, and videos of both the journey and preparation for the journey when culturally appropriate. The blog will feature entries from Lummi Nation members and by people along the journey.  Journalists, photographers and a documentary film crew will be invited along for the journey.

In the News:  Articles and news media coverage of the Journey

28 September 2013: The Bellingham Herald, “Totem Pole Provides Anti-Coal Focus at Cherry Point

26 September 2013: The Bellingham Herald, “Healing Pole Serves as Rallying Point for Anti-Coal Movement

26 September 2013: NPR / OPB / KUOW, “Lummi Tribal Carver takes Giant Totem Pole on Healing Journey

25 September 2013: The Olympian, “Tribes Travel to Protect Sacred Land

25 September 2013: video of Olympia ceremony

25 September 2013: Journal of the San Juans, “Lummi Wield Art in Battle against Coal

24 September 2013: The Pacific Northwest Inlander, “Protest Song: Northwest Tribes Unite to Decry Coal Development Projects

23 September 2013: USA Today, “Montana, Washington Tribes Join Ranchers to Fight Coal Mine

23 September 2013: Yakima Herald, “Yakamas Join Oppoistion to Coal-transport Proposals

21 August 2013: The Islands’ Sounder, “Lummi Nation Stands Out against Coal Terminal