2016 Bellingham Blessing Stop

Cherry Point

Photo by Deb Cruz

BELLINGHAM is located in Whatcom County in the northwestern part of the state of Washington, U.S. The lands and waters here are traditional territories of the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Indian Tribe. In 2010, Pacific International Terminals (PIT), through SSA Marine, submitted permit applications to construct the largest coal export facility in North America at Cherry Point, known to Lummi Nation as Xwe’chi’eXen. Xwe’chi’eXen is a place of sacred lands and waters that would be destroyed by the terminal. Also at risk were Lummi Nation treaty fishing rights and the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. On January 5, 2015, Lummi Nation official requested the Army Corps of Engineers deny a needed permit for the project citing negative impacts to treaty-guaranteed fishing right. After much debate and review, on May 9, 2016, the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit, based on the expected abrogation of Lummi’s treaty fishing rights. While this signals a victory, it does not mean that Xwe’chi’eXen is safe from further development or other fossil fuel projects.


Totem Pole Journey crew and guests made presentations about the upcoming 2016 Totem Pole Journey.  Ceremonial Blessing of the Totem Pole will be held on August 23rd (see below).

Guest Presenters:

  • Rev. Paul Beckel (BUF Welcome)
  • Shasta Cano-Martin and Fred Lane (Lummi Welcome)
  • Dr. Kurt Russo, Lummi Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office (Journey Introduction)
  • Carl Weimer, Whatcom County Council
  • Roxanne Murphy, Bellingham City Council
  • Shasta Cano-Martin, Lummi Indian Business Council
  • Matt Petryni, RE Sources for Sustainable Communities
  • Fred Lane, Totem Pole Journey Videographer
  • Master Carver Jewell James, Lummi House of Tears Carver

Location: Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship
1207 Ellsworth St., Bellingham, WA
Time: 7:00 pm

Totem Pole Journey Commencement
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler

The commencement event for Totem Pole Journey 2016 was held at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship on Thursday, August 18 at 7 pm. Shasta Cano-Martin, Secretary of the Lummi Indian Business Council, Roxanne Murphy, Bellingham City Council member, and Carl Weimer, Whatcom County Council member spoke, as did RE Sources for Sustainable Communities manager Matt Petryni, Lummi Nation Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office staff member, Dr. Kurt Russo, and Lummi Nation Tribal members Fred Lane and Jewell James.

Following the welcome by Reverend Paul Beckel of the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship, Fred Lane and Shasta Cano-Martin opened the event by singing the Lummi Flood Song. Kurt Russo introduced all the travelers, Paul Anderson, photographer; Matt Fuller, social medial; Fred Lane, videographer; Richard Jehn, writer; Doug James, Jewell James’ brother; and Jewell. He asked that Jewell speak to the question of why we do these journeys.

As Kurt began introducing Carl Weimer to speak, he reminded us that Carl discovered the unpleasant fact that the Gateway Pacific Terminal project had illegally performed exploration work at Cherry Point in Summer 2011, disturbing cultural artifacts and bulldozing acres of wetlands.

Carl spoke about the recent moratorium unanimously voted by the Whatcom County Council to cease issuing permits for export facilities of unprocessed fossil fuels. He spoke of the herring fishery at Cherry Point, now almost decimated, but he recalled seeing how alive and active the sea life was when he was younger and how sick the ocean now is. Carl also spoke of the pipeline disaster in Bellingham in 1999, an event that ultimately prompted him to become the Executive Director of the Pipeline Safety Trust. He talked of a recent visit to Whatcom Creek with a federal pipeline official and telling her the story of a memorial totem pole that Jewell donated in remembrance of that explosion and the three lives lost, as they stood near it in the park, saying that it was “very powerful for both of us.”

Carl closed his remarks by saying, “I really appreciate what the Lummi Nation has done, to start changing the conversation, because we are so used to using fossil fuels for everything we do, but we need to transition and that won’t happen until someone changes the conversation.”

Roxanne Murphy, Bellingham City Council member, spoke of her additional role as a child care worker with the Nooksack Tribe. She spoke of the significant expansion of their program in the past couple of year and told us about a trip with 60 Nooksack children to Lake Samish. Others have remarked how intensely joyful these young people are when they have experienced these trips to their homelands, and Roxanne added that she felt the children knew that it was their ancestral homeland and that they had come home. She closed her remarks about the Totem Journey by reminding us, “If you really want to save the environment, follow the lead of the Tribal members.”

During her remarks about working with the Lummi Nation Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office and in relation to the Totem Journey, Shasta Cano-Martin said, “It’s coming full circle, the protection of our homelands. What are we passing down to our children and to our children’s children?” As she introduced Jewell James, she added “and his huge heart.” She spoke of the many totems that Jewell has spread across North America in commemoration of events, both sad and happy, or in unification for our shared responsibility to protect Mother Earth.
Jewell James spoke of a few of the visions he’s had in his lifetime, one of which in 1978 was the impetus for the totem journeys. And he talked of the unifying force that manifests as the past few Totem Journeys have crossed the nation. “We have to unite. If every church in the United States would say this first, ‘God Created the Earth, Keep It Sacred,’ we would reach our objectives faster.”

Fred Lane also spoke of the unification that is the result of the totem journeys. “Today, right here, right now, I feel this spiritual work is beginning and we are all part of that work, and without your support, we couldn’t go 5000 miles.”

Matt Petryni of RE Sources closed the event with remarks about their work in conjunction with the Lummi Nation to stop the Gateway Pacific Terminal project. He spoke laughingly of friends asking him what he planned to do now that coal terminal project had been stopped, adding that he recognized that their work was just beginning. He closed by saying, “I want to thank the Lummi Nation for inviting the entire community to participate.”


Rev. Paul Beckel, Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship
Rev. Charis Weathers, ECHOES – Evangelical Lutheran Church of America (ELCA)

Location: Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship
1207 Ellsworth St., Bellingham, Washington, U.S.
Time: 9:00 am

he 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.

Blessing Ceremony Photos by Deb Cruz

Canoe-Journey Moon
By BUF Member Betty Scott

Canoe-Journey Moon.jpg