2016 Longview Blessing Stop

TPJ Longview

Photo by Bill Wagner

Residents of Longview are currently fighting against the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminal, the largest proposed coal export terminal in North America. The Millennium Bulk Terminal would export 44 million tons of coal annually to Asian markets. In over a quarter million comments submitted to Washington State’s Department of Ecology, community members voiced concerns about the effects of the terminal on salmon, the tourist industry, and the economy. The consequences of building this coal terminal would reach far beyond the city and environment of Longview, however, as train traffic in Idaho and Montana would also significantly increase, and communities living along the rail lines in all three states would suffer from increasing exposure to coal dust and particulate matter as a result. The adverse effects of the Millennium Bulk Terminal are extremely evident in the Columbia River Gorge, where open-topped coal trains pollute the air, land, and water, violating the Clean Water Act, and in doing so, endangering the health and sustainability of wildlife in the Gorge.

Earlier this year, Port of Longview commissioners voted to end talks with Waterside Energy, an energy company proposing to build an oil refinery in Longview. The proposed project included an oil refining facility that would process 30,000 barrels of oil and 15,000 barrels of biofuel daily, along with a propane and butane terminal. By declining further talks with Waterside Energy, commissioners succeeded in preventing an additional three crude oil trains from passing through the Columbia River Gorge ever week, which would have put the environment and human health at higher risk for an oil train disaster, like what happened in Mosier in June of 2016.

~Naomi Price-Lazarus, Stand.earth

Location: Longview Methodist Church
2851 30th Ave., Longview, WA, U.S.
Time: 10:30 – 11:30 am Blessing (parking lot)

  • Rev. Rene’ Decanter, Welcome
  • Tanna Engdahl, Spiritual leader of the Cowlitz Tribe, Traditional Welcome and Totem Pole Blessing
  • Mary Lyons, Landowners and Citizens for a Safe Community
  • Liz and Dexter Kerney, Longview Presbyterian

Time: 11:30 am Lunch (Side yard)
Location: Longview Methodist Church
2851 30th Ave., Longview, WA, U.S.

Encouraging Churches and Environmental Groups to Work with the Tribes

Longview video

Local Krista Mead discusses the proposed Longview coal export terminal
by Matt Fuller, Journey Social Media Specialist

Local Krista Mead from Longview, Washington discusses the ongoing review process for the Longview coal export terminal, the last of six originally proposed in the PNW that communities have fought successfully (so far) to put a stop to.

Grace Ann Byrd of the Nisqually Indian Tribe

Grace Ann Byrd of the Nisqually Indian Tribe and Nisqually Farms attended the Longview Blessing Ceremony as a representative of Nisqually and shared a few words about fossil fuel export plans and the Lummi Totem Pole Journey.

Longview United Methodists Church and on through Celilo Falls and the Palouse

Totem Pole Journey Days Four and Five
August 26-27, 2016
Dr. Kurt Russo, Journey Organizer

The residents of Longview are being asked to accept the construction and operation of the Millennium Bulk Terminal. If built it would be one of the largest coal export port terminals in North America, exporting 44 million tons of coal every year to Asian markets. Impacts of the associated train traffic would reach beyond Longview to cities, towns, rivers, and countryside in Idaho and Montana that would suffer the consequences of the dramatically increased number of 1½ mile-long coal trains. It is little wonder that over a quarter million comments were submitted to Washington State’s Department of Ecology by communities such as Longview that were alarmed and appalled by the potential adverse impacts of the proposed terminals and the associated coal trains.

The totem pole journey organizers were asked by local residents to bring the totem pole the United Methodists Church in Longview for a blessing, and to add our voices to their efforts to defeat this foolhardy and feckless proposal.   We have every reason to believe the residents will succeed in defeating the proposal. Looking around the large gathering on the lawn near the church we saw young, middle-age and elderly residents as well as many members of the Cowlitz Tribe, including their Chairman Bill Iyall.

Chairman Iyall emphasized the importance of unity among tribes and between all the communities to defend our natural and cultural heritage. He thanked the Lummi Nation for leading the way in the defeat of the Gateway Pacific Terminal project at Cherry Point. His emphasis on unity was reiterated by Jewell James who thanked the faith-based community, the nongovernmental organizations, and people from many different walks of life who are standing up—and who now know they are not alone. “The large oak is in the tiny acorn,” Mr. James said. “We are all in this together.”

“It’s strange, isn’t it?” totem pole journey documentarist Fred Lane said when the event was concluding. “The same old game. These corporations think they rule over us. I’m looking around and thinking, no. They might have profits and the politicians but we have the power of the people who would pay the price.”   Mr. Lane was touching the heart of the matter. The journey is not about a totem pole. It is about the force that brings and keeps people together for the greater good and that honors the creation.

As the pastor of the church noted, this is not just a Native American issue. It is an issue that goes to the heart of our democracy, our democratic faith, our belief in ourselves, and, ultimately, the fate of life on earth. “It touches all of us,” he said, “like that boy, over there, laying his hands on the eagle on the totem pole. Our spirits are moved, and moving together.”


Celilo Falls, Washington
On nearly every one of the totem pole journeys, Mr. James makes it a point to stop at the small Native village at Celilo Falls. Until the Dalles Dam was completed in 1957 the Falls was one of the most culturally significant natural wonders in North America. This maze of basaltic islands and narrow channels has been a sacred site for Native peoples for at least 10,000 years.

It was a force that shaped a way of life. The people of Cello Village have not forgotten. They remember and they continue their prayers for the forces of this sacred place, for the salmon, and that the Columbia River will one day again run fast and free. Although the journeyers did not stop at the village this year they did go down to the Columbia River near Celilo Falls to pay their respects and add their prayers for the eventual resurrection and resurgence of The Great River.

Into the Palouse

Leaving Celilo, we traveled north and east to make our way to Sandpoint, Idaho. Most of the day was spent driving through the Palouse region in eastern Washington. The name derives from the French word “pelouse” meaning a grassy expanse. The Palouse tribe is also native to this region, calling themselves pallotepellows, or “the people living in the gooseberry valley.”

Those native grassy valleys would soon disappear. In the 1860s cattlemen moved into the Palouse bioregion. Initially the settlers used the hills as pasture, but they were soon farming these slopes, as well. By 1869 the first grain crops were grown in this bioregion, and within ten years of the first plowing water tables in low-lying meadows dropped below the level to allow tilling. The increase in the conversion of native prairie vegetation to field or pasture resulted in the draining of wetlands. Equipment enabled farmers to utilize the steep slopes, further shrinking the habitat for native flora and fauna .

By the early-1880s, the Palouse Prairie had been badly overgrazed and large-scale effects of non-native herbivores were found throughout much of the rangeland of the interior Columbia basin as Cheat Grass replaced native plant species in the steppe region. Between 1940 and 1992 the number of cattle more than doubled, with cattle becoming the dominant grazing animal in the region.

Since 1900, 94% of grasslands and 97% of wetlands in the Palouse have been converted to pasture lands, crop, and hay production.87 Native flora such as the Idaho fescue, Rough fescue, Smallheat goldenweed, and Jessic aster have been replaced by wheat, barley, and lentils, as well as yellow star thistle and twenty-nine other introduced species. The disturbance of the ecosystem has also resulted in the severe reduction in the richness and abundance of native fauna such as the

mule deer, spotted frog, sharp-tailed grouse, while the whitetail jack rabbit and the ferruginous hawk have been nearly extirpated as breeding populations. Of the once-continuous native prairie dominated by mid-length perennial grasses,little more than 1 percent remains, making the Palouse Prairie one of the most endangered ecosystems in the United States.

Powerful Ceremony and a Great Turnout in Longview, Washington
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
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Rev. Rene Devantier of United Longview Methodist Church speaks to the Longview crowd as Fred Lane, Journey Videographer, films in the background.  Photo by Juice (see story below).

At the United Methodist Church in Longview, Washington, Rev. Rene Devantier welcomed the Totem Pole Journey 2016 to a crowd that was double the expected turnout. Tanna Engdahl the spiritual leader of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe offered a blessing and many wise words, speaking of the holy, sacred, and mysterious nature of our quest for balance in our relationship with our home. She noted that the Totem Journey is “the ultimate expression of passive resistance to protect Mother Earth.”

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Rev. Rene Decanter and Cowlitz Tribal Spiritual Leader Tanna Engdahl speaking, as the TPJ media Team works.  Photo by Juice.

Cowlitz Tribal Chairman Bill Iyall spoke of the effort to stop the Millenium Bulk Coal Terminal project, slated for operation in Longview to export 44 million tons of coal annually (this would be the largest terminal of its kind in North America). The terminal is still in the environmental impact assessment stage and he reminded folks about the comment period for the EIS.

Cowlitz Natural Resources Director Taylor Aalvik also spoke a few words and was accompanied by his daughter Kayla. The value of his work, he said, is reflected in his ability to make a better environment for his daughter. He spoke of the importance of ensuring a sustainable life for future generations.

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In front of the Longview United Methodist Church is this Cross that Juice wanted to capture.

Doug and Jewell James provided a blessing and prayer, then Jewell stirred the crowd with his powerful words. As I listened to all he had to say, the woman sitting next to me began crying tears of grief for Mother Earth. I touched her gently and gave her a tissue that I always have in my pocket. She sobbed for almost 10 minutes as Jewell spoke of all the damage we have been doing to our home.

Earlier, I had met her son, Juice! The seven-year-old was intrigued with all of our equipment, and I asked him if he would please take some pictures for me. Juice later helped Doug James and I re-strap the totem pole to the truck and ensure it was safely ready to travel to our next stop.

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Juice’s Mom, Erika.  Photo by Juice.

After all of the impassioned words, the crowd of about 150 came up to surround the totem pole and lay their blessings and prayers on it.   It was a powerful ceremony punctuated by a lot of emotion – grief, love, anger, determination – and we ended by sharing a meal together, talking, making new friends, establishing connections between people who all want the same thing: a healthy, living planet for all future generations.

Photos by Nancy Bleck