2016 Sandpoint, ID Blessing Stop


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 Cathedral of the Blue Dome

Totem Pole Journey Day Six
August 28, 2016
Sandpoint, Idaho (City Beach)
Dr. Kurt Russo

“We must have a pure, honest and warm-hearted motivation, and on top of that, determination, optimism, hope and the ability not to be discouraged.
The whole of humanity depends on this motivation.”

~The Dalai Lama,
quoted by Shannon Williamson,
President, Sandpoint City Council)

In every event there are moments of being when you are gifted a silent world inside the spoken word. That was certainly the case at the Sandpoint, Idaho event. It is hard to imagine a more beautiful setting. A sparkling blue lake. A clear, warm morning and a gathering of people who came to share a breath of time under what local environmental advocate Gary Payton described as the “cathedral of the blue dome.”

Over and again, the speakers talked about the power of community to defeat this outrageous and utterly immoral plan to run up to 48 coal and oil trains through Sandpoint every single day.

Shannon Williamson: “As a mother of two children I am standing up to say these trains are unacceptable. And now, many others are stepping up, standing up, demanding to be heard. And thank you, Lummi Nation, for giving us hope, motivation, and optimism.”

Gary Payton: “Though the Lummi Indians are hundreds of miles away, we are brothers and sisters, all part of the Thin Green Line. We understand that climate change is the great moral and spiritual challenge of our time.”

Rueben George: “They came to one small First Nation Band in British Columbia, the pipeline company. The oil companies offered this impoverished community $1.6 billion if they would sign a pipeline agreement. That is $1.6 million for every man, woman and child. And this poverty-stricken community of 1000 tribal members voted unanimously NO because of their spiritual connection to the ancestral lands that fills and renews their spirit.”

I wonder if the ostensible ‘grandfatherly figure’ Warren Buffett, who is a major investor in Burlington Northern Railroad, would have the courage of his convictions to sit with the Salish Kootenai elder and descendant of Chief Joseph who told the crowd:

I had a dream a week ago about a totem pole. And I wondered why I was dreaming about a totem pole. Then my daughter told me the Lummi were coming here with this totem pole to help us fight these coal and oil trains that threaten our land and water and children and so I am here this morning to say that…It is good you are all here this morning and that this…is amazing . We must all awaken but it is our dreams that bring us together.

“I met Mr. Kinder of Kinder-Morgan the company who wants these pipelines. I met him,” Rueben George said,” and I talked with him. I can tell you, they don’t care. They really don’t. We must stand together and refuse their irreverence and indifference. They are irrelevant to our future.”

The crowd included many people from the faith-based community, several of whom spoke at the event. One of the presenters pointed out that the faith community is morally aligned with the spirit and purpose of the journey. The United Church of Christ, the Sisters of Providence, the United Methodists, the Evangelical Lutheran Church, the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), the Episcopal Diocese of Olympia (Washington), the Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches, the Episcopal Diocese of Spokane, have stated that, “We stand in solidarity with our Native neighbors to safeguard the traditional lands, waters, and sacred sites…from destruction.”

Master Carver Jewell Praying Wolf James speaks to a crowd of 120 people along the shores of Lake Pend Orielle during the Sandpoint blessing ceremony of the 2016 Totem Pole Journey.

Shannon Williamson
By Matt Fuller, Journey Social Media Specialist

Sandpoint City Council President Shannon Williamson, who also is the Executive Director of Lake Pend Orielle Waterkeeper, shares some reflections at the Lummi Totem Pole Journey blessing ceremony in Sandpoint on August 28th, 2016.

Lynne Buchanan
By Matt Fuller, Journey Social Media Specialist

Photographer Lynne Buchanan, who has roots in Florida and has focused on water issues with her work, shares some reflections at the Lummi Totem Pole Journey blessing ceremony in Sandpoint on August 28th, 2016.

Herb Goodwin
By Matt Fuller, Journey Social Media Specialist

Bellingham resident and community organizer Herb Goodwin shares some thoughts along the shores of Lake Pend Orielle during the Sandpoint blessing ceremony of the 2016 Totem Pole Journey. Herb was in town for two events, the other being a kayaktivist protest of the fossil fuel rail shipments coming through Sandpoint.

Photos by Paul Anderson, Journey Photographer