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.”