By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
We did not arrive at the Strong Heart camp until early afternoon on August 31st. We spent a few hours just interacting with camp residents. We talked about the Lummi Totem Pole Journey 2016; the history of what Jewell James has done in the past with his totem journeys to New York, Pennsylvania, and Washington, D.C. in the wake of the tragic September 11, 2001 attacks; the design and elements of the pole that was in the Strong Heart camp near the prayer circle; and we heard and told lots and lots of personal stories.
I took photos of all the flags, many of which had been added since we were at the camp on August 30, including the Lummi Nation flag.
Totem Journey 2016 is an experience of unification, of “One Heart, One Mind.” It is an experience of education, bringing information to people who may not be aware. It is an experience of love and power. And it is mostly joyful in the camp. I learned about how young children learn to drum, by imitating their parents, listening to the songs, watching and joining into the activity, sometimes just with a fly swatter for a mallet.
I must include one remarkable quote from a man whose name I did not get and who was talking about the spirit of the camp and its people: “The contentment of the heart is what we speak.”
Later in the afternoon, the camp organized an event so the Totem Journey delegation (which includes Jewell Praying Wolf James, Master Carver of the Lummi Nation House of Tears Carvers, Doug James, Jewell’s brother, Fred Lane, videographer of the Totem Journey, Phil Lane, Hereditary Chief of the Ihanktonwan Dakota and Chickasaw Nations, Cedar Parker, Tsleil-Waututh Nation of Vancouver, British Columbia, and Rueben George, also of Tsleil-Waututh Nation and son of Dan George) could make formal presentations about the journey, enabling Jewell to tell the story of the pole.
Deborah Parker, Cedar Parker’s mother and Tulalip Tribe member, also spoke and told a story of something her son said to her earlier in the day: “’The Creator wants us to feel the Earth, and that’s why we’re here.’ And that’s a beautiful teaching from my six-year-old son. He knows why we’re here. He can feel why we are here, his little feet touch the Earth and he knows why we are here! He knows why we took the journey here, and he’s not missing school because this IS his school, right here. And you, my dear relatives, he’s watching each and every one of you and how you care for the land.”
The words from Phil Lane, Rueben George, and Jewell James were especially powerful in this sacred location, and they spoke so forcefully that other camp residents from down below the prayer circle came up to hear what they were saying. They spoke eloquently of our overuse of fossil fuels, the damage it is doing to the planet, to the animals, and to the people.
Totem Journey 2016 is on a mission to connect with people, to tell the story of the pole, to talk about everything we know of the use and abuse of corporate power, particularly as it is reflected in the fossil fuel corporations, and to be present in solidarity with the people we meet who all want the same thing: a living, breathing Mother Earth for our grandchildren and their grandchildren, and for all future generations.
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
Our arrival into Standing Rock Sioux land brought the tribal police, something that made me a bit uneasy at first because of the “protest” actions that have incited police action in the area since the beginning of August. It turned out that we had a police escort from near the northern boundary of the reservation right into Fort Yates and to the Tribal Administration building. Dr. Kurt Russo, Totem Pole Journey 2016 Coordinator, Fred Lane, TPJ Videographer, and I rode slowly into Fort Yates with Rita Coolidge’s emotional rendition of “Amazing Grace” playing on the CD player. Tears flowed from all of us as we arrived; I acknowledge one of the most powerful experiences I’ve ever had in my life.
As we brought our convoy to a stop, Tribal staff and residents of the town flowed out into the street to see the totem pole. Within ten minutes, I had names and contact information for six people who were interested in learning more about the Lummi Totem Journeys. I met LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, Director of the Standing Rock Sioux Historic Preservation Office and owner of the land where the Sacred Stone camp is located just south of the Cannonball River. I later learned that Standing Rock Sioux leadership acknowledges Sacred Stone camp and refers to the much larger camp just north of the river as Strong Heart, with acknowledgement of a more activist component of the camp as Red Warrior (more about this later).
Just before noon, the Standing Rock Sioux Council came to order and received presentations from the Seneca Nation, Coast Salish Tribes, and the Yakama Nation. The matrilineal Seneca Nation of Pennsylvania described their experience with the Army Corps of Engineers. A dam was built in 1960 on the Allegheny River that flooded 10,000 acres of Seneca land, burying homes and valuable land under water. Their Chairman said, “We will not let this happen again. We are the ‘never again’ generation.”
The twenty or so members of the Yakama Nation, led by JoDe Goudy made their powerful presentation in full regalia, with children accompanying, and the highlight of the ceremony was the youngest member of their delegation, Wassus, wrapping a blanket around a Standing Rock Sioux infant.
Coast Salish Tribes then made their presentations, among them the Lummi, the Swinomish, the Nisqually, the Puyallup, the Lower Elwha Klallam, the Suquamish Tribe, and the Hoh Tribe. The Swinomish remarked in their presentation to the Council that the notorious police blockade six miles south of Mandan on ND highway 1806 was lifted to allow them to pass. Notable from Nisqually, Billy Frank’s grandson was present and had powerful words of support for the position the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe has taken.
Each and every Tribe present expressed unconditional support for the SRST opposition to the Dakota Access Pipeline. Every Tribe promised to leave a flag to reflect their support. As Brian Cladoosby said, “We’ve been at war since 1492. We show the world that we are united, that we speak as one.”
David Archambault II, Chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, then expressed his deep appreciation of all the support from the gathered Tribes, saying that the indigenous peoples of the United States and Canada need to “always keep our heads up, be proud!”
After the Council meeting presentations ended, Totem Journey 2016 and 20 or so additional cars from Fort Yates convoyed with several Tribal police cars and Rangers escorting for the 25-mile drive up to Strong Heart camp at Cannonball. The Yakama and Coast Salish Tribes all piled out to walk into the camp with flags flying and full regalia in the case of the Yakama. Intense and emotional moments arose as these gestures of support were comprehended by the people of the camp.
Doug James parked the totem pole in a prominent place near the fires and ceremony circle of the Strong Heart camp as we expressed our greetings and deep thanks for all the camp residents were doing to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline, and respect and honor Mother Earth. We spent a couple of hours in ceremony, prayer, song, and joyous dancing around the fires as people admired the totem and asked of its travels, history, intended destination, and other details. This can be termed nothing other than a most intense day of emotion and power.
Notable quotes from the speakers during the afternoon festivities came from Chairman Brian Cladoosby of the Swinish Indian Tribal Community, and Chairman Tim Ballew of Lummi Indian Business Council:
“WeBe … WeBe … We be here when they got here; we be here when they gone.”
“It’s days like that [referring to May 9, 2016 when the Army Corps of Engineers denied the permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point near Lummi Nation, Washington] and days like this [August 30, 2016, standing in solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in the Strong Heart camp] that make it worthwhile to be indigenous.”
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
After an early morning event in Sandpoint, Idaho, we motored to Missoula, Montana for a ceremony at the Salvation Army Church on Russell, hosted by Faith and Climate Action Montana. John Lund of the Emmaus Campus Ministry introduced the event, and Betsy Quamman of Faith and Climate Action spoke powerful words. She reminded us that “[Our activism] is a gift that calls us into compassion.”
Fred Lane and Jewell Praying Wolf James had powerful words for our mission, with the ever-present key objective that we ensure all future human generations are able to continue living in harmony with Mother Earth, something we have become so disconnected from doing in the past two hundred years with the intense advent of industrialization and the gluttonous use of fossil fuels that our ability to rediscover this capability in ourselves may be eternally in question. The speaking event ended with a short presentation from Dr. George Price, a Wampanaog Tribe member who now resides with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe north of Missoula.
We shared a fabulous meal of cole slaw, roasted beets and carrots, roasted potatoes, and braised bison. I lucked out by finding an empty chair next to Dr. Price. I was interested in talking with him about his comments respecting the advent of dominator culture about 5,000-7,000 years ago on the planet. We had a gentle discussion, with promises to get in touch and stay in touch on important topics.
Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal members sang songs of blessing and prayer to send with the totem on its long journey to Manitoba, Canada.
I spoke to Kathy Julius after the event. She is an enrolled member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe. When I asked her what she wanted for her children who played nearby, “I just want them to be happy.”
By Richard Jehn, Journey Chronicler
I am compelled to speak a humble prayer that the collision never occurs, as it would likely cause as much devastation to the beautiful little town of Sandpoint, Idaho (pop. about 7,500) as did the explosion of an oil train in Lac Mégantic, Quebec.
Sandpoint is located in northern Idaho, north of Coeur d’Alene, on Lake Pend Oreille, and only about 75 miles from the Canadian border. Beautiful hills and mountainous terrain surround the townsite, which is located on the west shore of the lake. Pend Oreille is the largest lake in Idaho, 40 miles in length, north to south, and 4 miles wide. It covers 125 square miles, is 1,150 feet deep, and is noted for its Kamloops rainbow trout. The name of the lake is derived from the French name (Pend d’Oreille) for the Kalispel Indians, who wore shell ear pendants.
Two railroad companies, Burlington Northern Santa Fe and Union Pacific, own track in Sandpoint and operate trains through the town. Up to 45 trains per day travel through the community, carrying bitumen from the Alberta tar sands, crude oil from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota, and coal from the Powder River Basin coal fields in southeastern Montana. Empty cars also travel back through Sandpoint to be refilled in those locations. Since 2012, the amount of rail traffic has increased significantly with the more prevalent transport of crude and bitumen by rail, much of which is destined for immediate export.
When we first arrived at the Sandpoint Beach Park, Gary Payton, representing Presbyterians for Earth Care, introduced himself and we spoke for a few minutes. He identified Susan Drumheller and Nancy Dooley of the Idaho Conservation League and primary organizers of the event. He added that Shannon Williamson, President of the Sandpoint City Council and Executive Director of Pend Oreille Waterkeepers, would be speaking.
As Nancy introduced the event, a northbound empty coal train passed behind her, providing the pointed exclamation mark to our gathering. This was later amplified by Shannon Williamson’s words as her two young children played in a tree nearby, reminding us that this is why we do this: to ensure our children and all future generations have a planet on which they can live, love, and experience creation.
I spoke to Selma Bair, an audience member and concerned citizen who has lived in Sandpoint her entire life and who has perspective on the changes in rail traffic and in the climate in her lifetime, asking her first if she had hope for our future. Her tears flowed as she told me, “We have to have hope.” She also spoke of her long-time neighbor, who was disinterested in coming to the event. When I asked her why she thought that might be, she said, “Because she just can’t be bothered.” How many of your family, friends, neighbors, and work colleagues just “can’t be bothered” to direct their attention to something that actually matters: ensuring climate change does not reach a level that cannot be reversed?
After spirited presentations by Jewell James and Rueben George, we wound up the event with our eyes toward Missoula, Montana for an event this same afternoon. Noteworthy is that Reuben revealed his work with many other people up and down the west coast of North America, from Alaska to California, to form the Salish Sea Alliance, an organization intended to protect coastal waters.
I had a remarkable conversation with John Anderson who has lived just outside of Sandpoint for 30 years at the northeast corner of Lake Pend Oreille. Railroad tracks run within ¼ mile of his home. In 1989, he initiated the Kalispel history project and followed that with a 10-year effort to bring recognition to the Kalispel people, who were moved out of their homelands into Montana and Usk, Washington. John was also one of the founders of the Panhandle Environmental League in 1982, an organization that disbanded within 4 years after losing every single vote they attempted at the local and state levels. We promised each other to keep in touch to continue our fruitful dialogue.
Facebook post by Marti Crago
August 29 at 11:02pm
I am so thankful that my 10 year old grandson, Mateo, was able to attend this ceremony with me. The stories, inspired words, prayers, songs and blessings were so powerful. I know he will carry that day in his heart as he grows into manhood. I was proud of him for “standing up” to be a warrior in response to Jewell’s exhortation. Later in the evening he explained to his mother that being a warrior meant that he “would not pollute” and he “would always protect Mother Earth”. The image and beauty, the strength and meaning of the House of Tears Totem Pole will live in his heart forever. Thank you for your many gifts. I was so blessed to have this opportunity to teach my grandson and share deepening conversations with him afterwards. How wonderful to come together in the larger community to acknowledge our relationship to each other and to the great and wondrous natural world in which we have our very being. Thank you to all who put this together and to all who participated. On to Standing Rock and Winnepeg! A Ho!
By Ben West, Journey Organizer
Standing Rock — Instead of visiting a community in Northern Alberta’s Tar Sands the First Nations Totem Pole Journey tour schedule has changed so that they can join a community in North Dakota in the midst of a big scale fight of their own with a Canadian oil company and the proposed Dakota Access Pipeline. Many First Nations from across Canada have come down to Standing Rock in support locals in the community. “The is about unprecedented unity.” said Rueben George from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in Vancouver, Canada.
“When we arrived at the stand off at Standing Rock the tribal police escorted us in. When the totem came through the multiple barricade and made it to the camp people had tears in their eyes because we are coming together to stand up for what is right, for justice for indigenous people”.
Rueben along with has son 19 year old son Cedar and his 17 year old daughter Kayah are accompanying master carver Jewell James from the Washington State based Lummi Nation House of Tears carvers on much of this 5,000 mile Totem Pole Journey. Rueben and his family have travelled from their home in Vancouver. They are from the Tsleil-Waututh Nation, the people of Inlet. Rueben is the grandson of the famous Chief Dan George, Academy Award nominated actor and accomplished First Nations leader. Rueben is a spiritual leader and a family counsellor but has now spent years of his life dedicated to his First Nations communities Sacred Trust Initiative. This campaign is dedicated to stopping the drastic expansion of oil tankers in their traditional waters as the result of Houston based Kinder Morgan’s new proposed pipeline in BC.
The Totem Pole Journey tour will end with three days of events from Sept 5th to 7th in Winnipeg leading to the delivery of the stunning totem pole to First Nations elders and Manitoba Grand Chief Derek Nepinak. The Winnipeg area has the largest First Nations population in Canada. Many First Nations people in this are involved in the fight against the highly controversial Energy East Pipeline.
You can follow Rueben and his family’s journey at: Tsleil-Waututh First Nation Sacred Trust Initiative
We need to be heard as many people and one voice,” said Jewell James, Master Carver of the House of Tears Carvers. “We need to let them know they cannot in the name of profits do this to the people, the water, the land and to the future generations. We will never give up. They must not pass!
You can follow Jewell James and the House of Carvers Totem Pole Journey at the Shared Responsibility Facebook page: Our Shared Responsibility Facebook
“Coast to Coast on both side of the border and around the world people coming together saying these projects are a problem for everybody. There is a better way for our future and for our families and that’s renewable energy and clean-tech which can solve so many of these problem. So why is anyone taking the side of these oil companies who are really just only benefiting the 1%” said George.
“I wont be from the generation that stops fighting. Everywhere you look we are winning! What a time to be alive.” said 19 year old Cedar Park, son of Rueben George.
Photographer Nancy Bleck has been accompanying the journey. Her powerful photos can be viewed at: Nancy Bleck Facebook
For More Information contact Rueben George, Tselil-Waututh Nation – Sacred Trust Initiative Manager – Currently at the stand off at Standing Rock-with his family – (604) 720-4630
Ben West – Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative Communications Coordinator – Vancouver – (604) 710-5340
The Totem Pole Journey Media Hotline – (208) 907-1985 – Paul Anderson – Media Contact