“Take it from the Lummis (which describes their story in a nutshell) regarding the wisdom of believing promises sworn to by the government, or by the corporations pulling its (purse) strings.”
So begins this month’s “Just Thinking” column in the Whatcom Watch by my good friend Philip Damon. Phil’s column this month, “Spare Us Those Empty Promises” is about a recent dramatic presentation by the Lummi tribe “depicting the infamous 1855 Treaty of Point Elliott and its shameful aftermath.”
Phil connects the dots between the drama’s history lesson, the current coal port controversy (proposed to be located at Cherry Point, which is considered to be one of the most important and ancient village sites for the Lummi tribe), and the legal and moral message that the Lummis have for us today.
Along the same lines, this month’s Whatcom Watch also has a VERY special 8 page insert authored by Jewell Praying Wolf James, of the Lummi Indian Tribe. The insert is titled “The Search for Integrity in the Conflict Over Cherry Point as a Coal Export Terminal.”
This is a powerful document. Damon calls it “remarkable.” Sightline Daily’s Eric De Place calls it “mandatory reading.”
When reading, I was reminded of the scoping hearings for the terminal, and that after hearing hundreds of excellent comments from a wide variety of community stakeholders, the testimony from Lummi tribal members seemed qualitatively different. They were simultaneously intelligent, coherent, insightful, moral, and spiritual. I was made to feel that because of their presence and the way they carried themselves and presented their input, I was on holy ground. There was a sense of gravitas.
A similar effect was felt when I read the news story about the ceremony they held at Cherry Point last September in opposition to the proposed terminal, and saw the dramatic photos of them burning a large facsimile of a million-dollar check, labeled “Non Negotiable” – indicating they would not be bought off.
The effect was felt once again when looking at the official letter from the tribe in its “unconditional and unequivocal opposition to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal.” I love how they outline 3 Principles that have influenced their decision making process. 1) “Everything is Connected” – enduring well-being is connected to healthy land, water, and environment. 2) “We must manage our resources for the seventh generation of our people” – irresponsibility now could mean stealing from our grandchildren. 3) “As a tribal government, we have adopted the critical goal that we must preserve, promote and protect our “Schelangen” (“way of life”).” These principles resonate with my affinity for David Holmgren’s Permaculture Ethics and Principles (which Holmgren himself acknowledged were deeply influenced by his sense of the principles “common to all indigenous tribal peoples”).
But this 8 page insert in the Whatcom Watch takes the effect to another level. Jewell James gives us a history lesson, a legal lesson, a moral lesson, a spiritual lesson. He takes us back 200 years, and we work our way forward to where we are today, followed by an eloquently delivered “Sacred Obligation” (“Xa xalh Xechnging”).
As Phil Damon points out, we have taken from the Lummis for far too long. It’s time we slow down, listen, and consider. It’s time to now take the wisdom that they offer. Please set aside some time to read this valuable contribution by Jewell Praying Wolf James. You can pick up copies at a number of distribution points in Whatcom County, or find it online. I’ll share a couple of teaser quotes to get you started.
The Search for Integrity in the Conflict Over Cherry Point as a Coal Export Terminal
Jewell Praying Wolf James is a Lummi tribal member and director of the Lummi Nation’s Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office…
We are living in a fast-paced society and rarely take the time to reflect upon the truths behind the laws that govern us. We are, one and all, proud to be law-abiding citizens. We operate under the assumption that the law is just, reasonable, and fair, and that no person stands above it. But how many people understand — or have even been introduced to — the important role Native Americans played in the governance of the American Nation?
I hope through the medium of history to give voice to a silenced history. In this article we will move through time, from first contact between European-Americans and the indigenous peoples of the Western Hemisphere, in 1492, to the present conflict over Cherry Point. Along the way, I hope to inform the reader about some of the laws, political realities, and administrative procedures that benefit corporate interests more favorably than either tribal rights or the greater public good. Just as important, I hope to show how the general public can influence the final outcome of this search for integrity.
Thanks to Phil Damon for the title of this post.