Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels: Lummi Visit Sandpoint


Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels Flyer

On Sunday morning, August 28, at 9 am, the Lummi Nation House of Tears carvers are bringing their fourth totem pole to City Beach Park in Sandpoint, Idaho, and at 11 am on the same morning (instead of August 27), north Idaho kayaktivists are launching the second Panhandle Paddle around the Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge. These successive events share the goals of the Lummi Totem Pole Journeys: To “defeat proposed fossil fuel projects, while laying the foundation for a broad-based alliance on future issues of common concern related to fossil fuels and climate change.”

Please join the co-hosts and coordinators of the Totem Pole Journey stop in Sandpoint – Idaho Conservation League, Lake Pend Oreille Waterkeeper, and the City of Sandpoint – and other regional groups actively opposing fossil fuel projects, such as 350Sandpoint, Idaho Mythweaver, Wild Idaho Rising Tide (WIRT), and allies, at the paved area behind the snack shack at City Beach Park, 102 Bridge Street in Sandpoint, Idaho [1].

Welcoming and blessing ceremonies commence at 9 am, with guest speakers from tribes, nongovernmental organizations, and municipalities raising awareness of the impacts of fossil fuels and the necessity of broad citizen opposition. Before group members of this final Lummi tour pack up and haul the totem pole to Missoula, Montana, and ultimately Winnipeg, Manitoba, it will remain on display until 11 am.

The Second Panhandle Paddle will launch an on- and off-shore rally and kayak and boat flotilla from City Beach Park after the Lummi totem pole event, to voyage around the Lake Pend Oreille rail bridge with a recently discovered crack [2, 3]. Physically demonstrating local resistance to coal, shale oil, and tar sands trains traversing north Idaho and the lake, the action organized by WIRT and allies further mobilizes frontline, inland Northwest communities unjustly impacted by the risks and pollution of fossil fuel transports.

Peruse the following background information about these opportunities and profusely print and post the attached, color, letter-sized Totem Poles and Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels Flyer. We eagerly anticipate sharing these experiences with you and your family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers, grateful that tribes across the continent are leading the current movement to protect lands and waters for future generations.

Lummi Totem Pole Journey Background

The House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation begin a 5,000-mile trip on August 23, traveling across the western United States and Canada with a 22-foot-long totem pole to expand attention and opposition to proposed West Coast fossil fuel terminals, to coal, oil, and tar sands trains, to oil and gas pipelines, and to the accompanying threats to tribal and local communities [4]. The 19-day journey starts in Bellingham, Washington, with events along the way with the Yakama Nation, the Spokane Tribe, and the Cheyenne River Indian Tribe and blessing stops in Vancouver, British Columbia, on August 23 and 24, in Seattle, Longview, Yakama, and Spokane, Washington, on August 25 to 27, in Sandpoint, Idaho, and Missoula, Montana, on August 28, in Edmonton, Alberta, on August 30, in Regina, Saskatchewan, on September 1, at the Cheyenne River, South Dakota, on September 3, and in Yankton, South Dakota, on September 4 [5].  Supporters can follow the trip through the dispatches, notes, essays, photos, and audio and video recordings posted on the website and facebook pages of the Totem Pole Journey by a Lummi elder and crew members working as writers, photographers, social media organizers, and audio/videographers [6, 7].

The western red cedar totem pole, created and donated by master carver Jewell James of the Lummi Nation, features a bald eagle on top with wings spread and a medicine wheel on its chest. Progressively lower on the pole, Jewell has handcrafted depictions of a buffalo skull, a wolf and coyote on opposite sides, and an Indian chief in a war bonnet facing and sharing a smoking peace pipe with a medicine man.  To bear witness to the need for all peoples to work together for our common humanity and covenant with Mother Earth, this fourth and final totem pole will reach its destination on September 7, at The Place Where the Two Rivers Meet in Winnipeg, Manitoba, home to the largest, urban, indigenous population in Canada and the second largest in the North American.  TransCanada’s Energy East pipeline, carrying diluted bitumen (tar sands) from Alberta to Winnipeg then on to Quebec and New Brunswick, runs past Shoal Lake, the source of Winnipeg’s drinking water, and poses serious risks to the Anishinaabek Treaty 3 territory and as many as 52 First Nations communities along its length.

Through the last three Totem Pole Journeys, the Lummi Nation has been cultivating and energizing relations across the Northwest and Canada. The first journey in 2013, named Kwel Hoy: We Draw the Line, gifted a sentinel now watching over the Tsleil-Waututh First Nation near Vancouver, British Columbia, as testament to opposition to existing and proposed pipelines in its territory.  The 2014 totem pole of the Our Shared Responsibility journey stands among the Beaver Lake Cree Nation severely and adversely impacted by tar sands extraction.  In 2015, a totem pole traveled on the Our Sacred Obligation tour and was lifted over the Northern Cheyenne Tribe threatened with coal mining and hauling out of the sacred sites of Otter Creek and the Tongue River in Montana.

Supported by a wide variety of local, regional, and national tribal, environmental, social justice, human rights, and faith groups and communities who provide financial and in-kind services, help organize, and/or participate, the 2016 Totem Pole Journey will continue the legacy of acknowledging, listening to, recording, and sharing the stories of communities along the route transgressed and devastated with impunity by a multitude of fossil fuel projects. From the extraction sites to the pipeline and rail transportation corridors to the coastal storage and Salish Sea tanker traffic of Alberta tar sands, Bakken shale oil, Powder River Basin coal, and widespread fracked gas crossing state and international borders, First Nation and American Indian communities are generally impacted the worst.  Post-tour film and slideshow presentations will share responses and reactions to the Totem Pole Journey and the concerns and ideas for allied actions of Native and non-Native frontline communities.

In its most crucial, culminating year, the journey embarks in the wake of the May 9, 2016 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers decision to honor the Lummi Nation request to deny the SSA Marine permit for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal coal export facility at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point), near Ferndale and Bellingham, Washington [8, 9]. This historic victory for treaty rights, the Lummi Nation, Northwest tribes, and the entire region affirms that the largest proposed coal export terminal in North America would violate and impact Lummi Nation treaty fishing rights and waters.  Although Xwe’chi’eXen is safe for now, dirty energy profiteers and proponents often attempt to circumvent defeats and undermine treaties through legislative initiatives, project relocation, and public relations campaigns.

Thus, the 2016 Totem Pole Journey serves several purposes: 1) Strengthening and expanding alliances and networks of coalition partners among U.S. Northwest and western Canadian tribes, nongovernmental organizations, faith communities, and local leaders opposing fossil fuel infrastructure and addressing climate change, 2) Reaching and educating the largest possible audience and shaping the narrative on these issues, through public events and widely distributed informational material and radio, television, and social media coverage, 3) Promoting voting participation in the months before the U.S. November 2016 election that will directly affect the ultimate outcomes of fossil fuels initiatives, and most significantly, 4) Resisting the recently increased, unprecedented number, threats, risks, and impacts of existing and proposed fossil fuel projects on the environments, life ways, health, safety, and future generations of indigenous and frontline communities.

[1] Lummi Totem Pole Journey Makes Stop in Sandpoint, Idaho Conservation League

[2] Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels: Second Panhandle Paddle, August 22, 2016 Wild Idaho Rising Tide

[3] Totem Poles & Kayaks Against Fossil Fuels, August 22, 2016 Wild Idaho Rising Tide facebook event

[4] Press Release: 5,000 Mile Tribal Journey to Oppose Expanding Fossil Fuel Exports from West Coast, August 6, 2016 Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey facebook post

[5] 2016 Totem Pole Journey, May 15, 2016 Lummi Nation Service Organization

[6] Welcome to the Totem Pole Journey! February 29, 2016 Lummi Nation Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office

[7] Our Shared Responsibility: A Totem Pole Journey, Lummi Nation facebook site

[8] ‘Historic Victory for Treaty Rights’: Northwest Tribes Rejoice as Army Corps Rejects Coal Terminal, May 10, 2016 Indian Country Today

[9] Army Corps Rejects Permit for Coal Terminal at Cherry Point, May 9, 2016 Bellingham Herald

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