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Netwar at Cherry Point

White Power on the Salish Sea

By Jay Taber

 

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Introduction

In Drumming Up Resentment: The Anti-Indian Movement in Montana, a special report published by Montana Human Rights Network in 2000, author Ken Toole made the following remarks:

“The context in which most people place words like racism, prejudice, and discrimination is the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In that context, an oppressed minority, African Americans, sought inclusion, a piece of the pie, equal opportunity and integration.

 

The struggle for civil rights in Indian country is different. It rests more on sovereignty and autonomy than on inclusion and integration. The legal framework created by the civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s sought to secure equal treatment within existing institutions and law. Indian rights activists, by and large, seek recognition of their right to develop their own law. Basically, they seek recognition of a right to self-determination. This difference is confusing and gives the anti-Indian movement an advantage in the rhetorical arena.

 

Taken at face value, the anti-Indian movement is a systematic effort to deny legally established rights to a group of people who are identified on the basis of their shared culture, history, religion and tradition. That makes it racist by definition.”

Writing further, Mr. Toole examined the organizational infrastructure of the Anti-Indian Movement:

“Over the last thirty years, tribal governments have become more sophisticated about asserting themselves through treaty rights. This evolution has often created controversy. Those who have opposed tribes, fearing Indian governance, have coalesced themselves into the anti-Indian movement. Groups like the Interstate Congress for Equal Rights and Responsibilities (ICERR), Totally Equal Americans (TEA), and the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) have served as national umbrella organizations for groups that have grown out of local and state controversies. These national groups have focused on federal policy by lobbying in Congress and litigating in the federal courts. However, the power and effectiveness of these national groups is linked to the local anti-Indian groups.

 

In addition to “vertical integration” from local to state to national organizations, the anti-Indian movement also developed “horizontal integration,” or ally relationships with groups and activists in other political and social movements. The anti-Indian movement is allied with the anti-environmental “wise use movement.” There is extensive cooperation between anti-Indian groups like CERA and wise use groups like the Alliance for America. Loose affiliation between anti-Indian groups and the Religious Right is also evident primarily in the electoral arena and state legislature. Finally, despite their best efforts, anti-Indian activists often stumble into the overt white supremacist movement. It is not a surprising stumble since both movements have racist ideas at the core.”

In the conclusion of Drumming Up Resentment, Ken Toole remarked that the public education system is doing a woefully inadequate job of providing information to students on Indian issues. The result, he says, is that citizens are increasingly ignorant about treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. This, he warns, makes them far more vulnerable to the politics of resentment offered up by the Anti-Indian Movement.

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2015 Tsleil-Waututh Blessing Stop. Photo: Paul Anderson

Givers and Takers

On April 6, 2013, I received a request from the editor of the Cascadia Weekly for background on Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), which had held an anti-Indian conference earlier that day in Bellingham, Washington. On April 10, my article Anti-Indian Conference was published at IC Magazine.

On April 17, the Cascadia Weekly editor published a column titled A history of violence. On page 4 of the April 17 Earth Day issue of Cascadia Weekly, he published my letter to the editor, “Givers and Takers”, which connected the organized racism promoted by CERA to propaganda by the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) coal export developers. Responding to my letter, Craig Cole, the PR spokesman for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal — located next to the Lummi Indian reservation — phoned the editor expressing his displeasure with my op-ed.

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On April 26, 2013, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) in Seattle published a special report by Charles Tanner Jr titled “Take These Tribes Down” The Anti-Indian Movement Comes To Washington State.

As an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies (CWIS) in Olympia, Washington, and communications director at Public Good Project, based in San Francisco, I have access to quite a lot of material on this topic. Most notably, Anti-Indian Movement on the Tribal Frontier by CWIS chair Dr. Rudolph C. Ryser, and Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound by former Public Good research director, Paul de Armond.

On May 13, 2013, it came to my attention that Skip Richards – one of the two organizers of the April 6, 2013 CERA conference, and a strategist of anti-Indian campaigns in the 1990s — was scheduled to speak at a May 24 luncheon for the Republican Women of Whatcom County, at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club. In response to this information, I added the following background on Skip Richards as an appendix to my April 10 article at IC Magazine.

For background on Skip Richards, readers might find the following Public Good Project special reports useful.

 

Some news articles about Skip Richards’ collaboration with Christian Patriot militia:

 

After sending my updated article to the Whatcom League of Women Voters, with a note about the likelihood of Richards leading a hate campaign against tribal sovereignty by appealing to the Tea Party wing of the GOP, I informed my Public Good colleagues that Richards and other entrepreneurial merchants of fear were apparently “hovering around the treaty rights/water rights/GPT conflicts probing for an opportunity to recreate the climate of fear that twenty years ago allowed them to capture the Whatcom County Council”. Additionally, I noted that “The PACs and non-profits the property rights network established back then for political power later spawned the anti-Indian, militia organizing”.

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photo: Lummi Nation Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office

On May 16, 2013, IC Magazine published a follow-up to my April 10 article, titled Anti-Indian Sociopath Skip Richards At The Country Club: Is Media Complicity And Public Amnesia Enough?, and I sent the following message to the Public Good network:

In addition to lacking a moral compass, Richards apparently believes that simply denying proven collaboration with militias, and overwhelming evidence of his having built a career on malicious harassment is sufficient to absolve him from accountability for his actions. It is truly astounding he ran for senate at the same time his militia pals were arrested by the FBI.

 

His recent appearance as a guest speaker at a blatantly racist conference — alongside his cohort of bigots from twenty years ago — at which he pretends to know nothing about the anti-Indian movement is mindboggling. His present posturing as an innocent water consultant, when his record shows he actively engaged in water resource conflicts with anti-Indian activists throughout the 1990s, indicates he is astonishingly adept at self-delusion.”

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“I was a witness to the journey and can say with deep conviction that this journey mattered. It mattered to those assembled, to the travelers, to the multitudes that read about it in the paper, heard about it on the radio, or saw it on TV, to landscapes and their lifeforms, and (in my mind), to the unseen forces within and around us that ask of us only our steadfast faith. This is a coming together.” —Kurt Russo, Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office, Lummi Nation

Horizontal Integration

On June 4, 2013, I came across a link to YouTube videos from the Gateway Pacific Terminal panel forum, featuring Washington State Senator Doug Ericksen, Dave Warren of Northwest Jobs Alliance, Whatcom County Realtors Association lobbyist Perry Eskridge, and realtor Mike Kent, whom I knew to be the brother of former KGMI radio host Jeff Kent—noted in the Profits of Prejudice PDF, attached to my April 10 IC Magazine article. As a KGMI radio host in September 1995, Jeff Kent led Fee Land Owners Association (FLOA) representatives Jeff McKay and Linnea Smith in an hour-long diatribe against the Lummi Indians.

In August 2013, Whatcom Watch monthly included a supplement by Jewell Praying Wolf James of the Lummi Indian Tribe titled The Search for Integrity in the Conflict over Cherry Point as a Coal Export Terminal. In the October-November 2013 issue of Whatcom Watch, Sandra Robson’s article How Property Rights Can Become Property Wrongs was the cover story. In the article, Robson recounts the violent history of property rights groups in Whatcom county, and notes that the co-organizer of the April 6 CERA conference was Tom Williams, a Minuteman militia member, and CERA board member. Paul de Armond’s 2005 Public Good Project report Racist Origins of Border Militias sheds light on what these white supremacists are all about.

On October 9, 2013, the Whatcom Tea Party sponsored a Gateway Pacific Terminal Debate at the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC). As reported by Paul de Armond in the 1995 Public Good Project special report Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound, the BIAWC had been an active supporter of Wise Use terrorism against environmentalists and Native Americans in 14 Washington counties, including Whatcom, where Skip Richards was a paid BIAWC agent provocateur.

Also on October 9, 2013, Cascadia Weekly ran an editorial titled Polar Chill, noting the editor is “dismayed to see coal export interests laundering large amounts of campaign contributions” suggesting that “the early promise of coal export interests to be good corporate citizens was a lie”. The following three paragraphs of the editorial are worth reading in its entirety:

As noted by Western Washington University Professor Todd Donovan, and detailed by local political blogger Riley Sweeney and Seattle media, Pacific International Terminals donated $30,000 to the state Republican Party. Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad donated another $10,000. These contributions were turned over to state party vice-chair Luanne Van Werven, who also heads the Whatcom County Republicans. Van Werven then distributed $1,500 to each selected candidate, along with $17,000 to Whatcom Republicans. Whatcom Republicans in turn funneled $17,000 to Republican-endorsed Whatcom County Council candidates. The transfers, Donovan noted, are not typical for local elections. The transfers both exceed the cap on contributions an individual may make and disguise the contributions’ origins. Coal interests do not appear on these candidates’ disclosures, but the laundered funds are available for candidates’ use in the election.

 

“It appears that Pacific International Terminals and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad have earmarked campaign funds given to the state Republican Party such that these funds exclusively benefit candidates in Whatcom County,” Donovan wrote to the state Public Disclosure Commission, which investigates alleged campaign finance irregularities. Donovan is a political scientist and elections expert.

 

“This practice allows Pacific International and BNSF to disguise the fact that they are a primary source of campaign funds for these candidates and for the Whatcom County Republican Party,” Donovan wrote to the PDC. “This practice allows Pacific International and BNSF to spend money on Whatcom County candidate races in excess of what is allowable under state law.”

The Politics of Resentment

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The Northern Cheyenne Reservation (Bob Zellar, Billings Gazette)

On October 16, 2013, I became aware of a new PAC called SaveWhatcom, registered by KGMI radio host Kris Halterman and Lorraine Newman. Halterman is noted in my Anti-Indian Conference article at IC Magazine, having interviewed CERA celebrity Elaine Willman at the April 6, 2013 CERA gathering. Halterman had Willman on her March 30, 2013 show Saturday Morning Live, saying the April 6 conference would teach local officials and citizens how to take on tribal governments. On Halterman’s November 3, 2012 show, Willman called for an end to tribal sovereignty, stating, “Tribalism is socialism, and has no place in our country!”

In August and September, 2013 — as I soon learned — the Gateway Pacific Terminal consortium had funneled $149,000 into the SaveWhatcom and WhatcomFirst PACs, run by KGMI radio hosts Kris Halterman and Dick Donohue—both of whom I had noted in my May 5, 2013 IC Magazine article, White Power on the Salish Sea: The Wall Street/Tea Party Convergence. In this article, I noted the following about Donohue and Halterman:

On March 30, 2013, Donohue interviewed CERA board member and Minuteman Tom Williams, who promoted the untrue idea that Indians have citizenship privileges without paying taxes, and noted that CERA was currently mounting a national offensive to terminate tribal sovereignty. On April 6, Donohue and Halterman interviewed Willman and Phillip Brendale live from the Anti-Indian Conference, who declared that the purpose of the regional gathering was to “Take these Tribes Down.”

On November 3, 2013, Kris Halterman posted a Breaking News story on her KGMI blog titled Whatcom County Council Appeals GMHB Ruling on Rural Element: a decision to affect Your Water Rights. In Halterman’s story, she notes that on the previous day’s KGMI show Radio Real Estate, host Mike Kent invited experts to talk about Whatcom County’s water rights, including Skip Richards. As noted at Whatcom Watch, a November 19, 2013 letter to Sandra Robson from Perry Eskridge, Government Affairs Director for Whatcom County Association of Realtors, Eskridge stated the following:

“I have been provided a copy of your recent article, How Property Rights Can Become Property Wrongs, published in the Whatcom Watch. I was asked to explain your apparent effort to tie several violent racial events in the past to current efforts by Whatcom County property rights organizations, including the Whatcom County Association of Realtors, advocating for property rights protections in our county.

 

While the article does not directly accuse the Realtors of some of the more heinous acts you describe, you do state “Powerful political forces masked in seemingly constructive organizations like the … Washington Realtors [sic] Association (including each group’s local level organizations), fund and interact with property rights groups.” Whatcom Watch, October-November 2013, pg. 8. You continue by alleging that these groups, including the Realtors, use these groups “to do much of their work for them.” Id. These statements are not accurate.”

The reference cited in the article by Ms. Robson that disturbed Mr. Eskridge is from Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound, Appendix II, paragraph 7, which states, “These groups, such as the Master Builders Association, the various county chapters of the Affordable Housing Council, the local Chambers of Commerce, and realtor’s associations, provide the leadership and funding for creating front groups like the Property Rights Alliance, SNOCO PRA, Whatcom CLUE and other so-called grass-roots groups.”

In Appendix VIII, source number 167, the Seattle Times notes the financial contribution from the Washington Association of Realtors to Initiative 164, the property rights initiative. As noted in source number 170, the Seattle Times quotes Secretary of State Ralph Munro, who ordered an investigation by the State Patrol regarding thousands of fake Initiative 164 signatures.

On November 21, 2013, in an article at the Seattle Times titled On Behalf of North Dakota and Montana, McKenna calls Washington coal study unconstitutional, former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna wrote a letter to Washington State that questioned the constitutionality of Washington’s Department of Ecology review of the proposed coal-export terminal at Cherry Point. In his unsuccessful 2012 bid for governor against Jay Inslee, McKenna made his support for coal-export terminals a major issue.

In Trampling on the Treaties: Rob McKenna and the Politics of Anti-Indianism, a 2012 report by Chuck Tanner and Leah Henry-Tanner, the authors examined Washington gubernatorial candidate McKenna via his career as a public official opposed to treaty rights, as well as his working relationship with Anti-Indian activists and organizations. As the Tanners note:

“McKenna’s Anti-Indian policies and ideas, and his willingness to ally his public office with opponents of tribal rights, should raise a large red flag for all people in Washington state who support respectful relations with Indian Nations.”

The Tanners observed that as Washington Attorney General, McKenna’s legal briefs “provide a political framework for backlash against Indian Nations”…His actions as Attorney General, “point to a pattern of disrespect for the basic rights of indigenous nations”…When McKenna perceives a state interest at issue, “he will oppose the fundamental rights of Indian Nations and ally with anti-Indian activists to achieve his goals”.

Educating the Public

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2015 Tsleil-Waututh Blessing Stop. Photo: Paul Anderson

In a November 24, 2013 story at EarthFix titled Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native American Archeological Site at Cherry Point, the first installment of a two-part series, KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn wrote the following about Gateway Pacific Terminal parent company Pacific International Terminals:

Three summers ago the company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in North America failed to obtain the environmental permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres of land, including some wetlands.

 

Pacific International Terminals also failed to meet a requirement to consult first with local Native American tribes, the Lummi and Nooksack tribes, about the potential archaeological impacts of the work. Sidestepping tribal consultation meant avoiding potential delays and roadblocks for the project’s development.

 

It also led to the disturbance of a site from which 3,000-year-old human remains had previously been removed — and where archeologists and tribal members suspect more are buried.

 

Pacific International Terminals and its parent corporation, SSA Marine, subsequently settled for $1.6 million for violations under the Clean Water Act.

 

According to company documents obtained by EarthFix after the lawsuit made them public, Pacific International Terminals drilled 37 boreholes throughout the site, ranging from 15 feet to 130 feet in depth, without following procedures required by the Army Corps of Engineers under the National Historic Preservation Act.

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On November 26, 2013, IC Magazine published my editorial Cherry Point Ownership, in which I noted that the August 2013 Whatcom Watch insert by Jewell Praying Wolf James revealed that the Lummi people did not sign away Cherry Point in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot. As Mr. James wrote, Cherry Point was part of the original Lummi Reservation, not part of the lands ceded under duress to the U.S. Government. Only in 1872 was Cherry Point illegally removed from the Lummi Reservation by Presidential Executive Order, in order for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to unlawfully sell the property to white squatters. As one of the most important ancient Lummi village sites, Cherry Point ownership, in 2013, had been in dispute for 141 years.

In January 2014, Whatcom Watch published What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal, Sandra Robson’s detailed account of money-laundering by the coal export consortium into the hands of CERA-supporting, Tea Party-led PACs. The footnotes of her cover story include a link to my IC Magazine article White Power on the Salish Sea: The Wall Street/Tea Party Convergence, as well as the referenced April 26, 2013 IREHR report “Take These Tribes Down” by Charles Tanner Jr.

On January 15, 2014, Indian Country Today published an article by Winona LaDuke titled Crow and Lummi, Dirty Coal & Clean Fishing, in which she notes that Cherry Point, home of the ancient Lummi village of XweChiexen, was the first site in Washington State to be listed on the Washington Heritage Register. As a 3,500-year-old site, she said, “It is sacred to the Lummi.”

As one of the most prominent American Indian intellectual celebrities, Winona works a lot with Native American environmental activists that are trying to change their tribal governments to be less dependent on Wall Street, so they can make better choices. She has done many good things for tribes, including her own, to get back on a more sustainable track. This April 17, 2010 talk by Winona is a particularly good one.

On page 12 of the January 15, 2014 issue of Cascadia Weekly, in an article titled Draw the Line by Tim Johnson, he noted that the waters at Cherry Point are home to one of the best crab fisheries along the coast, and that this fishery sustains many tribal families. In the article, he quotes Jeremiah “Jay” Julius, secretary of the Lummi Nation Governing Council, a fisherman and crabber descended from tribesmen who have fished the waters off Cherry Point for centuries. Featured in a KCTS documentary and related PBS News Hour piece about the proposed Northwest coal terminals, Julius stated, “The sacred must be protected.”

A Free Press

On February 5, 2014, Gateway Pacific Terminal spokesman Craig Cole threatened Whatcom Watch with a SLAPP suit, which I covered for IC magazine in my February 8 article Gateway Pacific Terminal Consultant Threatens Journalists. In the four page letter sent to Whatcom Watch, Cole accused Robson and myself of libel, threatening that Robson and Whatcom Watch are “put on notice”. In a February 19 article Craig Cole Threatens Libel Suit at Northwest Citizen, editor John Servais made the following remarks:

 “We have seen the effects of big money on politics and corporate media, and now those long arms are reaching into our local media – using lawsuits to intimidate or bully local citizen journalists away from vigorously reporting what is happening.  Indeed, it has been working!   The folks at the Whatcom Watch are stuck in a defensive crouch over this threat.  The Watch has no money and Mr. Cole has some of the largest corporations in the country behind him.  It seems unlikely Cole would send such a letter without the backing and encouragement of his corporate clients.

If large corporations are trying to silence local reporting, citizens should know.  My thinking is that Ms Robson and the Whatcom Watch were getting close to the truth of what is going on and this is a classic corporate effort to silence them.”

On February 14, 2014, in my IC Magazine editorial The Politics of Land and Bigotry, I recounted the March 8, 1996 conference I attended, hosted by the Center for World Indigenous Studies and the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, to dialogue about “the portentous movements in America intent on promoting interracial discord and a growing politics of fear.”

Reading Robson’s January article at Whatcom Watch, I was reminded of meeting Jay Inslee in 1996, when he first ran for governor of Washington. Then State Senator Harriet Spanel had invited me and Inslee to dinner, where I talked with her about property rights convulsions influencing her reelection campaign, in which she was challenged by Skip Richards, who made anti-Indian racism the cornerstone of his campaign. When the Anacortes American exposed Richards as a militia host, his campaign went down in flames.

On February 17, 2014, in an Indian Country Today article titled Coast Salish Nations Unite to Protect Salish Sea, the Lummi, Swinomish, Suquamish and Tulalip tribes of Washington joined the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam Nations in British Columbia in opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposed TransMountain pipeline and other energy-expansion and export projects that “pose a threat to the environmental integrity of our sacred homelands and waters, our treaty and aboriginal rights, and our cultures and life ways.” In December 2013, Kinder Morgan, the third largest energy producer in North America, filed an application with the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to build a new pipeline to transport crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to Vancouver, British Columbia, that if approved, would result in a 200% increase in oil tanker traffic through the Salish Sea. On February 11, 2014, these tribes and nations collectively filed for official intervener status with the NEB.

On February 25, 2014, Northwest Citizen (NWC) posted Relevant Documents to Libel Threat, including Craig Cole’s letter threatening a libel lawsuit against Whatcom Watch (WW), as well as a link to my article at IC Magazine, noting that “It is interesting that Cole has not threatened to sue Taber or Taber’s publisher.” NWC editor John Servais observes it is legitimate for WW to seek connections between the anti-Indian groups and the corporations seeking permits to build the coal terminal, saying, “It is called journalism and the exercise of a free press.”

A Terrible Insult

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A ceremony held at Cherry Point, a part of the Lummi anti-coal totem pole journey. 09/30/2013 Photo: Ryan Hasert

On March 10, 2014, writing at the SaveWhatcom blog, Tea Party leader and KGMI radio host Kris Halterman defended Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), as well as Craig Cole’s threat against Whatcom Watch. On March 12, 2014, in an editorial titled Tone Deaf, Cascadia Weekly excoriated Pacific International Terminals for its unpermitted destruction of the ancestral burial grounds of the Lummi Nation at Cherry Point, saying it “is a terrible insult to the Lummi people.”

On March 28, 2014, Indian Country Today published a feature story titled Anti-Indian CERA Doesn’t Like the Law of the Land, or Us, Apparently, by Terri Hansen, in which CERA is described as “The Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country.” On April 2, 2014, federal Indian law attorney Dave Lundgren wrote in his Indian Country Today op-ed Expose Hate Groups Like CERA that, “They disguise their fear and hatred with bogus legal arguments designed to rile up local resentment.”

On April 4, 2014, my Public Good Project editorial Liberal Elite Versus Democracy discussed the collapse of Whatcom Watch under its new president Terry Wechsler, who began blaming the messenger Sandra Robson for the paper’s troubles. In a communication to this author, Wechsler said my advice to expose, confront and reject organized racism is “counterproductive.”

Astonishingly, Wechsler actually suggested to me that Skip Richards’ racist organizing in the 1990s is a thing of the past, because he told her he no longer does that. I reminded her that Richards was one of the two people who organized the April 6, 2013 CERA anti-Indian conference, a fact reported in my IC Magazine article Anti-Indian Conference.

On June 27, 2014, the Bellingham Herald article Craig Cole’s legal threat against Whatcom Watch ‘resolved’ claimed the SLAPP suit issue had been amicably resolved, saying “What bothered Cole more than Robson’s piece was a follow up by blogger Jay Taber that contorted Robson’s hypothetical scenario into flat-out reality.” Had the reporter Ralph Schwartz bothered to closely read Sandra Robson’s extensively-sourced article and mine, he would have discovered that my accusation of Cole promoting racism was based on documented facts.

On June 30, 2014, my article Capitalizing on Fear at IC Magazine explained how Gateway Pacific Terminal funding enabled Tea Party-led PACs and KGMI radio to drum up resentment against Lummi Nation. On December 23, 2014, in my IC Magazine post White Power vs Northwest Indians, I included two posters from Public Good Project—Gateway Pacific Terminal Hall of Shame, and White Power on the Salish Sea.

In January 2015, Sandra Robson was one of four journalists to receive a Public Good Correspondent Award for 2014. On March 27, 2015, Robson’s article A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall was published at IC Magazine. On April 10, 2015, my article Railroading Racism: Warren Buffett vs Northwest Indians ran there as well.

Conclusion

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On July 27, 2015, my article Crowing Jesus: Four Square Gospel vs A Sacred Trust at IC Magazine noted that in a July 21 article at the Los Angeles Times, Crow Tribe Chairman Darrin Old Coyote called Lummi Nation leaders “ignorant” pawns of Seattle environmental groups. A supplier of coal, the Crow are in bed with Gateway Pacific Terminal. As a Pentecostal Christian tribe, the Crow are challenging Lummi Nation’s “sacred trust” to protect the Salish Sea—a holy mandate that Earth Ministry, Resources, Unitarian Universalists, and Sierra Club support.

On March 12, 2016, Northwest Citizen named Sandra Robson the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalist of the year, saying, “If there were a Pulitzer Prize for citizen journalism, Sandra Robson would win it.”

 

Further reading:

Wall Street v. Coast Salish: Cherry Point conflict enters electoral arena

Coal’s dark alliance defames Lummi Nation

Dire Warnings

 

 

 

 

[Jay Thomas Taber is an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies, a correspondent to Forum for Global Exchange, and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal. Since 1994, he has served as communications director at Public Good Project, a volunteer network of researchers, analysts and journalists engaged in defending democracy. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.]

 

Indigenous Cultural Survival: A Matter of Human Rights

Intercontinental Cry

March 20, 2015

by Jay Taber

The Lummi Indian tribe (Lhaq’temish in Coast Salish language) originally owned much of the San Juan Islands (Washington state) and surrounding waters. They and neighboring tribes in British Columbia shared the Salish Sea, one of the richest marine estuaries in the world. Subsequently confined to a reservation on the mainland, Lummi Nation — which boasts the largest indigenous fishing fleet in the U.S. — has been targeted for destruction by three of America’s largest corporations: Peabody Energy, SSA Marine (SSA), and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad (BNSF). As Sandy Robson notes in her award-winning expose What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal, these corporations will stop at nothing to get what they want.

In The Line is Drawn, Robson chronicles the conflict between SSA Marine subsidiary Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) and Lummi Nation, including close financial ties between GPT and Whatcom Tea Party leaders, who throughout 2012, 2013, and 2014 recruited and promoted Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) — the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country” — on KGMI radio programs. Those ties — exposed by Robson in January 2014 — led to a SLAPP suit threat in February 2014 by GPT PR spokesman Craig Cole.

Most recently, the GPT consortium launched a divide-and-conquer campaign against Lummi Nation, by posing the Crow tribe of Montana as an innocent victim of the conflict, when in reality the Crow tribe is in bed with coal companies. Oddly, no one in mainstream media has questioned why the Crow should have any say about Lummi efforts to protect their economy and sacred sites at Cherry Point. As Winona LaDuke observes, Dirty Coal & Clean Fishing don’t mix. As Lummi Nation tribal council chair Tim Ballew remarked in a link at Robson’s article A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall, “Our treaty rights are not for sale”.

Since paying $1.6 million in penalties and fees for illegally bulldozing a registered Native American archaeological site at Cherry Point in 2011, SSA and its public relations firm (Edelman PR) have tried everything under the sun to defeat Lummi Nation’s resistance to turning their treaty fishing area into a carbon corridor for exporting coal and oil to Asia. Wall Street v. Coast Salish is a battle between Big Coal and Big Oil on one side, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Coast Salish First Nations, and Lummi Nation on the other.

Having funded two Tea Party-led Political Action Committees (PACs) to launder electoral campaign donations from the GPT consortium — that includes Peabody, SSA, and BNSF — GPT PR firms and front groups are now promoting the notion that Lummi Nation is unreasonable in its rejection of what would be the largest coal export facility in North America, in the heart of its treaty-guaranteed fishing area. This “usual and accustomed” fishing area, adjacent to the ancient Lummi village and burial ground at Cherry Point, supports treaty and non-treaty harvests of Dungeness crab, halibut, and salmon. As Ballew stated in a Lummi press release, “We have a sacred obligation to protect this location.”

Expanded export of Alberta Tar Sands bitumen, Bakken Shale crude, and Powder River Basin coal through ports on the Salish Sea would vastly increase the odds of a Superspill in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. Preventing that likely catastrophe has brought environmental organizations, churches and tribes together. As GPT doubles down on promoting interracial discord, the carbon corridor conflict demands that we listen to The Voice Within.

When fossil fuel corporations engage in Capitalizing on Fear to destroy the basis of indigenous cultural survival, it becomes a matter of human rights. Given the deceitful and malicious GPT track record toward Lummi Nation, one has to ask why the Washington State Human Rights Commission has so far taken a pass. In fairness, they might be confused, thanks in no small part to Edelman and Cole.

 

A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall

Robson’s article below, A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall exposes industry funding of white supremacy advocates, as a means of drumming up resentment against Northwest tribes opposing fossil fuel export on the Salish Sea (between Seattle and Vancouver).

Coal Stop

February 20, 2015

by Sandy Robson

 

The Lummi, a Coast Salish people, are the original inhabitants of Washington state’s northernmost coast and southern British Columbia. The Lummi Nation is a self-governing nation and is the third largest tribe in Washington state. Lummi refer to themselves as the Lhaq’temish, or People of the Sea. Their survival and culture have depended on the annual migrations of salmon for centuries, but salmon are now severely threatened after salmon stocks have drastically declined.

Presently, threatening the Lummi, their treaty rights, and the salmon they depend on, is Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT), a 48 million metric ton per year coal export terminal proposed at Xwe’chi’eXen (Cherry Point) in Whatcom County, Washington, along the Salish Sea shoreline. The company proposing the coal export terminal is Pacific International Terminals (PIT), a subsidiary created for the GPT project by SSA Marine, one of the largest shipping terminal operators in the world.

Despite the Lummi Nation’s multiple expressions of their position that the impacts on the Nation’s treaty rights associated with GPT cannot be mitigated, executives of SSA Marine are not listening.

totem journey seattle

Lummi people have fished in the waters of the northern Puget Sound and the Nooksack River since time immemorial, and the Lummi’s treaty fishing rights are secured to them by our federal government in the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855. Article 5 of the Treaty provides that, “The right of taking fish from usual and accustomed grounds and stations is further secured to said Indians in common with all citizens of the Territory. . .”

Lummi Indian Business Council (LIBC) Chairman Tim Ballew II sent a January 5, 2015 letter to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (“the Corps”) requesting that the Corps take action and immediately deny SSA/PIT’s permit application for the proposed GPT project, “based, inter alia, on the project’s adverse impact on the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation.” The LIBC letter further stated, “The impacts on the Nation’s treaty rights associated with this project cannot be mitigated.”

Enter SAVEWhatcom

Since the news of Lummi Nation’s letter to the Corps, executives from SSA/PIT launched a barrage of proclamations of their supposed “good faith” offers for face-to-face negotiations between the company and Lummi Nation about the project. SSA/PIT used the media and the company’s GPT email mailing list to deliver those invitations, which in the language of sincerity, seemed to be put forth more for public opinion than anything else.

Recent statements on its Facebook page made by the Political Action Committee (PAC) SAVEWhatcom, which has received over $20,000 in contributions from SSA/PIT, appear to be an attempt to drive public opinion against the Lummi Nation’s strong oppositional stance to GPT. SAVEWhatcom’s statements call into question the sincerity of SSA/PIT in their claims of “good faith,” when a PAC the company donated money to puts out messaging that seems in such bad faith.

On February 5, one month after the Lummi Nation’s letter to the Corps, SAVEWhatcom made the following post on its Facebook page that seems fit to rouse some rabble in Whatcom County:

How ironic?

The Lummi Nation refuses to meet with SSA Marine to discuss mediation as they professed willingness to do the right thing after the SEPA and NEPA studies were completed.

The Lummi Nation owns and operates the Silver Reef Casino, who’s [sic] purpose it is to provide people with the ‘opportunity’ to gamble away their wages or Social Security checks. That’s a better purpose than to build a state-of-the-art dry bulk exporting facility at Cherry Point? And, as they lobby at the door step of the Washington State Legislator’s and the Governor’s office asking for preferential treatment above the non-Indian residents of the State of Washington…How ironic?

The SAVEWhatcom PAC and its affiliated WhatcomFirst PAC were formed in August and September 2013 for the November Whatcom County Council election that year. The two PACs are strong advocates for the GPT project, and in 2013, were funded primarily with $149,000 from SSA/PIT, BNSF, and coal companies. These dual PACs’ efforts were primarily focused on attempting to get a slate of four conservative county council candidates elected who were thought most likely to approve permits needed for GPT.

how ironic save whatcom

So, here goes SAVEWhatcom making a defamatory statement that the Lummi Nation’s Silver Reef Casino’s “purpose” is to take people’s wages and social security checks. Statements like this create resentment, and/or fuel the already present resentment from individuals and groups about Lummi Nation and its efforts to protect its treaty rights.

SAVEWhatcom’s post then pits its contrived image of the Lummi Nation’s Silver Reef Casino, against a modern and benign-sounding “dry bulk export facility.” By means of this construction, the post can readily come to life in the form of public pressure that seeks to compel the Lummi Indian Business Council into negotiations with SSA/PIT.

A long strong line has been drawn

The Lummi Nation has already expressed multiple times that negotiating or discussing the GPT project with SSA/PIT is not an option, as evidenced in the excerpt below from LIBC Chairman Tim Ballew’s February 3, 2015 response letter to a January 30, 2015 letter from SSA/PIT executive Skip Sahlin.

Ballew stated in his letter to Sahlin: “While we appreciate your desire to engage on these issues, we remain steadfastly opposed to this project and do not see the utility in pursuing any further discussion.” Ballew also had said in a January 17, 2015 Bellingham Herald article: “We’re not negotiating with GPT or SSA because the standpoint from the leadership, the community and the fishermen is, there’s no way to mitigate the project.”

Radio-powered PACs 

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According to the Washington State Public Disclosure Commission website, Kris Halterman, Whatcom Tea Party board member and talk radio host for her weekly Saturday Morning Live program on KGMI, is listed on SAVEWhatcom PAC’s amended registration form as Campaign Manager; she had originally been listed as Committee Officer. Whatcom Tea Party board member Lorraine Newman is listed as a Committee Officer. Both Halterman and Newman write content for the SAVEWhatcom blog website.

dick donahue cropped black white borderDick Donahue, a Bellingham financial planner and talk radio host for his Wealth Wake Up weekly program on KGMI, is listed on the registration form for the affiliated WhatcomFirst PAC as a Committee Officer (that registration form was later amended to list him as Campaign Manager).  Donahue, Halterman, and Newman are all very vocal advocates for the GPT Project.

 

An Honorary Resolution Dishonored

On an October 26, 2013 Wealth Wake Up show, Donahue was joined by Kris Halterman to talk about the upcoming elections and why SAVEWhatcom was created. Halterman told listeners that in mid-July (2013) she and Donahue became aware of a resolution that the Whatcom County Democrats Central Committee had passed on July 18, 2013, and that the resolution was the reason they formed the SAVEWhatcom PAC.

Halterman referred to the resolution as “the Cherry Point Resolution.” The actual title of that resolution is: “The Resolution to Honor the Lummi Nation’s Sacred Lands and Waters at Cherry Point.” It was an honorary resolution in support of the Lummi Nation protecting its sacred lands and sacred waters at Cherry Point, but during the 2013 election season, SSA/PIT used that resolution negatively in its September 2013 GPT ad insert, “Report to the Community Volume 3,” placed in local newspapers. That honorary resolution has been misrepresented and used negatively by groups associated with SSA/PIT in their advocacy for GPT.savewhatcom-resolution-photo-02182015

One of those groups, SAVEWhatcom, echoed SSA/PIT’s negative ad messaging about the resolution, distorting its intent and meaning, and used it as a weapon in their advertising during the 2013 election season. Since that time, SAVEWhatcom has continued to use its twisted misrepresentation of that resolution negatively. In both SSA/PIT’s and SAVEWhatcom’s advertising about the resolution, neither used its title, which includes the words “Resolution to Honor the Lummi Nation’s Sacred Lands and Waters at Cherry Point,” which, if provided, would likely give people a better understanding of what that resolution was about. SAVEWhatcom perpetuated the false premise that the resolution represented efforts to “deindustrialize Cherry Point and make it impossible for local farmers to succeed,” in advertising such as a September 24, 2013 SAVEWhatcom Facebook post.

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On Halterman’s March 30, 2013 KGMI Saturday Morning Live radio show, two of the guests she interviewed were Hobart, Wisconsin, resident Elaine Willman, a board member and former chair of Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), and local former Whatcom County Council member Marlene Dawson, who has worked tirelessly to undermine the Treaty of Point Elliott between local Indian tribes and the United States. Willman and Dawson promoted the April 6, 2013 “Citizens Equal Rights Alliance Educational Conference” on Federal Indian Policy, held by CERA and its sister organization, Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF). The conference was held at the Lakeway Inn, in Bellingham, Washington.

On that March 30 show, in bringing up the Centennial Accord, Elaine Willman made this reprehensible statement: “In 1989, Governor Lowry smelled gaming money and instituted the Centennial Accord. That became a state self-inflicted elevation of the tribal sovereign voice to be equivalent to the state’s voice. That was the step that has continued for almost 25 years now through what I call the real Trail of Tears—Governor Lowry, Governor Locke, Governor Gregoire and now Governor Inslee. That process, over twenty-five years, is secretly taking down Washington state.” (italicized real represents Willman’s vocal emphasis)

Trail of Tears

Willman and Dawson returned as guests on Halterman’s Saturday Morning Live radio show on April 6, to discuss tribal issues, Federal Indian Policy, and to further promote the CERA conference happening that same day where both Dawson and Willman were featured speakers.

CERA states on its website, “We do not tolerate racial prejudice of any kind. We do not knowingly associate with anyone who discriminates based on race.“  However, in a March 28, 2014 article published online by Indian Country Today Media Network (ICTMN), Terri Hansen, an award-winning Native American journalist and correspondent for ICTMN, said this about the CERA/CERF organizations: “CERA and its sister, Citizens Equal Rights Foundation (CERF), are the foremost anti-sovereignty, anti-treaty organizations in the U.S. anti-Indian movement.”

Federal Indian law attorney Dave Lundgren wrote about exposing groups like CERA in his April 2, 2014 article, published by Indian Country today Media Network. Lundgren wrote: “Disregard the disguise of their flimsy legal arguments, and expose their true motives by documenting and publicizing details of the discriminatory effects of their actions. . .Public education is often the best defense in the face of hatred disguised by fabricated legal arguments. Not only will it expose the true motives behind puffed up accusations, but it also educates the uninformed on the caustic harms caused by discrimination.“cera board members

On Dick Donahue’s March 30, 2013 KGMI Wealth Wake Up talk radio show, he interviewed local Lynden, Washington, CERA board member Tom Williams, promoting the April 6 CERA/CERF conference in Bellingham. Williams told listeners that CERA had held two similar conferences (New York and Massachusetts) that year, and one more was upcoming in June of that year in Northern California.

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Acknowledging the fact that he had been actively promoting the conference, Donahue said during the segment, “Now I’ve promoted this, or announced this meeting several times in the last month or so on the air. . .”  Encouraging listeners to register for the conference, both Donahue and Williams announced various ways to do that. They also said that Halterman’s Saturday Morning Live website had a flyer posted there with information on conference registration and Donahue provided that web address.

Charles Tanner, a longtime civil and human rights activist who has conducted research and public education on white supremacist and anti-Indian movements, authored an April 26, 2013 report on the CERA/CERF conference in Bellingham.

In his report, Tanner wrote that CERA board member Tom Williams was one of the organizers of the conference. Tanner also reported that, “KGMI talk show hosts Kris Halterman and Dick Donahue both attended the conference. . .A broadcast of Halterman interviewing CERA leaders played as attendees trickled into the conference room.”  That April 6, 2013 broadcast of Halterman interviewing a cross section of the featured speakers at the conference was pre-recorded at the Lakeway Inn venue, and was broadcasted during Donahue’s Wealth Wake Up show time that day.CERA speakers

Still rallying resentment

Since the April 6, 2013 CERA/CERF conference, the organization continues to be active in its efforts to espouse its recurring strategic theme. That strategic theme, according to Charles Tanner’s report, is that, “anti-Indian activists should mine federal laws and court cases for anti-tribal language that can be used to seek termination in the courts and ‘educate’ local and state officials. CERA’s ‘legal theory’, in the end, combines anti-tribal ideas drawn from federal Indian law and false claims that tribes have no political sovereignty or treaty rights.”

CERA Elected Officials WorkshopCERA’s website shows that the group held two events (over a 3-day period) in Riverton, Wyoming in June 2014.  A two-day conference was held for the public.  In addition, a workshop was held specifically for elected officials, key staff, legal counsels, and law enforcement there, which was closed to the media and public, and it was held, of all places, at City Hall. CERA’s website shows they have plans for an upcoming 2015 conference, although no location or details about that are available yet. And while the trail from CERA to SAVEWhatcom is, so far, foggy in nature, it is wise for community members to be watchful for any increase and escalation of defamatory claims in regards to Native American issues and enterprises made by either organization.

Putting on the squeeze 

In the weeks leading up to SAVEWhatcom’s February 5, 2015 Facebook post containing negative messaging about the Lummi Nation, SSA Marine executives had been busy touting their so-called invitations and standing offers for “good faith discussions” they wish to have with Lummi Nation about GPT. SSA Marine executive Bob Watters was given an opportunity by The Bellingham Herald to do just that in a January 10, 2015 op-ed (some people have termed his piece an “op-ad”) he authored that the newspaper published in its Whatcom Opinion section. In his op-ed, Watters wrote:

First, Gateway Pacific Terminal will protect tribal cultural and historical sites on our private property, which is not part of the reservation. And we very much appreciate the concern about the challenges to Lummi fishers (who have been forced to rely upon substantial federal subsidies and retraining grants). This makes self-sustaining, private-sector job creation all the more important and we have a standing offer out to the Lummi and other affected tribes to discuss how we can work to enhance their cultural and economic prospects. Gateway Pacific Terminal and tribal interests can be harmonized if good faith discussions can take place, and we look forward to that opportunity.

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By SSA/PIT continuing to talk at Lummi Nation and exert pressure with its public relations campaign through the media and via its GPT mouthpieces such as the Northwest Jobs Alliance, the company is not recognizing, nor truly honoring tribal sovereignty and the government-to-government relationship that exists between Native American Tribes and the U.S. federal government.

At a May 15, 2013 United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs hearing, then-Chairwoman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) had this to say about the relationship between Tribal governments and the federal government:

The government-to-government relationship is grounded in the United States Constitution, treaties, federal statutes, and Supreme Court decisions. This relationship is a mature relationship, expressed in terms of legal duties, moral obligations, and expectancies that have arisen based on the continuous history of Tribal interactions with the federal government since the formation of the United States.

The trust relationship of federal agencies to ensure the protection of the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation, and case law upholding those treaty rights, coupled with the huge wave of public opposition to the company’s proposed coal export terminal, are the momentous realities staring squarely into the face of SSA/PIT.

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SAVEWhatcom posted on social media that the Lummi Nation “refuses to meet with SSA Marine.” SSA/PIT executives have continued to make statements such as Skip Sahlin made in his January 30, 2015 letter to Chairman Tim Ballew, “Our door is always open and the GPT team looks forward to continuing to communicate with Lummi during the projects permitting and development process.” This messaging can give some people the incorrect impression that the Lummi are somehow not being reasonable. Lummi Nation Chairman Tim Ballew’s statement in a February 3, 2015 Bellingham Herald story provided clarity on that subject, “Negotiation between Lummi and Pacific International Terminals is not an option. Our treaty rights are non-negotiable and not for sale.”

Stomping in their grounds

What is, in fact, unreasonable, is how things have been framed by SSA/PIT, and how some local media enabled that framing following the news of the Lummi Nation’s January 5, 2015 letter to the Corps. The reality is that the Lummi Nation is a sovereign nation, and it has a government-to-government relationship with the federal government of the United States.

In a February 9, 2015 Bellingham Herald story posted on the online Politics Blog, reporter Ralph Schwartz wrote: “There has been a lot of back-and-forth over the past five weeks among Lummi Nation, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and Gateway Pacific Terminal as the tribe asserts its fishing rights, in order to stop the coal terminal from being built.”

Technically, one could say, like Schwartz did, that the Lummi Nation asserted its fishing rights in order to stop the coal terminal, but a community member sent me an email offering another perspective:

Knowing there was a treaty against it, a coal terminal insisted on stomping in the middle of treaty-protected fishing grounds, so the coal terminal had to be reminded what it already knew—that it would be breaking the law—the supreme law of the land. It isn’t that the Lummi tried to stop a terminal. It’s that a terminal tried to stop them.

 

 

 

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