Treaty Rights Come First: Coal Terminal Denied

May 12, 2016
No Coal Train

This is an amazing day for treaty rights and the climate: May 9th, 2016, Colonel Buck of the US Army Corps of Engineers called Chairman Ballew of the Lummi Nation to announce that the  United States recognizes Lummi Nation treaty claims and will not permit the dirty, unnecessary Gateway Pacific coal terminal. If built, it would be the largest coal terminal in North America, and directly impact the Lummi Nation’s ancestral homelands and fishing grounds.

Article VI of the US Constitution directs the US government to respect treaties, including those with Indian nations, as the “supreme law of the land.” Here in Washington the Lummi Nation, which signed a treaty with the US government in 1855, has been asking for the recognition of its rights in the decision over a proposed coal export terminal in Bellingham. 

Treaty fishing rights have been trampled by industrial energy and logging projects in the Northwest for generations. But with this decision, the US Army Corps upheld the supreme law of the land. The Lummi Nation rights to fish and honor their sacred ground are preserved and a precious fish spawning ground will remain protected. In addition, dozens of communities across Washington will not face daily pollution from coal trains and 100 million tons of carbon emissions a year won’t travel from open pit mines in Wyoming to Washington, then on to China.

Stand and other partners across the Northwest and across the entire US fought for more six years to support the Lummi Nation in this fight. And our fight at the local, state, and federal level proves once again that when we fight, we win.

Across the US, the wave of resistance to oil and coal projects is often led by indigenous peoples. And joined by community and climate activists, together we’ve stopped pipelines and rail projects. Twenty of these now dead oil and coal projects were highlighted in a recent article in Inside Climate News (full disclosure: I helped compile the list). 

Each of those victories is a step towards a clean energy future. The news today demonstrates again the important role the Lummi Nation, and Tribes across North America, are playing in the fight to stop oil and coal infrastructure. So, Hy’shqe (thank you!) to all of you on Lummi Indian Business Councils today and past, and to the General Council, for the Lummi Nation’s leadership in upholding treaty rights and opposing Gateway Pacific Terminal. 

This is a victory for you, for the climate, for all of us. And a reminder: When we fight, we win.

Want to read more, here’s a great article from our good friends at the Sightline Institute.