Coal port opposition is a matter of honor

Cherry Point is located in Whatcom county, 150 miles north of Parkland.

Cherry Point is located in Whatcom county, 150 miles north of Parkland.

Cherry Point, located 150 miles north of Parkland, was the topic of Jay Julius’ session during the Wang Symposium Friday. While it could have been a simple speech protesting industrial development on sacred land, it ended up being an emotional session about honor, equality and family.

Julius, a member of the Lummi nation tribal council, was joined by Swil Kanim, a violinist and inspirational speaker, to talk about the proposed industrial development at Cherry Point.

According to Washington’s Department of Ecology, the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal would be a shopping port used to import and export goods. Its main purpose will be coal export. Rail tracks to the terminal have also been proposed. The project currently needs to pass an environmental review in order to proceed.

Cherry Point is considered sacred land for the Lummi tribe. “This is all we have,” said Julius. “It’s all we’ve known for 3000 years.”

This photo, taken from Cherry Point, shows where the proposed coal plant would be located. Photo:  Nicholas Quinlan - Photographers for Social Change

This photo, taken from Cherry Point, shows where the proposed coal port would be located. Photo: Nicholas Quinlan – Photographers for Social Change

Kanim shared his childhood story of being removed from the reservation and being put into a home. His memories of being considered a “dirty Indian”, even being given a new “legal” name, Richard, brought members of the audience to tears. He now feels that because of his upbringing, where any sign or mention of his native American culture was punished, he now has to “consciously choose to be” himself.

To Kanim, honoring yourself and others, recognizing another person’s honor, leads to equality. “I believe with all my heart that we can be equal,” Kanim said.

Ever since the U.S. government signed a treaty with local tribes in 1855, removing people from their land while promising them the right to fish and hunt on a reservation, there has been a “denied holocaust on this very land,” Julius said, calling the U.S. government’s version of events “sugar-coated”.

He feels that what’s left of the Lummi tribe’s way of life is now being threatened by the Cherry Point developments. According to Julius, who comes from a long line of Lummi fishermen, 97 percent of the herring population has been wiped out by the constant shipping traffic in the area. What’s left could vanish with more development.

What should be done about the building plans on Cherry Point, the sacred place of the Lummi nation? “The answer is in honor,” Kanim said, encouraging those in favor of building the coal port to honor the traditions and history of the Lummi nation.



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