The Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation have joined the chorus of opposition to coal-rail terminals in the Northwest, adding their voice to those of the Lummi, Quinault and other tribes.
A coal terminal proposed in Boardman, Oregon, Ambre Energy would be too close to the Yakama Nation’s historic treaty fishing sites on the Columbia River and constitutes “both a violation of treaty rights and an assault on the health of tribal members, Columbia River Basin residents and aquatic habitat,” the Yakama said in a statement on May 21.
“This proposed coal terminal represents an attack on Yakama Nation treaty rights, civil rights and human rights,” said Yakama Nation Chair JoDe L. Goudy. “It would destroy traditional Yakama fishing areas along the Columbia River and directly threaten the livelihood of tribal fishermen.”
The Yakama were joined by Lummi Nation tribal members in taking to the river waters that would be touched by the terminal in Oregon to protest the proposal on May 20. They fished and scattered wild rose in the water to ceremonially affirm their commitment to protecting future generations. Closer to home, the Lummi are fighting to stop a proposed coal-train terminal at Cherry Point in Washington State.
“The Lummi Nation has come here to support the Yakama Nation in the fight against coal in the Pacific Northwest,” said Lummi Nation tribal council member Jay Julius, who spearheaded the Lummi’s fight against the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point.
According to the East Oregonian the project would create between 25 and 30 permanent jobs, 2,000 construction jobs and inject about $250 million into the local economy.
The Oregon State Department of State Lands will make a decision by May 31, 2014, on whether to approve the proposal, which would entail the annual transport of nine million tons of coal aboard trains a mile and half long—much more than local ecological systems can bear, the Yakama Nation said.
“These coal terminals, whether in Boardman or at Cherry Point, put our livelihoods and our health in danger, and are a violation of treaty rights that were negotiated by our ancestors and agreed to by the American government,” Julius told the East Oregonian.
But, as Yakama Nation environmental manager Elizabeth Sanchey pointed out to the East Oregonian, there is no Yakama word for mitigation, and certainly not in regard to what is sacred to them.
“The river runs through our veins,” Sanchey told the East Oregonian. “It’s who we are as a people, and it’s our duty to protect it.”