EarthFix’s Ashley Ahearn moderated a panel discussion about the Lummi Nation’s fight against the Gateway Pacific Terminal at Town Hall Seattle. Ahearn recently released a two-part series which exposed non-permitted disturbances at the site of the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal, near Bellingham, Washington, that impacted sites the tribe considers sacred. The panel discussion explored the details of the disturbance as well as the legal power the Lummi and other tribes possess to halt proposed coal export terminals in the Northwest.
Listen: Panel Discussion ‘The Lummi’s Fight: Tribal Opposition To Coal Exports’
The panel included Lummi council member and fisherman Jay Julius and attorneys Mason Morisset and Knoll Lowney.
Morisset was one of the lawyers who successfully argued the Boldt Decision before the U.S. Supreme Court in the 1970s. The lawsuit forced the state of Washington to increase the amount of fish tribes could catch off reservation under their treaty fishing rights. Morriset talked about how the Boldt Decision has major implications for projects, like the proposed coal terminals in the Northwest, if they impact tribal treaty fishing areas.
Knoll Lowney, of Seattle law firm Smith and Lowney, represented Bellingham-based environmental group RE Sources in a settlement against Pacific International Terminals for violations of the Clean Water Act at Cherry Point. Documents obtained during the discovery phase of the lawsuit revealed that PIT bulldozed more than four miles of roads, drilled 37 boreholes and cleared more than nine acres of land at Cherry Point without the appropriate permits. Some of that activity took place within an archaeological site known to artifacts of the Lummi and other Salish peoples, and thought to include human remains, as well.
“If someone went through and dug up your relatives and whole line of family it does something to you,” Julius told the audience. “And if you haven’t experienced it, I can’t explain it to you.”
Jay Julius declined to comment when asked whether the Lummi will pursue legal action against Pacific International Terminals, but he said the tribe is not open to negotiation with the company over the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal. Other tribes, such as the Muckleshoot, have negotiated with developers to allow projects to go forward in treaty fishing areas, for a price. But Julius’s response was firm.
“You cannot sell treaty rights,” Julius said, to audience applause. “Shame on you if you do because you’ve just stripped the rights of unborn children. Their rights that their ancestors have died for in signing those treaties. They died for the rights of future generations, from here to infinity. You can’t put a price on it.”
Morisset, who has represented tribes for more than 45 years, added that the Lummi do possess the legal power to stop the proposed terminal. “This is a ‘When will our sun go super nova?’ question,” he told the audience.
Read: Live tweets from the panel event at Town Hall