Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Commit2 Respond's Blog on the Totem Pole Journey

Commit2Respond on the Totem Pole Journey

NW UU Justice Summit and 2014 Declaration to the NW Tribes

In 2014, the Totem Pole Journey would deliver a Totem Pole of solidarity and healing from the Lummi House of Tears Carvers, to the Beaver Lake Cree Nation whose Sacred Lands, Waters and Lifeways were being systematically destroyed by tar sands extraction.  Blessed by thousands of hands and voices all throughout the North Pacific and Mid-West of the U.S. and British Columbia and Alberta Provinces of Canada, the Totem Pole had become a unifying symbol in our shared struggle to preserve the Earth.

Just prior to the 2014 Totem Pole Journey, another symbol was created and then also accompanied the Totem Pole on its Journey.  This was a Declaration, signed by some of the leadership of the faith community in the Northwest to the Northwest Tribes, entitled A Public Declaration to the Tribal Councils and Traditional Spiritual Leaders of the Native Peoples of the Northwest.  The text of the Declaration reads as follows:
August 2014
c/o Jewell Praying Wolf James, Lummi

In 1987 and again in 1997, bishops and denominational executives of churches in the Northwest offered letters of apology to the indigenous peoples of our region. These letters acknowledged the historical disrespect of traditional Native American spiritual practices and traditions. In those letters, the leaders of our denominations promised “to honor and defend the rights of Native Peoples … [including] access and protection of sacred sites … [and to] end political and economic injustice against tribal communities.”

In this decade a new threat has arisen against Native Peoples: the mining, transport, burning, and disposal of fossil fuels. Proposed coal export terminals would damage native fisheries protected by long-standing treaties and poison our shared air and water. Coal trains servicing these terminals would cut across lands sacred to indigenous peoples, and impact the health of those communities. In this generation we also acknowledge that the mining and burning of fossil fuels creates the terrible threats of climate disruption, ocean acidification, and pollution to the harm of all God’s children, especially the poorest.

Tribal leaders have asked us to keep our past promises, and to stand with them in defense of their sacred lands and fishing rights. And so we call upon the Northwest Congressional delegation and other elected officials, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the U.S. Department of the Interior, and all people of goodwill to uphold the treaty rights of Native communities of the Northwest. We ask that all environmental and cultural harm to Native lands and peoples be considered in making public policy decisions about the mining, transport, and export of coal and other fossil fuels.

As religious leaders we call for the protection of the life we have been given and the Earth we all call home. Our greatest commandment is to love our neighbor as ourselves (Mark 12:30-31). Putting this ethic into action, we stand in solidarity with our Native neighbors to safeguard the traditional lands, waters, and sacred sites of their peoples from destruction.

At the request of several northwest Unitarian Universalist congregations and activist groups, the Unitarian Universalists Association (UUA) Pacific Northwest District (PNWD) agree to consider becoming signatories to this document.  At their annual meeting during the UUA General Assembly on June 27, 2015 in Portland, Oregon, PNWD delegates and board unanimously voted to become signatories.

It is now mid-September 2015.  In the intervening time, UU individuals and congregations rallied behind the 2015 Totem Pole Journey.  They organized, hosted, spoke, supported, fundraised, publicized and participated in Totem Pole Blessing stops that began in Vancouver, British Columbia, traveling through Washington and Oregon and into Montana.  The Totem Pole would find it’s way to a new home in Lame Deer, Montana, home to Northern Cheyenne who’s Sacred Lands and Waters are threatened by coal projects along Otter Creek and the Tongue River.

Now, that our role in the Totem Pole Journey is complete, it’s time to turn our attention back to the Declaration we signed onto earlier.  The 2015 Totem Pole Journey was just a beginning for UUs in bringing the Declaration to life.  But our work is not done yet.

As UUs, we have a long history of supporting First Nation/American Indian issues reflected in our policies and statements as a denomination.  Historically, we passed:
·      1970 Business Resolution on Indian Rights,
·      1975 Business Resolution on Native Americans
·      1976 General Resolution on Opposing the Extradition of Dennis Banks
·      1993 General Resolution on Justice for Indigenous Peoples
·      1997 Solidarity with the San Carlos Apache Regarding Mt. Graham
·      1998 Action of Immediate Witness for the Fair Treatment for Native Americans
·      2000 Statement of Conscience on Economic Injustice, Poverty and Racism
·      2000 Responsive Resolution for the Cleveland, OH Native American Community
·      2001 Responsive Resolution on Racism and the Sports Media
·      2007 Truth, Repair and Reconciliation Responsive Resolution,
·      2012 Resolution on repudiating the Doctrine of Discovery
·      2015 Act of Immediate Witness Act For a Livable Climate
·      2015 PNWD becomes signatory to A Public Declaration to the Tribal Councils and Traditional Spiritual Leaders of the Native Peoples of the Northwest. 

On October 9th, as part of the NW UU Justice Network Annual Summit, UUs are gathering, with other representatives of the faith community, to learn more of the history behind the document that we signed, discuss and scope out our commitment to the NW Tribes and how to put action to that commitment.  Lummi Elder and Indian Rights Scholar Jewell James will be speaking with us on what the Declaration means to the Native community and the Vision for what that document could become.  This gathering will be held at the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship in Bellingham, WA.  More information about the Declaration event can be accessed at:  http://tinyurl.com/Pre-Event-Oct9 and registration is at:  http://tinyurl.com/RegisterOct9Event
The Summit (October 10th) information can be found at:  http://www.nwuujn.org/topics/view/552c1b4c0cf24df5070a05b7/

We need all hands on deck and hope you’ll join us!  If you are unable to attend the event, but still interested in working with a group of UUs and other interfaith folk, please let me know at dwcruz@comcast.net

Let’s erase the cultural, national and international borders that block our way from preserving the Earth and the Right to Exist for all Her Children.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Northwest UU Justice Network Summit at BUF!

On October 9th and 10th, the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship will be hosting and co-sponsoring the 5th Annual Northwest UU Justice Summit.  This is a regional gathering of UUs and other justice-oriented folks, reviewing and tackling the social and environmental issues of our time.

There are two components to this year's Summit:
·        a Pre-Event on Friday evening October 9th related to supporting the Northwest Tribes, and
·        an all-day, multi-issue Justice Summit on Saturday, October 10th.

Each event has its own registration process, so be sure to note the registration websites and be sure to register for both events (or one or the other) that you plan to attend.

Friday, October 9th at 7:00 pm.  Putting Our Words into Action: The NW Tribes Declaration 

Background: This past June, Pacific Northwest District delegates voted on behalf of all UUs in the Pacific Northwest to have the PNWD board sign “A Public Declaration to the Tribal Councils and Traditional Spiritual Leaders of the Native Peoples of the Northwest" and to become one of many other faith communities making a commitment to our First Nations' struggle to protect Lands and Waters sacred not only to them, but to us as well.

Program: This will involve two presentations and a work-session on this document, with guest speaker Lummi Elder Jewell James who is named on it.  This pre-event is for those of the UU and other faith communities who want to pursue making this Declaration to the NW Tribes a living document.  We will hear from Elder James on the history of this document and his vision for it.  We will also hear from Jessie Dye from Earth Ministry (Washington's chapter of Interfaith Power and Light) whose organization was instrumental in getting many of the other signatories including: the Pacific Northwest Conference of the United Church of Christ, Sisters of Providence, Pacific Northwest & Alaska Conferences of the United Methodist Church, Northwest Regional Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), Evergreen Association of American Baptist Churches, the Episcopal Dioceses of Olympia and of Spokane, and the Northwest Washington, the Eastern Washington-Idaho and the Southwestern Washington Synods of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

Registration for this Pre-Event is at:  http://tinyurl.com/RegisterOct9Event
Learn more about this event, the Declaration and download the flyer at: http://tinyurl.com/Pre-Event-Oct9
For more information contact Deb Cruz at dwcruz@comcast.net.

Saturday, October 10th at 7:00 pm. 2015 Annual Justice Summit

This year's theme is Allied for Justice.  In the morning, we'll listen to TED-style talks from representatives of Lummi Nation and from Community to Community.  They will brief us on their powerful work on issues ranging from national sovereignty to food sovereignty, from preserving our sacred lands and planet to preserving our democracy.

During afternoon breakout sessions, attendees with particular issues of concern (or participants looking for their next issue!) will gather in issue-oriented groups.  Throughout the day, we will discover new resources, forge relationships and collaborate to create positive change.  Many will exchange email addresses or decide to convene new or expanded issue-support groups.

Last year, 26 congregations sent participants to the Summit, with 119 registrants coming from three states.  Will you be among them this year?  Will we be international this year?! How might that give more power to our work?

Register for the 2015 Annual Justice Summit: http://tinyurl.com/Register2015Summit
Learn more about the Summit Program: http://tinyurl.com/2015SummitProgram

See you in October.


Thursday, August 6, 2015

From the Cascadia Weekly


Montana Mischief

  • Google+

Steve Daines is not happy with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and that agency’s decisions about the handling of the review process for the Gateway Pacific Terminal coal pier proposed for Cherry Point. The U.S. Senator from Montana has introduced a flurry of legislation intended to ease the regulatory burden of coal exports. In April, the Republican chaired a field hearing that focused on the importance of coal to Indian tribes in the West. He’s toured the GPT site at Cherry Point and has excoriated Gov. Jay Inslee for the state’s sluggish response in support of this project.
“It is critical we make this facility happen,” Daines said. “This will serve as an important economic driver, both for the people of my home state of Montana, as well as the people here in Washington, who will greatly benefit from the increased export capacity the terminal will bring.”
Though his state is tiny in population—so small Montana has but a single representative in the lower House, compared to Washington’s ten—that creates a potent condensate that lets Daines apply focused and relentless attention in support of the state’s resource-extraction industries.
Most recently, Daines used his influence to encourage 16 members of the Republican Senate and a score of Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives to pen a letter to USACE, protesting the Corps’ decision to review the potential impacts to tribal fishing rights separately from environmental review of the impacts to shorelines under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).
If constructed, Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point could send as much as 54 million tons of coal a year across the Pacific in the largest of ocean-going vessels. Earlier this year, the Corps was persuaded by the appeals of Lummi Nation to consider whether that vessel traffic and shoreline industrial activity could harm tribal fisheries, protected by federal treaty. The Corps determined the matter of treaty rights warranted a separate and independent analysis from that required under NEPA—a two-prong approach to considering the project. Indeed, the one prong may be resolved before the second prong even gets started.
That’s what alarms the Republican Congress.
A separate analysis “would short-circuit the public review period for a very important project to our nation—the Gateway Pacific Terminal expansion,” the Senate coalition warned in a July 28 letter to Thomas Bostick, the commanding general of USACE. The letter was signed by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other senior members of the Republican caucus.
“The project has been undergoing environmental review as part of the [NEPA] analysis for over 28 months,” the senators noted. “The draft EIS is expected to be released in March 2016. We understand the Lummi Indian Nation and other local tribes have raised certain concerns over the impacts of the new facility could have on their usual and accustomed (U&A) fishing rights. As part of these concerns, the Seattle District of the Corps has indicated it might conclude a de minimis standard on the impact of the project on the U&A fishing rights prior to the issuance of a draft EIS,” the senators noted.
“We respectfully and strongly urge the Corps to complete the NEPA process and develop project alternatives including mitigation efforts before determining de minimis impacts to any tribes’ U&A fishing rights,” the senators warned.
Gaining a permit under NEPA is relatively straightforward: Identify things that will be lost or diminished by a project (impacts) and pay cash or deliver offsets to replace or paper over the loss (mitigation).
A more molecular determination, a de minimis standard lies at the very threshold of what can be measured and therefore likely cannot be mitigated. The tribes’ position—echoed in a number of court decisions that have upheld the de minimis standard—is that fishing is so central to tribal culture and way of life that it cannot be papered over by cash settlements or hidden behind cans of farmed salmon.
Lummi Nation replied to the Senate letter and Montana’s lobbying efforts with a letter that attempts to articulate the issues of concern to the tribes.
“Because I believe your letter misstates the regulatory review process underway, and greatly reflects a misunderstanding of the significance of Indian treaty rights at stake, I write in an effort to improve your understanding to avoid further misleading efforts to undermine the Corps’ regulatory responsibilities,” Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew responded in a letter this week.
“The ‘two-prong’ approach serves at least two purposes,” Ballew explained. “First, it allows the Corps to independently and clearly assess the impact of the project on treaty fishing rights. And second, it serves to promote regulatory efficiency and reduce environmental review costs.
“The Corps must assess the impact of the Gateway Pacific Terminal on our treaty fishing rights regardless of the timing of that approach. Under the course of action you recommend in your letter, the Corps could come to the conclusion that there is more than a de minimis impact on our treaty fishing rights and deny the permit after years of review and expenditure of millions of dollars of agency costs,” Ballew noted.
“Any effort to affect the scope or administrative relevance of any Indian treaty rights should be addressed—if at all—in open meetings of the Senate and House Indian Affairs committees with full and adequate rights of consultation by the Lummi Nation and affected tribes,” Ballew warned. “I urge you to take the more honorable path of pursuing any of your proposed changes in federal environmental law through standard practice, as opposed to ‘middle-of-the-night’ legislative changes.”
Ballew copied his letter to Washington State’s congressional delegation, including Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell.
Prompting the exchange of letters was the decision by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers last month to not delay consideration of tribal claims, as petitioned by Pacific International Terminals (PIT), a subsidiary of Seattle-based SSA Marine and proponent of the GPT project. The company reported they needed more time to respond to tribal concerns, complaining that Lummi Nation would not work with them to identify potential impacts as precursor to strategies to mitigate those impacts. The impacts cannot be mitigated, was the tribal response. The Corps noted PIT was at liberty to submit materials at any point in their review of tribal treaty rights but declined to halt their proceedings until those materials arrived.
“We denied PIT’s request for additional time to respond to our information request,” Michelle Walker noted on behalf of the Corps division’s regulatory branch. “However, we did indicate we would consider additional information they believe is relevant if it is reached before we make a final de minimis determination.” Lummi Nation would also be provided opportunity to respond to new submitted data, she noted.
“Although the USACE has not completed the EIS, which will identify how to avoid, minimize and ultimately mitigate potential impacts, and although Lummi Nation has refused to discuss mitigation, Lummi Nation simply asserts that impacts cannot be mitigated,” PIT Vice President Skip Sahlin wrote to the Corps’ Seattle division in late July. “The USACE must make an informed decision based upon conclusive facts and Lummi has the burden to prove impacts violate its treaty rights. If the facts are not conclusive, the project review must certainly proceed.” 
With the letter, a frustrated Pacific International Terminals recently submitted a binder of hundreds of pages of documents in support of their project; however, the materials contained nothing substantive that would change the tribe’s petition for review, Ballew said.
“We believe the Corps has the materials they need in order to make their determination of de minimis impacts to our rights under treaty,” Ballew said. 
For more information on the 2015 Lummi Totem Pole Journey, http://www.faithify.org/projects/totem-pole-journey-2015-our-sacred-obligation

Thursday, July 30, 2015

On June 27, 2015 at a meeting of the UUA Pacific Northwest District held during GA in Portland, OR, delegates and Board members unanimously approved a resolution requesting the PNWD District to become signatories to the following document.  This was done upon the formal resolution passed by the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship and supported by many other regional UU congregations and groups.

Stay tuned as now that GA is over, some of us will be working to pulling together UUs throughout the region to work on making this Declaration a living document, not only within our UU denomination, but within the greater faith community as well.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

A Poem for the Earth by Christopher Sims

In the afterglow of GA, especially the Saturday June 27th events with the two First Nations Workshops with Lummi and the Public Witness event on Climate Justice with Lummi, I'm sorting through my emails and rediscovered this jewel.  Christopher's name came up very early when conversations had just begun about inviting Lummi to GA along with Rev. Florence Caplow's and Rev. Kurt Kuhwald's. Christopher also stepped up at the last minute as a Witness during the workshop with Lummi Council member Julius and Lummi Elder Jewell James.

I thought it deserved a reprint . . .

The Earth has returned. She is living, breathing,
Realizing her breath was leaving. She
was needing us to remember her worth,
to recognize her worth all over again.
We used to be her friends. We used to help
her heal us. Help her, heal us. Help her heal us.
And then, she lost all trust and faith in us.

 She has returned mad, saddened. Mad, saddened.
However, she's empowered by this new commitment
We are signing on to. We are signing on to.
She wants you, me, and the rest of the human beings
Who populate this planet to never take her for granted
again. To never take her for granted again.
If she is dying, then who wins?
If she is dying, then who wins?
If Earth is dying, who really wins?

 She is providing for species.

 We live in a cycle that provides
for one another. That provides for
one another.
You and I, we are Earth's sisters
and brothers. We must take care of one
another. We must take care of one another.
Her lungs are smothered with toxins,
radioactive chemicals, and plastic
She cannot digest. She has cancerous
garbage in her breasts. We have polluted
Earth to death.
Unless, we take a step forward and reverse
Our damaging effects, our damaging effects.
Our damaging effects.
Our next steps should be radical movements
that peacefully changes things. That peacefully
changes things with civility.

We have the ability. We have the ability.

 Earth is alive. We can't let her die.

I want my Earth back.
I want my Earth back.
I want my Earth back.
I want to take each of our solutions
Then spin them into 180 degree revolutions
We all have effective contributions
We need to turn our passion into action,
Drum circles, live spoken word theater,
or even getting arrested. We are all a collective
that can't be defeated. That can't be defeated.
Immediate action is needed, is needed.
What about our children?
 What about future generations?

Who is going to save the lungs of the
eco system? Who is going to save
the lungs of the eco system?
Toxic water slaughters the frogs and
the fish. Imagine how much they wished
We didn't pollute their habitats. Clean
water, clean air, imagine that!
We need our Earth back, she returns.
We need our Earth back, it is her turn.

Christopher Sims is a spoken word poet, an environmental justice activist, and a member of the Board of Diverse Revolutionary Unitarian Universalist Multicultural Ministries (DRUUMM).

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Totem Pole Journey 2015: Our Sacred Obligation Fundraising Kick-off at GA

This August, Master Carver Jewell James will be creating another Totem Pole and Journey.  This year's Totem Pole will eventually find it's home in Northern Cheyenne territory in Montana.  North Cheyenne land is part of the Powder River Basin where coal companies are working to expand existing and create new coal mining projects, which would be shipped out through Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point if the project is not stopped.

In order the Journey to happen, we need to raise $28,000.  This Journey belongs to all of us, not just Lummi House of Tears Carvers or Lummi Nation.  Go to the funding site, read on this Journey and previous Journeys and then donate.  Click here.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015


69th Lummi Nation Stommish Water Festival “In Honor of our Heroes” www.LummiNationStommish.com (check for directions and updates to schedule of events)
June 12-14, 2015
Stommish is a multi-cultural contemporary Coast Salish gathering which includes fun and enjoyment for the whole family. Stomach features: Athletic events, traditional singing and dancing, a traditional Lummi-Style Salmon Barbecue, a Carnival and a Moonlight Concert series featuring Native Comedians, local musicians all throughout the weekend. Admission is Free and Stommish is open to the public. 
We sincerely hope you come join our people of this land and this sea--and "Experience the Spirit of Stommish." Go to the website for directions to the Stommish Grounds
Stommish open to the public begin ing on Friday . As of yet there is no listings on the events calendar past Thursday, nor for Slal Hal bone games. You'll have to check back later this week. There are however times and dates for the War Canoe Races on all days starting on Friday at 3:00 pm. Listing include: Singles, Doubles, Four Man, Six Man, and Eleven Man (in many age categories, and Men and Women). 
Click on the image below to go to the calendar site.

Sonny Sixkiller Buys the Redskins!

Support the Lummi Youth Academy and Lummi Nation by attending their newest production!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Our Painted Responsibilities

In 2014, Master Carver Jewell James of Lummi Nation carved a Totem Pole to be erected at Beaver Lake Cree Nation in protest of the extraction of tar sands that are having a devastating impact on the Beaver Lake Cree and other First Nations.
The Totem Pole Journey traveled to South Dakota, Montana, Washington and into British Columbia and Alberta Canada. 
A part of that Journey included the painting of a 16' x 20' mural supervised by Melanie Schambach that Native and non-native communities along the route could contribute to. Here's a a video on the evolution of that mural. Inspirational. Timeless. A true piece of Art.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

Letters of Support request - Lummi Request to USACE to deny GPT permit

As many of you may be well aware, on January 5, 2015, a letter was issued from Lummi Nation Indian Business Council to the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. This letter specifically requested that the USACE “take immediate action and deny the permit application” of SSA Marine to build the Gateway Pacific Terminal. The official Lummi letter is attached.

It is now very important to show our support of Lummi Nation to protect their sacred lands, waters and treaty rights. Many of you may have already received requests from various organizations asking that you write various government officials showing your support for Lummi’s request and this is no different. If you haven’t done so already, we are asking that you write to the following key people listed below.

These letters of support do not have to be elaborate or detailed. Just a few sentences asking these people to support Lummi Nation will be more than adequate and more than appreciated. It also does not matter if you are not local to Lummi. We want to encourage as many people as we can, wherever they are, to join us in showing support for Lummi's request.

For those of you affiliated with a faith-based community, we also ask that you state you are a member of whatever faith-based community you are a part of and what your role/position, if any, is in that community. We are not asking for letters or endorsements from full congregations or communities, but just as individuals who have found a spiritual concern in honoring Lummi’s right to exist and protect what is sacred to them.

Please feel free to pass this onto as many people as you are able to.

Please include a copy of any correspondence to Dr. Kurt Russo below so Lummi can see your support.

Dr. Kurt Russo
Lummi Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office
2665 Kwina Road
Bellingham, WA 98226
email: KurtR@lummi-nsn.gov

Governor Jay Inslee
Office of the Governor
PO Box 40002
Olympia, WA 98504-0002

Senator Pattty Murray
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Phone: (202) 224-2621

Senator Maria Cantwell
Office of U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell
311 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Representative Suzan DelBene
318 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Senate Committee on Indian Affairs
838 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20510

Your attention and support in this matter is greatly appreciated!!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Resolution to Request the Pacific Northwest District Board of the Unitarian Universalist Association to Become Signatory to “A Public Declaration to the Tribal Councils and Traditional Spiritual Leaders of the Native Peoples of the Northwest”

On February 15th, BUF will hold a special congregational meeting to vote on the the subject resolution.  Basically what the resolution does is request that PNWD become a signatory on the 2014 Declaration/Apology to NW First Nations.

This is the link to an information package that contains and explains the proposed resolution and also provides resources for additional UU research, reference and study.  The second link is a link to copies of the original 1987 and 1997 Apologies to the NW Tribes.  These two documents are to be inserted after page 5 in the first document link.

Resolution Background Information Package

1987 and 1997 Faith Community Apologies to NW Tribes