Totem To Protest Coal Facilities Visits Spokane

Sep 23, 2013

A Native American ceremony was held in Riverfront Park in Spokane Friday to protest plans for coal shipping terminals on the west coast.

An example of these totem poles created by the Lummi Nation’s House of Tears Carvers was erected in the Congressional Cemetery of Washington D.C.
Credit Elvert Barnes

A Native American art group known as the House of Tears Carvers has designed Totem poles for areas where disaster has struck, like the World Trade towers site in New York City. Friday, Spokane got to see a new totem that is designed to protest plans for a coal shipping terminal in Western Washington at Cherry Point. That area has historical and sacred significance to tribal members, because of ancestral graves on the site. Artist Jewell James of the Lummi tribe says the totem features images of things significant to tribes all along the route of where trains would carry coal from Wyoming to Cherry Point, if the project is approved.

James: “All of us are children of the Earth and we need to work together. So even if we are Spokane or Coeur d' Alene or Colville or Walla Walla or maybe were Salish, but we all find common teachings. The Earth is very important to us and we all reflect in the symbology of our culture.”

Art work on the totem includes images of warriors, a hungry child, a traditional drum, and a full moon. For its part, the Spokane tribe has gone on the record in opposition to the Cherry Point Coal facility. Ta-Le Abrahamson Swan, the Air Quality coordinator for the Spokane tribe, says back in the 1980s, the tribe implemented more stringent air quality standards when a Coal-fired powerplant was proposed adjacent to the reservation.

Abrahamson Swan: “So when we learned about the coal trains direct impact on other tribes and their opposition, we learned about the impacts to the Spokane region. And that’s where we focus our efforts, so were looking at the impacts to the waterways, the Spokane and Columbia River, since we put a lot of effort in to restoring the fish and the salmon, so this project doesn’t do anything to align with our goals.

Abrahamson Swan says the tribe is also preparing to go on the record against the Longview Coal shipping facility. Public testimony on that plant is being held next week in Spokane.

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