The 2016 Lummi Totem Journey begins

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Q’al. The word means “belief” in the Lummi language.

It is a fitting title for this year’s totem pole journey. The journey, the fourth in four years, will unite tribes and communities all along the 4,865-mile, 18-day sojourn with the totem pole.

It is belief that helped defeat the various coal port proposals over the past three years, tribal leaders say. And it is belief that is needed now as tribes and their supporters continue to oppose projects that would deliver toxic tar sands and Bakken oil by rail and shipped out of ports in Washington and British Columbia. The 2016 journey is intended not only to help inspire the belief that is needed to win, again, but is also a renewed call for diligence, vigilance and unity as tribes and communities across the Pacific Northwest and western Canada stand up for their families, the land and water, and future generations.

Lummi Master Carver Jewell James says the sacredness of the totem pole is heightened when imbued with the prayers and messages of many people of many communities, sharing and standing together in a moment of unity at each of the Journey’s Blessing stops. From these acts of unity, the totem pole, James says, becomes a lasting part of our memories and a symbol of our resistance against those forces that would destroy those things that we all hold as so very precious and on which we all depend on for our very existence.

When the totem pole finally reaches its home in Winnipeg, it will embody the voices and prayers of thousands of people throughout the United States and Canada. The journey will end at the place Where the Two Rivers Meet, and will stand as a sentinel, watching over the land, the waters and the peoples.

Following the blessing ceremony in Bellingham this week, the House of Tears Carvers of the Lummi Nation will begin their 5,000-mile trip across the western United States and Canada with the 22-foot- long totem pole. The journey is intended to bring attention to proposed fossil fuel terminals, oil trains, coal trains and oil pipelines and the threat they pose to tribes and local communities.

The western red cedar totem pole features a a bald eagle with wings spread on top with a medicine wheel on its chest. Below it is a buffalo skull and, below that, a wolf on one side of the pole and a coyote on the other. Below them an Indian chief with a war bonnet faces a medicine man and sharing a peace pipe with smoke rising from the pipe.
The symbols represent a union between Coast Salish peoples and the tribes of the interior. Created by the House of Tears Carvers, the totem is a gift to the Winnipeg, one of Canada’s First Nations asserting sovereign rights in the face of the proposed expansion of the Kinder-Morgan TransMountain pipeline.

TransMountain filed an application that was reviewed and provisionally approved earlier this year by Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) to expand its 1,150-kilometer pipeline from Edmonton to Burnaby, a suburb just east of Vancouver. Fully built out, a spur of that pipeline is planned to cross into Whatcom County to deliver tar sands bitumen products to local refineries. The company says the proposed $5.4-billion expansion project would increase capacity of TransMountain from approximately 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

Kinder-Morgan says its application addresses environmental, socioeconomic, landowner and public consultation, marine-risk assessments and engineering issues. The company adds that if approved by the Canadian government by the end of the year, the expanded pipeline could be operational by late 2017.

The pipeline expansion proposal is just the latest energy megaproject that seeks to use the coast of the Pacific Northwest to ship fossil fuels to developing markets in Asia.
First Nations stand against the expansion, and they’ve been joined in solidarity by tribes across the West, including the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, Tulalip Tribes, Suquamish Tribe and Lummi Nation.

“We are coming together to make it clear that the Tsleil-Waututh Nation and our allies will never consent to the Kinder Morgan pipeline or similar projects—they would destroy our culture, our way of life and our spirituality. This is a time for unprecedented unity” said Rueben George of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative.

“Over the last 100 years, our most sacred site, the Salish Sea, has been deeply impacted by our pollution-based economy,” Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby said. Cladoosby also serves as the 21st President of National Congress of American Indians, and is a representative of the Association of Washington Tribes.

“Every kind of pollution ends up in the Salish Sea,” he said. “We have decided no more and we are stepping forward. It is up to this generation and future generations to restore and protect the precious waters of the Salish Sea.”

The journey includes events in Bellingham and Vancouver, B.C., Seattle, Longview, and continues to Sandpoint, Idaho, and Missoula, Mont., crossing into Edmonton, Alberta, and arriving at last in Manitoba. Events will also include blessings from the Yakama Nation, the Spokane Tribe, and Cheyenne River Indian Tribe.

The journey can be followed at

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