Everything old is new again: Native American rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal / Noisy Waters Northwest

WWCD WWSeptember 16, 2015  Dena Jensen

In a January 2014 article printed in the monthly Whatcom Watch publication, author Sandra Robson suggested, “Let’s pretend we are big corporations like SSA/PIT and BNSF, who desperately want this coal terminal [Gateway Pacific Terminal or GPT] to be permitted and built,” and asked, “…what could our pretend corporations do about the roadblock that the Lummi Nation presents to the proposed GPT ?”

Number four on the list of the strategies she envisioned in her “Let’s Pretend” game was this:

“We could try to fuel and even organize the already present resentment from some non-Native American community members about treaty rights of Indian Tribes and Indian Nations, trying to capitalize on that ignorance that is inherent in some people. And in those who may not already have a tendency toward resentment, we could try to create that — we could also try to weaken tribal treaty rights and even encourage people and government officials to ignore treaty rights.”

This article seems freshly relevant to me as I have been thinking about the latest press release onslaught by GPT advocacy group, Northwest Jobs Alliance, headed by President Brad Owens, Chair John Huntley, and Director Craig Cole (Cole is also a paid consultant for SSA Marine/PIT).  I find their efforts to influence the Army Corps of Engineers to diminish and/or abrogate Lummi Nation’s treaty rights, especially with unsubstantiated accusations, are what I perceive to be an Anti-Indian campaign.  Treaty rights are the supreme law of the land and that law becomes a conduit whereby Native Americans can invoke the promises to uphold rights they never ceded that were made to them in those treaties.

“A violation of an Indian treaty is a violation of federal law.” -The Rights of Indians and Tribes by Stephen Pevar, Oxford University Press

Here are the final two paragraphs of the August 20, 2015 NWJA letter to the Army Corps of Engineers:

By any standard of basic fairness, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers should not allow itself to be manipulated into aiding in what would amount to a devaluation and confiscation of privately-owned, non-tribal lands.  Please publically [sic] disassociate yourself from this scheme, ensure the normal EIS process is completed*, and encourage the Lummi to engage in good faith discussions with the proponents of GPT to explore win-win possiblities.

That’s only just and reasonable.

In these words NWJA effectively urges the Corps to stop the process they are in to meet their Trust Responsibility to uphold Lummi Nation’s treaty rights.  According to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ website their trust responsibility means, “The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will work to meet trust obligations, protect trust resources, and obtain Tribal views of trust and treaty responsibilities.”

Now, time to copy and paste and send this in a letter to the Army Corps, and our Washington Representatives!

Read Sandy Robson’s article “What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal” here.

Read Zoltán Grossman’s “Treaty Rights and Responding to Anti-Indian Activity” here.

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