Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew II speaks on the future of Xwe’chi’eXen at Bellingham City Club / Noisy Waters Northwest

ballew city club

Click the graphic to access video of the June 22, 2016 Bellingham City Club luncheon forum event.

June 25, 2016  Dena Jensen

I was fortunate to be able to attend the premiere summer event of the City Club After Dark that was held at Boundary Bay Brewery’s “Mountain Room.”  The topic was, “What’s the Future of Cherry Point?”  City Club After Dark is an evening program of the Bellingham City Club, who, in case you are not familiar with this group of, “citizens of diverse backgrounds,” describe themselves further in this way on their website home page: “Founded in 1993, the Bellingham City Club is a non-partisan civic organization with over 450 members that fosters dialogue and debate on important issues facing our community.”

At the evening event held at 5:30 p.m on Wednesday, June 22, 2016, the speakers were: Jeremiah Julius, Lummi Indian Business Council; James McCafferty, Western Washington University; and Mark Lowry, Northwest Central Labor Council.

I very much appreciated the opportunity to hear Jeremiah Julius speak from the heart about his personal feelings connected to the lands and waters at Cherry Point and how he envisions a Cherry Point future. Soon, I hope to provide some material from that presentation.

In the meantime though, I knew that Bellingham City Club had held their regular monthly luncheon event that same day at Northwood Hall.  The event centered on the same “future of Cherry Point” theme.  Mark Lowry and James McCafferty were at the afternoon event, as well, but Lummi Indian Business Council Chairman Tim Ballew II had offered perspective there on behalf of Lummi.  Since I could not attend the luncheon, I decided to take advantage of the online video footage that the City Club kindly offers for past events.

In watching the video, I found that the LIBC Chairman offered to speak on certain issues related to Xwe’chi’eXen – the Lummi name for Cherry Point land.  He explained that these were things that Lummi Nation had not been able to address “throughout this whole process,” which I hope to be accurate in interpreting to mean the process of taking action to protect Lummi Nation’s sacred lands and waters from the threats posed by the proposed 48 million ton Gateway Pacific coal terminal.

Below is a transcript of Tim Ballew’s candid commentary taken from the City Club video, which you can find at this link:

Chairman Ballew spoke without notes and I did my best to transcribe his words accurately.  Pausing sounds and repeated words may have been omitted.

Thank you for the introduction and also – thanking all of you for taking the time out to be here today, and also the other members of the panel. About a month ago I was contacted by, by Dan to come in and give some perspective and thought on behalf of Lummi of the importance and significance of Cherry Point. And when I asked Dan, of you know, who’s the audience and who would we be speaking to, he said that it’s, you know, paraphrasing, a set of concerned citizens who didn’t necessarily find their — the group that defined them until about 22 years ago, and in a way, is a rebellious bunch of concerned citizens. And I said: that’s my type of audience.

You know, I want to start off with, with a statement that the Lummi Nation is not a land owner of Cherry point, or rather Xwe’chi’eXen. Ah, but very much has deep-rooted interest and connections to the sacred properties and treaty rights that are impacted by the activities that occur on or around, not just Cherry Point but throughout the usual and accustomed areas of the Lummi Nation.

And having said that, being able to, you know, move forward together with all of the communities to find a future that fits our past, find a future that acknowledges our past, is very important to the Lummi people.  I’ve really, through this process, part of the introduction, thank you for acknowledging my practice as a fisherman. In all honesty, over the last two to three years, I’ve had less time to practice that, and more time devoted to making sure that my family has the opportunity to experience something close to what my grandparents had.  And what that meant for me is I had less time to be on the water. But in the end, I think it’s, it’ll pay off. It’s the right thing to do.

Being able to acknowledge our community’s tie to the lands and the, really the ancient village sites of the Lummi people is very important to us.  And what I thought would be good for today – and the other thing is, Dan didn’t really give me much direction on what to speak to. And you’ve got to be careful when you give an elected official a platform. I’m, I’m going to, I think, share with you some of the things we did not speak of throughout this whole process. I’m pretty sure that you have heard of the importance of Treaty Rights. And if you did and if that resonated, I very much appreciate that.

Some of the items of discussion that weren’t elaborated on, you know, specifically with the area of Cherry Point is the sacred properties that are there at the site.  And you know, not – around 20 years ago, just under 20 years ago the City of Blaine constructed a Waste Water Treatment center at SEMYOME [Semiahmoo].  And the day that Lummi that found out about it, I was in a, I was up at Huxley taking pictures and cataloguing some of the cultural artifacts that were removed from Cherry Point.  And we got the call with a graduate student, you know basically dispatched to SEMYOME to evaluate what happened. That was a very, for me personally, that was a turning point.  You know, consider a room a quarter size of this room, open grave site.  And that wasn’t acknowledged, in part because, you know, if the, if the federal government failed to uphold its constitutional duty and acknowledge the treaty right, we were very much prepared, and still are, to press the issue of maintaining the integrity of the cultural properties up at Cherry Point.  So, that, that definitely has to be considered with any, any consideration of a future use of the land.

I apologize, I am not going to be at the – the [City Club] After Dark?  Jeremiah Julius, Councilman Jeremiah Julius will be there. I’m assuming it’s gonna be a lot more lively than this.  He’ll fit right in.  Jeremiah actually puts it best. Imagine the proposition of building on top of Arlington. Imagine the proposition of uprooting the soldiers of Arlington. That’s a, a definite human rights issue. How is that to be addressed?

Another point of conversation that I heard and that we did not get to address during this whole process is: “It’s an industrial area to begin with.  Why not, why not go further?” In all honesty, I hear that and say: that equates to the same statement of “rape’s already occurred, so why let it – why complain if it happens again?”

Another issue that I heard that we didn’t get to properly address is, “Lummi is just obstructionist and wants to be a job killer.” That is far from the truth. A lot of you, I’m pretty sure are responsible people, either responsible for people, either in your family or employees that report to you or that you’re a public servant and are responsible for the resources of the greater good.  We too share, share that same responsibility and we have a, you know a population of just under 5000 people and a – in some ways a displaced work force that historically revolved around fishing. And to me as a tribal leader that means that I need to be able to, you know in ten years we’re going to have 2000 of our tribal members enter the work force.  There’s not enough fishing jobs to accommodate that.  That doesn’t mean we’re going to abandon that cultural significant tie of who we are to the water.  It just means we need to supplement and find ways and really add to what we are already doing right now. We, the Lummi Nation have 2000 direct jobs and over 3000 induced and indirect jobs that, that we generate.  We produce more jobs than we have tribal members. And we need more. I am not going to disagree with that. So the issue of Lummi being a job killer is far from the truth.

And what I think we really need to do is invest and promote industry of a known quantity that defines our area in Whatcom County and the Salish Sea. And that also means, I also want to make the statement that we fully support the existing industry that, that revolves around the, the Slater corridor. And that includes the refineries. That includes those 5000 jobs that Lummi creates. Finding a way to support existing contributors to the economy, will in a sense, it’ll be the tide that rises all boats.

So if we can find a way to come together and work towards that, that would be –  that’s what we want to help contribute to. Being able to maintain the integrity of the place that we live and also leave something that our families can at least have a close experience to what we get right now is what we’re striving for.

But again, thanking the committee for planning today’s event.  I know getting this many people all in one place, takes a lot of effort – and, very appreciative to your hard work. Hy’shqe

city club programs

Click the graphic to access information about Bellingham City Club programs on their website.


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