White Power on the Salish Sea
The Fossil Fuel Export War
By Jay Taber
In Drumming Up Resentment: The Anti-Indian Movement in Montana, a special report published by Montana Human Rights Network in 2000, author Ken Toole made the following remarks:
“The context in which most people place words like racism, prejudice, and discrimination is the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In that context, an oppressed minority, African Americans, sought inclusion, a piece of the pie, equal opportunity and integration.
The struggle for civil rights in Indian country is different. It rests more on sovereignty and autonomy than on inclusion and integration. The legal framework created by the civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s sought to secure equal treatment within existing institutions and law. Indian rights activists, by and large, seek recognition of their right to develop their own law. Basically, they seek recognition of a right to self-determination. This difference is confusing and gives the anti-Indian movement an advantage in the rhetorical arena.
Taken at face value, the anti-Indian movement is a systematic effort to deny legally established rights to a group of people who are identified on the basis of their shared culture, history, religion and tradition. That makes it racist by definition.”
Writing further, Mr. Toole examined the organizational infrastructure of the Anti-Indian Movement:
“Over the last thirty years, tribal governments have become more sophisticated about asserting themselves through treaty rights. This evolution has often created controversy. Those who have opposed tribes, fearing Indian governance, have coalesced themselves into the anti-Indian movement. Groups like the Interstate Congress for Equal Rights and Responsibilities (ICERR), Totally Equal Americans (TEA), and the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) have served as national umbrella organizations for groups that have grown out of local and state controversies. These national groups have focused on federal policy by lobbying in Congress and litigating in the federal courts. However, the power and effectiveness of these national groups is linked to the local anti-Indian groups.
In addition to “vertical integration” from local to state to national organizations, the anti-Indian movement also developed “horizontal integration,” or ally relationships with groups and activists in other political and social movements. The anti-Indian movement is allied with the anti-environmental “wise use movement.” There is extensive cooperation between anti-Indian groups like CERA and wise use groups like the Alliance for America. Loose affiliation between anti-Indian groups and the Religious Right is also evident primarily in the electoral arena and state legislature. Finally, despite their best efforts, anti-Indian activists often stumble into the overt white supremacist movement. It is not a surprising stumble since both movements have racist ideas at the core.”
In the conclusion of Drumming Up Resentment, Ken Toole remarked that the public education system is doing a woefully inadequate job of providing information to students on Indian issues. The result, he says, is that citizens are increasingly ignorant about treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. This, he warns, makes them far more vulnerable to the politics of resentment offered up by the Anti-Indian Movement.
Givers and Takers
On April 6, 2013, I received a request from the editor of the Cascadia Weekly for background on Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), which had held an anti-Indian conference earlier that day in Bellingham, Washington. On April 10, my article Anti-Indian Conference was published at IC Magazine.
On April 17, the Cascadia Weekly editor published a column titled A history of violence. On page 4 of the April 17 Earth Day issue of Cascadia Weekly, he published my letter to the editor, “Givers and Takers”, which connected the organized racism promoted by CERA to propaganda by the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) coal export developers. Responding to my letter, Craig Cole, the PR spokesman for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal — located next to the Lummi Indian reservation — phoned the editor expressing his displeasure with my op-ed.
On April 26, 2013, the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR) in Seattle published a special report by Charles Tanner Jr titled “Take These Tribes Down” The Anti-Indian Movement Comes To Washington State.
On May 13, 2013, it came to my attention that Skip Richards – one of the two organizers of the April 6, 2013 CERA conference, and a strategist of anti-Indian campaigns in the 1990s — was scheduled to speak at a May 24 luncheon for the Republican Women of Whatcom County, at the Bellingham Golf and Country Club.
After sending my article to the Whatcom League of Women Voters, with a note about the likelihood of Richards leading a hate campaign against tribal sovereignty by appealing to the Tea Party wing of the GOP, I informed my Public Good colleagues that Richards and other entrepreneurial merchants of fear were apparently “hovering around the treaty rights/water rights/GPT conflicts probing for an opportunity to recreate the climate of fear that twenty years ago allowed them to capture the Whatcom County Council”. Additionally, I noted that “The PACs and non-profits the property rights network established back then for political power later spawned the anti-Indian, militia organizing”.
In August 2013, Whatcom Watch monthly included a supplement by Jewell Praying Wolf James of the Lummi Indian Tribe titled The Search for Integrity in the Conflict over Cherry Point as a Coal Export Terminal. In the October-November 2013 issue of Whatcom Watch, Sandra Robson’s article How Property Rights Can Become Property Wrongs was the cover story. In the article, Robson recounts the violent history of property rights groups in Whatcom county, and notes that the co-organizer of the April 6 CERA conference was Tom Williams, a Minuteman militia member, and CERA board member. Paul de Armond’s 2005 Public Good Project report Racist Origins of Border Militias sheds light on what these white supremacists are all about.
On October 9, 2013, the Whatcom Tea Party sponsored a Gateway Pacific Terminal Debate at the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC). As reported by Paul de Armond in the 1995 Public Good Project special report Wise Use in Northern Puget Sound, the BIAWC had been an active supporter of Wise Use terrorism against environmentalists and Native Americans in 14 Washington counties, including Whatcom, where Skip Richards was a paid BIAWC agent provocateur.
Also on October 9, 2013, Cascadia Weekly ran an editorial titled Polar Chill, noting the editor is “dismayed to see coal export interests laundering large amounts of campaign contributions” suggesting that “the early promise of coal export interests to be good corporate citizens was a lie”. The editorial is worth reading in its entirety.
The Politics of Resentment
On October 16, 2013, I became aware of a new PAC called SaveWhatcom, registered by KGMI radio host Kris Halterman and Lorraine Newman. Halterman is noted in my Anti-Indian Conference article at IC Magazine, having interviewed CERA celebrity Elaine Willman at the April 6, 2013 CERA gathering. Halterman had Willman on her March 30, 2013 show Saturday Morning Live, saying the April 6 conference would teach local officials and citizens how to take on tribal governments. On Halterman’s November 3, 2012 show, Willman called for an end to tribal sovereignty, stating, “Tribalism is socialism, and has no place in our country!”
In August and September, 2013 — as I soon learned — the Gateway Pacific Terminal consortium had funneled $149,000 into the SaveWhatcom and WhatcomFirst PACs, run by KGMI radio hosts Kris Halterman and Dick Donohue—both of whom I had noted in my May 5, 2013 IC Magazine article, White Power on the Salish Sea: The Wall Street/Tea Party Convergence. In this article, I noted the following about Donohue and Halterman:
On March 30, 2013, Donohue interviewed CERA board member and Minuteman Tom Williams, who promoted the untrue idea that Indians have citizenship privileges without paying taxes, and noted that CERA was currently mounting a national offensive to terminate tribal sovereignty. On April 6, Donohue and Halterman interviewed Willman and Phillip Brendale live from the Anti-Indian Conference, who declared that the purpose of the regional gathering was to “Take these Tribes Down.”
On November 3, 2013, Kris Halterman posted a Breaking News story on her KGMI blog titled Whatcom County Council Appeals GMHB Ruling on Rural Element: a decision to affect Your Water Rights. In Halterman’s story, she notes that on the previous day’s KGMI show Radio Real Estate, host Mike Kent invited experts to talk about Whatcom County’s water rights, including Skip Richards.
On November 21, 2013, in an article at the Seattle Times titled On Behalf of North Dakota and Montana, McKenna calls Washington coal study unconstitutional, former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna wrote a letter to Washington State that questioned the constitutionality of Washington’s Department of Ecology review of the proposed coal-export terminal at Cherry Point. In his unsuccessful 2012 bid for governor against Jay Inslee, McKenna made his support for coal-export terminals a major issue.
In Trampling on the Treaties: Rob McKenna and the Politics of Anti-Indianism, a 2012 report by Chuck Tanner and Leah Henry-Tanner, the authors examined Washington gubernatorial candidate McKenna via his career as a public official opposed to treaty rights, as well as his working relationship with Anti-Indian activists and organizations. As the Tanners note:
“McKenna’s Anti-Indian policies and ideas, and his willingness to ally his public office with opponents of tribal rights, should raise a large red flag for all people in Washington state who support respectful relations with Indian Nations.”
The Tanners observed that as Washington Attorney General, McKenna’s legal briefs “provide a political framework for backlash against Indian Nations”…His actions as Attorney General, “point to a pattern of disrespect for the basic rights of indigenous nations”…When McKenna perceives a state interest at issue, “he will oppose the fundamental rights of Indian Nations and ally with anti-Indian activists to achieve his goals”.
Educating the Public
In a November 24, 2013 story at EarthFix titled Documents Reveal Coal Exporter Disturbed Native American Archeological Site at Cherry Point, the first installment of a two-part series, KUOW reporter Ashley Ahearn wrote the following about Gateway Pacific Terminal parent company Pacific International Terminals:
Three summers ago the company that wants to build the largest coal export terminal in North America failed to obtain the environmental permits it needed before bulldozing more than four miles of roads and clearing more than nine acres of land, including some wetlands.
Pacific International Terminals also failed to meet a requirement to consult first with local Native American tribes, the Lummi and Nooksack tribes, about the potential archaeological impacts of the work. Sidestepping tribal consultation meant avoiding potential delays and roadblocks for the project’s development.
It also led to the disturbance of a site from which 3,000-year-old human remains had previously been removed — and where archeologists and tribal members suspect more are buried.
Pacific International Terminals and its parent corporation, SSA Marine, subsequently settled for $1.6 million for violations under the Clean Water Act.
According to company documents obtained by EarthFix after the lawsuit made them public, Pacific International Terminals drilled 37 boreholes throughout the site, ranging from 15 feet to 130 feet in depth, without following procedures required by the Army Corps of Engineers under the National Historic Preservation Act.
On November 26, 2013, IC Magazine published my editorial Cherry Point Ownership, in which I noted that the August 2013 Whatcom Watch insert by Jewell Praying Wolf James revealed that the Lummi people did not sign away Cherry Point in the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot. As Mr. James wrote, Cherry Point was part of the original Lummi Reservation, not part of the lands ceded under duress to the U.S. Government. Only in 1872 was Cherry Point illegally removed from the Lummi Reservation by Presidential Executive Order, in order for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to unlawfully sell the property to white squatters. As one of the most important ancient Lummi village sites, Cherry Point ownership, in 2013, had been in dispute for 141 years.
In January 2014, Whatcom Watch published What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal, Sandra Robson’s detailed account of money-laundering by the coal export consortium into the hands of CERA-supporting, Tea Party-led PACs. The footnotes of her cover story include a link to my IC Magazine article White Power on the Salish Sea: The Wall Street/Tea Party Convergence, as well as the referenced April 26, 2013 IREHR report “Take These Tribes Down” by Charles Tanner Jr.
On January 15, 2014, Indian Country Today published an article by Winona LaDuke titled Crow and Lummi, Dirty Coal & Clean Fishing, in which she notes that Cherry Point, home of the ancient Lummi village of XweChiexen, was the first site in Washington State to be listed on the Washington Heritage Register. As a 3,500-year-old site, she said, “It is sacred to the Lummi.”
On page 12 of the January 15, 2014 issue of Cascadia Weekly, in an article titled Draw the Line by Tim Johnson, he noted that the waters at Cherry Point are home to one of the best crab fisheries along the coast, and that this fishery sustains many tribal families. In the article, he quotes Jeremiah “Jay” Julius, secretary of the Lummi Nation Governing Council, a fisherman and crabber descended from tribesmen who have fished the waters off Cherry Point for centuries. Featured in a KCTS documentary and related PBS News Hour piece about the proposed Northwest coal terminals, Julius stated, “The sacred must be protected.”
A Free Press
On February 5, 2014, Gateway Pacific Terminal spokesman Craig Cole threatened Whatcom Watch with a SLAPP suit, which I covered for IC magazine in my February 8 article Gateway Pacific Terminal Consultant Threatens Journalists. In the four page letter sent to Whatcom Watch, Cole accused Robson and myself of libel, threatening that Robson and Whatcom Watch are “put on notice”.
On February 17, 2014, in an Indian Country Today article titled Coast Salish Nations Unite to Protect Salish Sea, the Lummi, Swinomish, Suquamish and Tulalip tribes of Washington joined the Tsleil-Waututh, Squamish and Musqueam Nations in British Columbia in opposing Kinder Morgan’s proposed TransMountain pipeline and other energy-expansion and export projects that “pose a threat to the environmental integrity of our sacred homelands and waters, our treaty and aboriginal rights, and our cultures and life ways.” In December 2013, Kinder Morgan, the third largest energy producer in North America, filed an application with the National Energy Board of Canada (NEB) to build a new pipeline to transport crude oil from the Alberta Tar Sands to Vancouver, British Columbia, that if approved, would result in a 200% increase in oil tanker traffic through the Salish Sea. On February 11, 2014, these tribes and nations collectively filed for official intervener status with the NEB.
On February 25, 2014, Northwest Citizen (NWC) posted Relevant Documents to Libel Threat, including Craig Cole’s letter threatening a libel lawsuit against Whatcom Watch (WW), as well as a link to my article at IC Magazine, noting that “It is interesting that Cole has not threatened to sue Taber or Taber’s publisher.” NWC editor John Servais observes it is legitimate for WW to seek connections between the anti-Indian groups and the corporations seeking permits to build the coal terminal, saying, “It is called journalism and the exercise of a free press.”
A Terrible Insult
On March 10, 2014, writing at the SaveWhatcom blog, Tea Party leader and KGMI radio host Kris Halterman defended Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA), as well as Craig Cole’s threat against Whatcom Watch. On March 12, 2014, in an editorial titled Tone Deaf, Cascadia Weekly excoriated Pacific International Terminals for its unpermitted destruction of the ancestral burial grounds of the Lummi Nation at Cherry Point, saying it “is a terrible insult to the Lummi people.”
On March 28, 2014, Indian Country Today published a feature story titled Anti-Indian CERA Doesn’t Like the Law of the Land, or Us, Apparently, by Terri Hansen, in which CERA is described as “The Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country.” On April 2, 2014, federal Indian law attorney Dave Lundgren wrote in his Indian Country Today op-ed Expose Hate Groups Like CERA that, “They disguise their fear and hatred with bogus legal arguments designed to rile up local resentment.”
On June 27, 2014, the Bellingham Herald article Craig Cole’s legal threat against Whatcom Watch ‘resolved’ claimed the SLAPP suit issue had been amicably resolved, saying “What bothered Cole more than Robson’s piece was a follow up by blogger Jay Taber that contorted Robson’s hypothetical scenario into flat-out reality.” Had the reporter Ralph Schwartz bothered to closely read Sandra Robson’s extensively-sourced article and mine, he would have discovered that my accusation of Cole promoting racism was based on documented facts.
On June 30, 2014, my article Capitalizing on Fear at IC Magazine explained how Gateway Pacific Terminal funding enabled Tea Party-led PACs and KGMI radio to drum up resentment against Lummi Nation. On December 23, 2014, in my IC Magazine post White Power vs Northwest Indians, I included two posters from Public Good Project—Gateway Pacific Terminal Hall of Shame, and White Power on the Salish Sea.
On July 27, 2015, my article Crowing Jesus: Four Square Gospel vs A Sacred Trust at IC Magazine noted that in a July 21 article at the Los Angeles Times, Crow Tribe Chairman Darrin Old Coyote called Lummi Nation leaders “ignorant” pawns of Seattle environmental groups. A supplier of coal, the Crow are in bed with Gateway Pacific Terminal. As a Pentecostal Christian tribe, the Crow are challenging Lummi Nation’s “sacred trust” to protect the Salish Sea—a holy mandate that Earth Ministry, Resources, Unitarian Universalists, and Sierra Club support.
On March 12, 2016, Northwest Citizen named Sandra Robson the Paul deArmond Citizen Journalist of the year, saying, “If there were a Pulitzer Prize for citizen journalism, Sandra Robson would win it.”
Jay Thomas Taber is a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal and communications director at Public Good Project. As a consultant, he has assisted indigenous peoples in the European Court of Human Rights and at the United Nations.