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Tribe travels 5,000 miles to protest against Fossil Fuel Infrastructure Projects in Lumbini Nation, Washington

A coalition of tribes turned out in June after an oil train derailed in Mosier

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Linda Soriano of the Lummi Nation performs a smudge ceremony at Saint Mark's Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle, fanning smoke from burning sage with eagle feathers onto a totem pole, Aug. 25, 2016. Image source: VOA

A Pacific Northwest tribe is traveling nearly 5,000 miles across Canada and the United States with a 22-foot-tall totem pole on a flatbed truck in a symbolic journey meant to galvanize opposition to fossil fuel infrastructure projects they believe will imperil native lands.

This is the fourth year the Lummi Nation in northwest Washington has embarked on a “totem journey” to try to create a unified front among tribes across North America that are individually fighting plans for coal terminals and crude oil pipelines in their backyards.

The highly visible tours, which include tribal blessing ceremonies at each stop, fit into a trend of Native American tribes bringing their environmental activism to the masses as they see firsthand the effects of climate change, said Robin Saha, a University of Montana associate professor who specializes in tribal issues and environmental justice.

“I wouldn’t go as far as to say there’s an anti-development movement, but tribes are feeling the effects of climate change quite dramatically and are responding in a lot of different ways,” Saha said. “Some of them feel as if they’re not going to survive.”

Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Image source: Wikimedia Commons
Cannon Ball, North Dakota. Image source: Wikimedia Commons

In North Dakota, for example, people from across the country and members of 60 tribes have gained international attention after gathering in opposition to the four-state Dakota Access oil pipeline. The totem pole heads to that site, near the Standing Rock Sioux’s reservation, next week.

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Tribes in the Pacific Northwest have engaged in public protests and taken legal action as West Coast ports have emerged as strategic locations for crude oil and coal companies to reach customers in energy-hungry Asia. Seven crude oil or coal export terminals are proposed for conversion, expansion or construction on the Oregon and Washington coast. Some have already led to increased freight train traffic along the scenic Columbia River Gorge, where local tribes fish salmon.

A coalition of tribes turned out in June after an oil train derailed in Mosier. The oil from the derailment mostly burned off in a huge fire, but a small amount entered the Columbia River where the tribes have federally guaranteed fishing rights.

“We’re all trying to unite our voices to make sure we’re all speaking out,” said Jewell James, a Lummi tribal member and head carver at the House of Tears Carvers.

In recent years, cheap natural gas has prompted many domestic utilities to abandon coal, driving down production at major mines in the Powder River Basin of Montana and Wyoming, the nation’s largest coal producing region. Asian coal markets have become a potential lifeline for the mining industry — and Pacific Northwest ports are seen as the anchor.

The Lummi Nation launched a savvy public relations campaign last year against what would have been the nation’s largest coal export terminal proposed for Cherry Point, Washington, at the heart of their ancestral homeland.

In May, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a needed permit for the Gateway Pacific terminal after finding it would damage tribal fishing rights.

This year’s 19-day totem trek started Tuesday in Vancouver, British Columbia, and makes a stop Friday in Longview, Washington, where a similar shipping terminal would export 44 million tons of coal annually to Asian markets. With the Gateway Pacific project on ice, the Longview project would now be the nation’s largest coal export terminal.

It would mean 16 coal trains a day, mostly from mines in Montana and Wyoming, and an additional 1,600 round-trip vessel calls a year in the lower Columbia River, said Jasmine Zimmer-Stucky, senior organizer with the Columbia Riverkeeper. There are concerns that wake from the ships could strand juvenile salmon and impact tribal fishing, she said.

Bill Chapman, president and CEO of Millennium Bulk Terminals in Longview, said in an emailed response to questions that a draft environmental review by Washington state and county officials found there would be no impacts to tribal fishing. Trains already run through the area on established tracks and have caused no issues, he added.

The terminal on the site of an old aluminum smelter plant would create hundreds of much-needed family wage jobs and is supported by labor unions, Chapman said.

“We’re building on a location where industry has existed for over 70 years,” he wrote. “Our export terminal is sited on a stretch of the Columbia River dotted with manufacturing plants and docks.”

A third large coal terminal in Oregon was dealt a blow this month when a judge upheld the state’s right to deny the project based on a similar threat to tribal fishing rights.

If proponents decide to appeal, the case will go to trial in November.

This year’s brightly painted totem weighs 3,000 pounds and is carved of western red cedar. An eagle with a 12-foot wingspan sits on top, and the pole itself features a wolf and bear — symbols of leadership, cunning and courage — as well as white buffalo and tribal figures, said James, who has been carving totem poles for 44 years.

To the sounds of drums and a prayer song, the 22-foot-tall totem pole was blessed in a smudge ceremony at the entrance of Saint Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral in Seattle Thursday. Lummi Nation member Linda Soriano fanned smoke from burning sage, covering the pole in a haze as sun rays beamed down. She then fanned the smoke through the crowd gathered outside the church.

“Mother Earth is hurting,” said Lummi Nation member Randy Peters Sr. as he began his prayer song, “Mother Earth has been hurting from all of the abuse that has been going on. The unsafe practices of the coal, and the mining and the transportation of energy.”

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Tribes in Oregon, Montana, Idaho, North Dakota, South Dakota and Canada will host the Lummi until their end point in Winnipeg, Manitoba, where tribes are fighting oil pipelines bound for the East Coast.

“You can’t put a price on the sacred. Our land and our water are sacred,” said Reuben George, manager of the Tsleil-Waututh Nation Sacred Trust Initiative in Vancouver, British Columbia, where his tribe is opposed to a major oil pipeline. “This totem pole represents our laws, our culture and our spirituality.” (VOA)

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Dinosaurs Once-in A Lifetime Fossil Saved from Australian Floods

Steve Poropat, a paleontologist at Swinburne University in Melbourne says the footprints were saved from recent monsoonal flooding in Queensland.

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A small dinosaur fossil is seen in this undated handout photo from Australian customs. The largest-ever haul of illegally exported fossils was formally handed back from the Australian Government to the Chinese Government during a ceremony in Perth, Sept. 30, 2005. VOA

A team of Australian paleontologists and volunteers has saved a once-in a lifetime fossil discovery from devastating floods in Queensland state.

The dinosaur tracks give a rare insight into an ancient world. Found on an outback farm near the Queensland town of Winton, 1,100 kms from Brisbane, they are estimated to be almost 100 million years old.

The footprints are stamped into a large slab of sandstone rock, and were made by a sauropod, a giant creature with a long neck and tail, and by two smaller dinosaurs. Some of the footprints are up to a meter wide and come from the Cretaceous period.

Scientists were alerted to the danger posed to this remarkable collection when it was partly damaged by severe flooding last year.

For three weeks scientists and volunteers worked to carefully dig up and relocate the dinosaur tracks.

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Scientists were alerted to the danger posed to this remarkable collection when it was partly damaged by severe flooding last year. Pixabay

They are being stored at the Australian Age of Dinosaurs museum in Winton, where they will eventually go on display.

David Elliott is the museum’s executive chairman.

“We really want to preserve the integrity of the tracks. We do not want to just tear them up and go and lock them on the ground somewhere. You know, they have to be done a certain way. We cannot just leave it here because that is, you know, [a] find of a lifetime.”

Dinosaur tracks are rare in Australia.

Steve Poropat, a paleontologist at Swinburne University in Melbourne says the footprints were saved from recent monsoonal flooding in Queensland.

“The imperative was to get those soft footprints out of the ground because they just would not have lasted in another flood now that they have been fully exposed. To get it all out of the ground, to ma

fossils
The dinosaur tracks give a rare insight into an ancient world. Found on an outback farm near the Queensland town of Winton, 1,100 kms from Brisbane, they are estimated to be almost 100 million years old. Pixabay

ke sure that it is safe from future floods is fantastic,” he said.

 

Monsoonal rains in Queensland have caused chaos, flooding hundreds of homes and drowning several hundred thousand livestock. Officials said it was a one-in-100-year event, and they have warned it could take years to rebuild the local cattle industry.

Also Read: Frequent High-Tide Flooding May Affect Coastal Communities’ Economy

As the floodwaters recede on land, they are polluting parts of the Great Barrier Reef. Experts say plumes of polluted water are stretching up to 60 kms from the coast, putting more pressure on coral that has suffered mass bleaching in recent years. When ocean temperatures increase, corals can expel the algae that live in their tissues causing the coral to turn completely white.

The Great Barrier Reef is Australia’s greatest natural treasure and stretches 2,300 kms down Australia’s northeast coastline. (VOA)