January 9, 2018 Olympia, WA – Yesterday, on the first day of the Washington State legislative session, a coalition of Native organizers and environmentalists staged an occupation at the statehouse to demand lawmakers take action to protect the earth, water, and uphold Native Nations treaty rights.
On the grounds of the statehouse, tarpees – an innovation developed by Paul Cheoketen Wagner and first used at the NoDAPL camps, were erected in the early hours prior to the start of the legislative session.
After a press conference was held on the steps of the capital, activists took to the council chambers where they disrupted the opening ceremonies chanting “We have a climate crisis. You need to act now!” They were removed by security.
One of the central themes was the call to stop the construction of a fracked gas plant at the Port of Tacoma. The fracked gas plant, which is opposed by the Puyallup Tribe, has been a focal point of controversy and subject to continuous protests and direct actions over the past year.
Puget Sound Energy (PSE), who is owned by Canadian and Australian investors, want to build a 140 foot, 8 million gallon LNG storage tank with production capability of 500,000 gallons LNG per day. LNG is fracked natural gas in a liquid state. To reach the liquid state, the fracked gas is cooled to -260 degrees Fahrenheit (°F).
The Puyallup Tribe has stated that PSE did not engage in Free, Prior and Informed Consent with them and that the plant is in violation of the tribe’s treaty rights.
Puget Sound Energy has continued to build the fracked gas storage facility without obtaining all of its permits for construction. They recently received a Notice of Violation by the Puget Sound Clean Air Agency for failure to obtain a Notice of Construction approval.
In addition to the calls to stop the LNG plant, the coalition further demanded that no new fossil fuel infrastructure be built in the State. Washington State has become a destination spot for the fossil fuel industry as energy companies seek to expanded exportation to Asian markets.
A coalition of Tribes, Native organizers and environmentalists have been successful in halting many of the proposed projects including; stopping proposed coal and oil export terminals.
In the evening, organizers remained defiant and pledged to remain on the grounds of the capital. The Native led organization Red Line Salish Sea released the following statement,
“Tribal Nations Reclaim Ancestral Territory! Today, in Olympia, Washington, representatives from various Tribal Nations and allies reclaimed ancestral territory at what is now called the Washington State Capitol in the early dawn hours. By 5 pm negotiators won a victory by landing an agreement that 6 women who are inside a tarpee in front of the Capitol building would be left undisturbed by authorities throughout the night. State officials will meet with the group before noon on Tuesday, January 9, to discuss further terms.
The Tribal representatives are making a stand with state lawmakers to end treaty violations and the abuse and misuse of Coast Salish Territories. Today, Monday, January 8, was the first session of the 2018 Legislature.”
by Wakíƞyaƞ Waánataƞ (Matt Remle)