Sep 26, 2013 - Kwel hoy’: We Draw the Line Lummi Nation and the Fight Against Coal Exports by Matt Remle

From the Northwest to the Powder River basin tribal communities, environmentalist, and concerned public officials have expressed deep concern over the proposed coal exports terminals for Oregon and Washington State. The region has been active with numerous protests, demonstrations, and people speaking out at public forums against the effort to bring tons of coal via rail through the Northwest to be shipped to primarily Asian countries.

For details on the proposed coal export terminals go to

Tribal communities, in particular, have helped lead the charge against the proposed coal exports especially the Lummi Nation in Washington. The Lummi Nation’s sacred site Cherry Point (Xwe’chi’eXen) is the location for a proposal to build North America’s largest coal export terminal. If built, the coal export terminal would be placed on historic sacred lands, home to ceremonial and burial grounds and threaten to pollute their nearby fishing grounds.

Cherry Point is described by the Lummi as having the best crab fisheries along the coast and is feeding grounds for both salmon and orca whales. In addition to the potential desecration of sacred lands the proposed export terminal could bring, the Lummi are also concerned that many of the fishing jobs that sustain many families would be lost due to pollution and the exporting of coal via massive cargo ships.

While the Lummi, and other communities concerned about proposed export terminals in their communities have strong allies, including the Governors of both Washington state and Oregon, the coal industry was given a boost this summer as the U.S. Government approved a 1.4 billion ton coal deal with the Crow Nation.

The Seattle Times reported, “The deal between Cloud Peak Energy and the Crow Tribe involves more coal than the U.S. consumes annually.”


Despite this recent development, the Lummi Nation continues to say no to big coal and has recently launched its Kwel hoy’: We Draw the Line campaign demanding that sacred sites must be protected and treaty rights honored.

Lummi totem pole carvers, who have traditionally made and delivered Totem Poles to areas struck by disaster and in need of healing (Lummi famously carved and delivered healing poles in memory of 9/11 heroes, victims and their children), have carved a Totem to bring healing for their own lands.

Master Carver, Jewell Praying Wolf James, carved a Totem Pole for spiritual healing that will embark on a 1,700 mile journey, from the coal mines in Montana to the proposed terminals in Washington, in effort to connect communities and raise awareness to the issue of coal exports. The Totems final destination will be the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in British Columbia in a show of solidarity and unity for their opposition of Tar Sands being transported by pipelines through their lands.

The epic journey, which began on September 18th in the homelands of the Northern Cheyenne, who too have expressed deep opposition to the coal exports, is set to conclude on September 29th with numerous stops scheduled in between.

Lummi Healing Pole at Olympia, WA event
Photo by Lui Kit Wong Bellingham Herald

Mitakuye Oyasin
Wakinyan Wa’anatan (Matt Remle)

Last Real Indians