Jan 15, 2015 - Northwest Tribes Battle Proposed Coal Exports by Matt Remle

From the Tar Sands to the Keystone XL Pipeline, to the proposed Northwest coal exports terminals, Native peoples have been on the front-lines demanding an end to the desecration of Ina Maka (Mother Earth). Further, Native peoples continue to demanded that treaty rights be honored and are standing up for the protection of our plant and animal relatives.

The predator’s never ending thirst for energy has reared its ugly head again in the recent proposals to develop six coal export terminals in the Northwest; from Oregon to Washington State.


Northwest tribes have joined forces with environmental organizations to protest the potential development of the coal export terminals. Coal companies are eager to tap into China’s growing demand for energy, and are looking to export coal from the Powder River Basin in Wyoming and Montana.

The largest of the proposed shipping terminals is the Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) located at Cherry Point, near Bellingham WA, sacred lands of the Lummi Nation. Cherry Point has deep cultural, historical and spiritual significance to the Lummi Nation who have long opposed development of the lands.

The GPT (proposed by SSA Marine, which is 49% owned by Goldman Sachs, and partner with Peabody Energy), would export 54 million metric tons of coal per year making it North America’s largest coal port. Overall, the six proposed shipping terminals could see as much as 140 million metric tons of coal come through their ports each year.

If built, 18 daily trains, each roughly 1.5 miles long, would shuttle between mines and ports. Coal carrying trains would cut across the Powder River Basin, through Idaho, and eastern Washington along the Columbia River Gorge the up through the Puget Sound region. Coal would be dumped in open heaps at port sites, where they eventually would make their way to China. It is estimated that coal carrying ships would make roughly 950 transits per year.

Joining the Lummi Nation in their concern is the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians and the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, who have expressed concerns over the potential impact the coal carrying trains would have on fish, plant, traditional medicines and wildlife habitat.

In a recent protest, Lummi lined their boats in opposition to all six proposed coal export terminals. Lummi tribal leaders then symbolically burned a million dollar check from coal companies.

The Lummi Nation has asked the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers to deny the permit to build the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point.

Coal trains bound for Canada currently run through the Puget Sound region and have faced opposition from tribes and others.

A call is needed for warriors across Turtle Island to stand up and assume our roles and responsibilities as Indigenous peoples in this 500 year spiritual war. From stopping the Tar Sands, coal export terminals, and the Keystone XL Pipeline to protecting sacred lands like Pe’ Sla and Cherry Point, my relatives I ask that you stand strong for Ina Maka so that our relatives and future generations may live.

Mitakuye oyasin

Wakinyan Wa’anatan (Matt Remle)

Last Real Indians