Tim Ballew: Congress threatens Lummi Nation's treaty rights

Members of the Lummi Nation take a stand against a coal export terminal in Washington. Photo from Sierra Club

Tim Ballew, the chairman of the Lummi Nation of Washington, accuses Sen. Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Rep. Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) of trampling on the tribe's treaty rights by pushing for a decision on the Gateway Pacific Terminal, a controversial coal export project:
When the Corps evaluates permit requests for projects like the Gateway Pacific terminal, it has to conduct an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to ensure there’s no significant damage to the environment. They’re also required to conduct an independent analysis to protect tribal treaty rights. The Corps can then deny a permit based on whether a project violates treaty rights. Now some members of Congress want to change the game.

Under pressure from SSA Marine, Senator Steve Daines (R-Montana) and Representative Ryan Zinke (R-Montana) want to prohibit the Corps from making a determination about the permit for the Gateway Pacific Terminal based on a review of the project’s impact on Lummi’s treaty rights.

If the terminal is built, Montana coal can be shipped to China. So Senator Daines and Representative Zinke, along with 31 of their colleagues in the House and Senate, are urging the Corps to degrade treaty protections. In a letter sent to the head of the Corps, they complained about the treaty rights review of the Gateway Pacific project and suggested that treaty rights didn’t deserve review or respect from the agency.

Senator Daines is a member of the Senate Indian Affairs committee, yet he has coordinated this effort to erode treaty rights to the benefit of a corporation that has shown it’s willing to ignore the rules. SSA Marine conducted invasive testing at Cherry Point and carried out the unauthorized excavation of burial sites in Lummi’s sacred area. The rights of all tribes are under fire from some members of Congress who are putting the interests of a corporation with questionable business practices before their duty to honor our treaties.

Get the Story:
Tim Ballew II: The Congressional Threat to Treaty Rights (Indian Country Today 10/20)

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