Northwest tribes call for end to oil shipments in treaty territory

Yakama Nation Chairman JoDe Goudy speaks at a press conference in Mosier, Oregon, on June 9, 2016. Photo by Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission / Facebook

Tribes with treaty rights along the Columbia River are calling for an end to oil rail shipments following a derailment earlier this month.

The 96-car train derailed on June 3 in Mosier, Oregon, an area within the tribes' usual and accustomed fishing grounds. Some of the oil made it into the Columbia River.

"Every day, fossil fuel transportation through this ecologically and culturally important area risks the health, safety, and economic security of those living along the river," Paul Lumley, the executive director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, said in a statement. "Tribal members fishing on the Columbia face even larger risks and potential impacts. Not only are they exposed day in and day out to the air and water in and along the Columbia, these families eat a diet heavy in fish caught from the river at risk."

The commission represents the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe and the Yakama Nation. But they aren't the only ones in the region worried about derailments.

A day before the Mosier spill, a train derailed near the Chehalis River in Washington. Although it was only carrying cracked grain, the Quinault Nation warned it could have been worse.

"Next time it could easily be crude oil,” President Fawn Sharp said in a press release. “This is too close for comfort. It’s what we have been fearing ever since proposals were made to expand the oil terminals here, along with a projected ten time increase in oil train traffic. This crash is a vivid demonstration of the very serious problems these proposals, as well as the existing oil train traffic, pose to us."

The Swinomish Tribe, also in Washington, is trying to stop rail shipments of oil through its reservation. A lawsuit is proceeding in federal court.

Get the Story:
Portland mayor to Gov. Kate Brown: Say no to more oil trains (The Oregonian 6/14)
Tribes call for block on fuel trains (The Hood River News 6/10)
Tribal leaders gather in Mosier, call for end of fossil fuels transport (KGW 6/9)
Northwest tribal leaders highlight risks of oil trains (AP 6/9)
Tribes face some of greatest risks from oil train wrecks in Columbia River Gorge, leaders say (The Oregonian 6/8)
Are Gorge Tribal Communities Overlooked In Oil Train Derailment? (Northwest News Network 6/4)

Related Stories
Swinomish Tribe files suit to stop oil trains through reservation (04/07)

Join the Conversation