As I look out the window this morning the wind is blowing with gusts up to 40 miles an hour. I pictured Capesize ships plying these white-capped waters, moving through our fishing and crabbing areas near Cherry Point. I am a fisherman and crabber. I recently lost 30 crab pots from Sandy Point to Cherry Point due to tanker traffic. Imagine how many thousands of crab pots and their trapped crab now lay on the bottom.
We hear in Gateway Pacific Terminal's public relations campaign about the promise of jobs. We are no strangers to promises. What we know is true, is that the fishing industry supports many families at Lummi and throughout Whatcom County. The Lummi Nation has the largest native fishing fleet in the United States, with more than 450 boats employing at least 1,000 tribal members, contributing millions of dollars to the local economy. We know it is a sustainable source of income and that it is part of our heritage.
Do the people at Goldman Sachs, SSA Marine, PIT, Carrix, Peabody, and Burlington Northern really understand that word heritage? Do they know it cannot be quantified, compromised or traded for promises of jobs and money? Do John Hemingway of SSA Marine and Warren Buffett of Burlington Northern really understand what their profits would cost the Lummi people?
I also wonder if they understand what Cherry Point - Xwe'chi'eXen in our language - means to the Lummi people? Do they understand that we trace our heritage at Cherry Point back to at least 1500 B.C.? That our ancient ones are at rest there? That the entire landscape is flagged as a cemetery by Washington State? Does anyone believe that we would ever stand by while our sacred ground - our Arlington, our Jerusalem - is sacrificed for profit?
There have been 52 documented spills at Cherry Point. Studies have shown there are two-headed herring there. The crabs are confused, molting early in the waters off Cherry Point. We must not allow any further degradation or denaturing of our fishing and crabbing grounds, any further violation whatsoever of our treaty rights and the promises made to our people.
The passage of the Pacific Railway Act in 1862 prompted a parade in which a float bore the legend "Little Indian Boy, Step Out of the Way for the Big Engine." Those who are promoting this ill-conceived project should understand the Lummi Nation will not step out of the way: kwu'hoy-t ("we draw the line").
Jay Julius is a fisherman and member of the Lummi Indian Business Council.