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Lummi fishermen will deliver fresh salmon to people fighting North Dakota pipeline

Lummi community members prepare salmon to feed Standing Rock Sioux in North Dakota

Lummi community members Josh Phair, Waylon Ballew and hereditary chief Bill James talk about efforts to help the Standing Rock Sioux tribe during their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Lummi Nation.
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Lummi community members Josh Phair, Waylon Ballew and hereditary chief Bill James talk about efforts to help the Standing Rock Sioux tribe during their fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline on Wednesday, Sept. 28, in Lummi Nation.

Lummi Nation fishermen will drive a feast of locally caught salmon this weekend all the way to Cannon Ball, N.D., to feed the Standing Rock Sioux tribe and many supporters who are fighting against the Dakota Access Pipeline.

“The tribal fishermen have decided to donate their catch,” said Waylon Ballew, who met up with a handful of fishermen to filet dozens of kings and silvers behind the Lummi Nation Commodity Foods building Wednesday morning, Sept. 28.

The group planned to leave Thursday night in vans and head to North Dakota with a few dozen tribal members on board, and the soon-to-be feast packed on ice.

“It’s a traditional teaching among our people to show caring and love by feeding one another and supporting each other when times get rough,” said Josh Phair, one of the people who helped organize the trip. “All of our Lummi people are excited to have the opportunity to give in any way we can.”

The Standing Rock Sioux have been camped in North Dakota since April in protest against the planned Dakota Access Pipeline, which would go from North Dakota through South Dakota and Iowa to Illinois, transporting about 470,000 to 570,000 barrels of crude oil per day.

Since then, thousands of supporters have joined the fight to stop work on the Energy Transfer Partners-owned pipeline.

The Standing Rock Sioux have called for work on the pipeline to stop while the courts can hear their lawsuit, which claims the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers did not consult the tribe before issuing the needed permits for the project, and that the pipeline, which would run under the river, could threaten their water supply just downstream.

“It’s important to be part of this work, and fight not just for this generation, but the next seven generations,” Phair said.

We are processing the fish to be able to feed these people who are working really hard to protect our water, protect our rights, because what we know as tribal people is that what happens in one part of Indian Country happens to all the other tribal communities in the United States.

Waylon Ballew, one of the Lummi Nation men who will take salmon to North Dakota

Phair said being humble is prized and that none of the fishermen involved were giving their time or their catch for recognition. Still, for many of them, this is how they make their living, Ballew said.

“To be able to take what we have here and share it with the rest of the community is something that we’re proud of, something we feel good about,” Ballew said. “Today (Wednesday) we are processing the fish to be able to feed these people who are working really hard to protect our water, protect our rights, because what we know as tribal people is that what happens in one part of Indian Country happens to all the other tribal communities in the United States.”

The issue at hand is not just for indigenous people, Ballew said.

“This is a people issue, it’s a human being issue,” he said.

Hereditary Chief Bill James, who planned to go to North Dakota with the others, said those involved were standing together to remember their ancestors and “to protect the sacred grounds and the ways of our people.”

“We have to protect all things the Creator gave us, especially the water. The water is the giver of life, which gives life to everything,” James said. “We are asking the Creator to stop the black snake to keep our waters pure. We’re standing with the people of Standing Rock to do so.”

For others who want to help the cause, Ballew said voicing concerns to elected officials through writing was one way to assist in what will likely be a long process. There are also donation pages online with lists of needed supplies for the people who are camping, he said.

“This isn’t a battle that’s going to be over any time soon,” Ballew said. “The people who are over there have committed themselves to being there until this is over, so any support they can get form anyone, that’d be great.”

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil

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