Lummi Nation men keep positions after looking at Cherry Point development

Members of the Lummi Nation protest the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point on the Gulf Road beach west of Ferndale, Sept. 21, 2012.
Members of the Lummi Nation protest the proposed coal export terminal at Cherry Point on the Gulf Road beach west of Ferndale, Sept. 21, 2012. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Two Lummi Nation men who were investigated after asking the state about buying and developing land at Cherry Point will keep their positions at the tribe.

Lummi Indian Business Council started a recall against council member Henry Cagey in early November after emails between Cagey, former council member Bernie Thomas, and the state Department of Natural Resources were shared with the tribe.

The emails showed Cagey and Thomas asked DNR how to go about buying 160 acres of DNR-owned land off Kickerville Road at Cherry Point. The parcel borders land owned by Pacific International Terminals, the SSA Marine company that has been trying to get approval for the Gateway Pacific Terminal there.

Lummi Nation received a victory against the coal terminal earlier this year when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied a permit for the over-water pier, as it would interfere with treaty-protected fishing rights.

Cagey and Thomas were in contact with Steven Edelson, a major real estate investor from the Midwest, and Thomas told a DNR staff member that “the land would be used for all lawful purposes, such as an ocean container van storage or processing plant compatible with BP Refinery.”

Thomas was placed on paid leave from his position as education director at Lummi Nation School during the investigation.

The recall vote involving Cagey took place Nov. 26. Of 630 voters, 57 percent voted yes, and 42 percent voted no; a two-thirds or 66.7 percent majority of those who voted was needed for the measure to pass, according to the Lummi Communications Facebook page.

That means Cagey will stay on the council and continue to work to build better things for the people, he said.

“I think the process could have been done a lot better if the council took the time to listen to what I was trying to do for the Nation,” Cagey said Monday. “I think they really overreacted to what my efforts were to work with the gentleman that wanted to work with the tribe to provide opportunities for the Nation.”

Cagey said it had been a lesson for everyone that all could do a better job of listening to each other.

“I’ve served seven terms with the tribe, almost 21 years now,” Cagey said. “Most people that know me know I wouldn’t do anything that would undermine the tribe’s treaty right or sovereign authority.”

He said it will take time to rebuild trust between younger and older council members, but things are now back on track and he hopes to “get down to business to start working for the people again.”

“It was definitely a difficult situation for everybody, and we want to focus on doing the best work possible for the people,” Lummi Chairman Tim Ballew II said Monday.

Thomas said he was reinstated to his position on Friday.

“I’m glad that Henry was reinstated. The way our constitution of the Lummi Nation is, we are obligated to talk to each other,” Thomas said. “So this is something that happens periodically when we disagree.”

Thomas said the health of the environment “is a very tenuous thing in spite of the politicalization of it. It’s definitely something that needs all of our understanding and help.”

Thomas said he is very committed to the mission of the education division and there is much work to do to support children and their parents in education.

Samantha Wohlfeil: 360-715-2274, @SAWohlfeil