Coast Salish Gathering concludes

September 29th, 2010

On the final day of the Coast Salish Gathering, tribal leaders communicated some renewed goals, including:

  • Define co-management in the Coast Salish language, so the tribes may come together to understand the sacred trust and shared decision making in their own words.
  • Explore litigation for Coast Salish to transition into their rightful place as shared decision makers.
  • Explore political strategies and determine congressional next steps.
  • Explore science and traditional ecological knowledge needs of the Salish Sea.
  • Develop an educational component for the Coast Salish Gathering for the benefit of the next generation.

We’re all in this canoe together

September 28th, 2010

The Coast Salish Gathering is a policy dialogue. The following are comments made by tribal leaders during the final day of the gathering:

Shawn Yanity, chairman of the Stillaguamish Tribe, spoke of the continued challenges managing the tribe’s hunting resources. The state defines hunting as a “sport,” it’s a difference in thinking and culture.

The relationship we have with the environment was given to us from our ancestors and the creator. They took those gifts and put them in our songs and put them in our language. We have a responsibility to take care of them because they sustain our life.”

The non-Indian world – they’ll write laws because they know what’s best for us. They will control it. That’s when we run into problems, when we don’t respect that gift.

I am  encouraged with the words that have been shared at the table. I hear of things we all  face. That imaginary line that’s divided our family. The governments have put that split between us.

This is an opportunity for us to come together, not because we’re forced to.

I was always told by my Uncle Lou that the day the salmon does not return to the river, we have a dead river. The life of that river is gone. Our South Fork Stillaguamish has an estimated run of 60 fish. A  lot of people don’t realize the effect that has on our relations in Canada. Stillaguamish chinook is one of the drivers that regulate the Canadian fishery.

Nolan Charles, Musqueam Nation, was asked to address the political strategies of Coast Salish tribes.

We have the foundation here, with representatives from Environment Canada, DFO, Ecology and EPA. We need to expand that and give them the direction to bring more people into this canoe. Bringing more people into the canoe will also bring more money. If we’re going to make this work politically, we need that support. We need human capacity and financial capacity but also political leaders within our own communities. Identify who our allies are and who are enemies are and win over our enemies.

Chief Ian Campbell, Squamish Nation, said that the western model isn’t sustainable.

“People have to be made accountable,” he said.”The degradation of our land and our resources is unacceptable.”

Elders used to have indicators like Dobie Tom described. Elders know it’s going to be a cold winter because bees are nesting in the ground. “Our elders are in tune with that,” he said.

Terry Williams, Tulalip Tribes, said a decision needs to be made whether we’re going to do something about climate change or not.

The Swinomish Tribe has done a great job with its Climate Change Initiative.

Tulalip is looking at the chemistry of marine waters and creating a carbon budget. A project is in the works to look at ocean acidification by building a greenhouse under water to grow seaweed, kelp and eel grass and measure the carbon and methane the plants absorb.

Tom Wooten of the Samish Tribe said his heart goes out to the first nations north of the border.

“The only way we’re going to be heard is to have one voice,” he said. “I’m going to bring my youth with me next time so they can hear all this and know they are part of this. All the issues are the same for all of us. I haven’t heard one person speak here that I can’t relate to their issues.”

Chief Dalton Silver, Sumas Nation:

I was thinking about some of the messages that were shared here. The words from the legal people, I think it’s really helpful, looking at the perspective from both sides of that border we had nothing to do with.

Crossing the border has become difficult for a lot of our people, especially when we travel to visit our families during the winter months to attend ceremonies.

I really am thankful that others stressed the importance of language. We talk about co-management agreements and really having a say in the agreements. It there is such an agreement, I think it would be good to have it interpreted and written in our language. There are things said in our language in so few words that can’t be misinterpreted. There are things you can write in the English language that can be interpreted in so many different ways by so many politicians and lawyers.

Jim Peters, Squaxin Island Tribe:

Even though we have state and provincial governments listening to these issues, and having experience with pretty good consultation with our federal agencies, being recognized government-to-government by the state government, having the benefits of some good court decisions in the past, and having documents from the state government respecting our rights – we’re still in a situation where our watershed and water quality is declining. As much as we can do as co-managers on the ground, of having the right science and traditional knowledge of those watersheds. Canadian brothers, you’ll find yourselves in that same situation even if the Canadian government recognizes all your rights, the resources will still be going down.

Everybody in this room isn’t talking about today. We’re talking about seven generations in the future. I know our agency friends that are here might not be able to grasp at that. I know my grandfather and his father were able to grasp that. They knew the decisions they were making back then were impacting me and future generations.

Darrell Phare, Lummi Nation:

We need to  realize the handicaps with which we try to do this work. The people that arrived here didn’t have the wisdom to recognize a system that was designed to remain forever. They saw untouched land.

The reason why our system would have lasted forever is that we were a part of everything and everything was a part of us. Even the concept of us being stewards of everything is a misconception. We are a part of everything. If we do our job and everything else does its job, the magic happens.

I appreciate Ecology, EPA, and your counterparts from Canada coming to listen. It shows an effort to understand why we are how we are. We’re stubborn people. We have a mission. We are blessed with a lot of people who are committed to our seventh generation.

This concept that came to us from the other side of the water that said man is above everything –  I don’t know where that came from.

I really admire this effort. This agreement to not recognize this border that separates our families.

Resistance is futile

September 28th, 2010

John Hollowed, legal and policy adviser for the NWIFC, spoke of his experience in fisheries co-management.

Traditionally, tribes were considered to have jurisdiction only within the boundaries of the reservation. Co-management gives tribes extra-territorial management of  their members.

“Fisheries management is people management,” he said. “There are cultural issues and legal issues.” It isn’t  just dividing a harvestable number of fish in half.

Tribes have an inherent right to participate in management of their resources, wherever those resources are.

Tribes aren’t trying to have “veto power” over non-Indians. They just want to change the culture so that everyone can learn to share the responsibility of management.

An important aspect of co-management is meaningful consultation, involving technical people. People from the state sometimes say, “I had a meeting and told them what we were going to do,” thinking that fulfills the obligation of working with the tribe.

There must be an opportunity to resolve disputes.

The evolution of fisheries co-management in western Washington:

  1. Unilateral management by state.
  2. Court management – court takes over because the state was denying the basic civil rights of Indians.
  3. Co-management – court tells two separate sovereigns to manage together, but they still wound up in court all the time.
  4. Eventually there’s a philosophical change to Cooperative management – state puts down its weapons and recognizes it has to work with the tribes.

Other examples of  co-management include Puget Sound Partnership, Pacific Salmon Treaty, shellfish, groundfish and on-reservation land use management.

It should apply to water resource management (quantity and quality).

“Do we have to go through the traditional way, which means adjudicate everyone’s rights and then develop a management system?”

The Culvert Case is an example of ineffective co-management.

The tribes had no meaningful notice of hydraulic activities. “You’d think the state would give tribes notice of these activities that affect fish habitat,” he said. “We were trying to get notice, just notice, for 24 years.”

Also, there was no consultation, no means to resolve disputes, and no process to deal with shared responsibilities.

Swinomish tribal chairman Brian Cladoosby said that for a long time elected officials had the attitude that they’d rather fight and lose than settle with the tribes and win.

Hollowed concluded that tribes have been here since time immemorial and will be here for all of time.

“Resistance is futile,” he said. “It’s going to happen eventually, the question is how painful is it going to be to get there?”

Dobie Tom of Tulalip responded:

We have to remind our leaders. I hear nothing but “co.” Co-management. Who was here first?

We were here before treaties were signed. After treaties were signed, we became a ward of the federal government, not the state.

We should have more say on the habitat that you heard mentioned. We’re not the ones who contaminated the habitat.

I was with my father when we went to federal court in Seattle through this Boldt decision. It was my late father’s knowledge that turned Judge Boldt’s mind toward us.

At one time, before World War II happened, here in Swinomish and also in Lummi, they owned reef net location out here in Roche Harbor and Lummi Island. When World War II broke out, our native boys – according to the treaty, we were not to take arms against anyone – but a lot of our native people joined and went and fought in World War II. Non-natives took over reef net locations out here on Roche and Lummi Island. When our survivors came back, they had nothing. There was a village on Lummi Island where the reef nets are. That’s where I was born in 1941.

I asked my father, “Dad, how did you folks know when the clams were contaminated? You had no biologists then.” he said that was easy – in the hot summer months, they would dig clams and leave them alongside where they dug them. They sat on the beach on a log. Seagulls would come pick the clam up and drop it. If the seagulls ate it, the clams were good, but if they picked at it and flew away then our dad knew they were contaminated – what they call red tide today.

They knew how to manage the fishery without  biologists. In springtime , they’d watch for a butterfly that let them know the spring salmon was in the river. It was time to harvest.

The rainflower – pink little flowers – if there were a lot of them, it meant a good coho season.

If they would start chinook fishing and all the chinook were huge from the start, they would shut themselves down, because the run was small. If the fish were small, it would be a big run.

I went to college for  marine biology. I have two degrees.

We need to have our younger tribal leaders do a survey and get them to understand this Judge Boldt decision, because it’s designed to work against us. We were naive. We used selective hearing, selective vision, seeing what we wanted to see. We heard 50 percent. 50 percent of nothing is how much? Nothing.

All I heard today was very upsetting. “The state this, the state that.” What is higher? The state is higher than federal? I always thought federal was higher. Who are we? We are a ward of the federal government.

David Joe, first nations attorney, described co-management in the Yukon territory.

Even with co-management, even  in a basic partnership between a husband and wife, there’s always the issue of who’s boss.

These co-management agreements are a bit more complicated. Instead of having one spouse, we’ve got a multiplicity of spouses: Yukon government, Canadian government and 14 Yukon first nations.

They managed to establish a number of boards and commissions:

  • Enrollment commission – There must be eligibility criteria when there is a treaty in which resources are shared within the Coastal Salish Sea area.
  • National parks – 16,060 square miles of treaty land in the Yukon territories is not enough land to hunt, trap and subsist. First Nations arrived at a strategy of protecting as much of Yukon territory as possible though National Parks. Within those parks, they have the exclusive rights to hunt and trap.
  • Land use planning
  • Environmental assessment
  • Heritage board
  • Water board
  • Fish and wildlife board

Yukon first nations represent 50 percent of the fish and wildlife board. They have the right to hunt, fish and trap year-round, subject to conservation, public health and safety. In national parks, what happens when there is no more – a reduced amount of moose, caribou, elk, deer or salmon?

“We built in a basic need requirement,” he said. “If the number of moose ever drops below a certain number, we are guaranteed a certain number of moose.”

The spirit and intent of the fish and wildlife board:

  • Ensure and enhance Yukon first nations’ culture, economy and lifestyle
  • Power sharing
  • Mutual respect
  • Resolve issues out of court
  • Rights are not inherited. We borrow these rights from our children and granchildren
  • Process should bring people together

Witnesses wrap up second day of Coast Salish Gathering

September 27th, 2010

Witnesses perform a key function at tribal events. They are asked to speak at the end of the day to share what they have learned.

Albie Charlie, Cowichan Nation:

When you really listen with your heart, listen to the tears of our elders. Our teachers told us the land, the sea, the water, and everything on earth was life. I can never forget how our elders sat us down to share a teaching in our language. You heard one of our elders speaking, the importance of our language, the importance of our Indian names. It gives us a history of where we are and where we come from, to see what’s important to us.

This was a highway that bound our families together. There was no border. Our young people today don’t know the importance of relationships, sometimes they don’t know their roots. It’s important that we teach our chidren the roots of where we come from.

The government says we’re going to work collaboratively together. We are going to work together with one mind, one spirit – respectfully.

Sometimes we have to look and see what the government is doing to us. They’re dividing us. They’re putting up boundaries. The government makes us compete against one another rather than help one another.

Today we’re going to walk out of here richer.

Patti Gobin, Tulalip Tribes:

I know where I come from because of my grandmother. This was a way of life for us, raised at the feet of our grandmothers and aunties. That’s where we learned about co-management.

My grandmother never would have imagined us sitting here as Coast Salish people with government officials and being equal players at the table.

In our longhouse, they’ll tell you if you’ve done something right or wrong. What happened here was good. All the protocols were followed. Only goodness will come from it.

Key words I heard:

When I looked up co-management, I found a picture of Billy Frank Jr. He was saying, “It’s not about the fight for fish anymore. It’s over. We can’t fight anymore. We have to work together.”

From white cap to white cap.

Environment Canada said, “Our commitment is strong.” We’re going to hold you to that.

Tom Laurie from Ecology said, “It’s all about relationships.” Let me in. Let me be a player at that table.

Department of Fish and Oceans acknowledged our 10,000 years of experience. I appreciate your acknowledgement.

Tom Sampson: “The gifts from our ancestors. We need to grow up together, stop fighting like little children. How do we create the space to get the work done?”

It’s about what’s right for all our people, but my number one priority is Coast Salish, because I am Coast Salish.

Ian MacLeod, Environment Canada:

I’m impressed with the passion and knowledge and respect everyone has for the Salish Sea.

Language matters. Sometimes we say things in our bureaucratese that means something to us, but means something else to someone else. When we use language, we need to understand each other.

There’s a lot of learning going on. An exchange of information. Willingness to learn. Teaching.

First nation leadership matters and can make a change.

I think we heard governments asking first nations to help us show the way. Lawyers say we need to take court action. I hope we don’t.

The clock is ticking. The Salish Sea is sick. Steps need to be taken.

This gathering itself is valuable and unique.

If we don’t find a way to make use of 10,000 years of knowledge, I don’t think that’s right.

Peter Murchie, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency:

I’m deeply humbled to be here and to be the last person to speak. It’s a huge responsibility.

I’m a new visitor and resident of the Salish Sea. I’m going to be raising my son so that he doesn’t have to come to a conference to learn what it means to be a Salish Sea resident, so the shared goal of a healthy, vibrant Salish Sea is his goal naturally.

Indigenous rights in the United States and Canada

September 27th, 2010

Tribal attorney Mason Morisset gave a history of the U.S. court decisions that reaffirmed treaty rights for tribes in western Washington.

The tribes signed treaties with the U.S. government in the 1850s. Fishing rights were reaffirmed by the Boldt decision in 1974. Shellfish rights were reaffirmed by the Rafeedie decision in 1994.

Hunting and gathering rights haven’t been adjudicated yet.

The treaties include language reserving the right to hunt and gather on open and unclaimed land. The state has refused to recognize treaty hunting or gathering on anything they can label as private land, which includes a huge amount of forestland.

“Until we have a legal ruling, it’s going to be very difficult to establish hunting rights in any way,” he said.

  • What is needed for effective co-management? A court order helps.

The agreements mentioned earlier by Tom Laurie of the Department of Ecology would not exist without a court order. “There has to be some legal power and it has to be enforceable,” Morisset said.

The Centennial Accord is worthless, as a legal matter, he added. “There’s nothing to enforce.You can’t sue on it. Tribes do use it to continue a dialogue, but you need a legal document that gives you rights.”

Also needed:

  • Tribal leadership that is committed to investment of time and effort by themselves and staff. “You can’t just get up there and make speeches.”
  • Staff trained in biology, management, environmental science, etc.
  • Intertribal groups, such as the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission and Coast Salish Gathering, to provide expertise and coordination.

First nations attorney David Joe summarized aboriginal rights and title in Canada.

  • 1763 – The King issued a royal proclamation, reserving land for Indians as hunting grounds.
  • 1867 – Canada was created. Indians and lands reserved for Indians were vested with Canada. Provinces could infringe on aboriginal rights and title, but could not extinguish them.
  • 1876 – Indian Act (still the predominant statute) – Established federal jurisdiction over “status Indians,” governing most aspects of their lives. Defined who is an Indian and regulated band membership and government, taxation, lands and resources, money management, wills and estates, and education.
  • From 1884-1960 – Canada passed various acts of assimilation that denied the first nations the rights to have a potlatch economy, legal counsel or vote (until 1960). Residential schools were established.

“Canada caught up to the United States in 1982, but not through the good will of Canada,” he said. First nations, Metis and Inuit lobbied to be included in the new constitution. It recognized and affirmed aboriginal treaty rights, stated that lands claims rights are treaty rights, and guaranteed protection of that right.

Among the legal cases dealing with aboriginal rights:

  • Guerin case of 1984 – Ruled that there is a fiduciary duty of the crown to aboriginal people.
  • Sparrow case of 1990 – The crown must justify infringements of existing aboriginal title and rights.
  • Vanderpeet case of 1996 – Aboriginal rights do not extend to commercial sale of fish.

Chief Ken Malloway of the Sto:lo Nation noted that the Boldt decision is a legal battle between the United States – on behalf of the tribes – and Washington state.

“Canada has never gone to court for the first nations, only against us,” he said. “Every time we’ve been to court, we’re fighting Canada. We never had Canada on our side before, even though the Guerin case says they have a fiduciary obligation.”

Many first nations people don’t consider themselves Canadian, he added. “Not the way I’ve been treated in my country. I’m Sto:lo Nation.”

Randy Kinley, Lummi Nation, said that although treaties are supposed to be the “supreme law of the land,” the U.S. government frequently interferes with treaty rights through the Endangered Species and Marine Mammals acts, among others.

“All of this is whittling away at our treaty rights,” he said. “I hope we walk away from this with a political strategy,” he said.

Tribal leaders discuss challenges of shared management

September 27th, 2010

In response to the earlier discussion about the government’s fiduciary responsibility, Chief Tom Sampson, Chemainus First Nation, shared the indigenous words for “teachings,” “laws and protocols,” “responsibility” and “conduct.”

There is no one simple word for these concepts, he explained.

He also pointed out that the government of Canada is the only country in the world that has not recognized indigenous rights. “The cruelest countries in the world have recognized indigenous rights,” he said. “But not Canada.”

Nolan Charles, Musqueam, urged the representatives from Canada’s government to take these issues to a higher level, to take the concerns expressed at the Coast Salish Gathering up the food chain, and engage the greater community.

Chief Lydia Hwitsum, Cowichan Tribes,
said that the Coast Salish Gathering is a path toward creating the space needed to get this work done.

First nations haven’t had a court decision (like the Boldt decision in Washington) that compels Canada to share the management responsibility. After a 1997 Supreme Court decision that said governments must consult with first nations, it took 10 years for the court to clarify that there must also be an output of accommodation.

Terry Williams, Tulalip Tribes, said that it’s been a struggle for tribes in the United States and Canada to get a seat at the table to speak about their 10,000 years of experience.

Now, the U.S. government comes to the tribes to ask why watersheds aren’t producing fish.

“Our rivers are out of sync with the fish,” he said. “The fish over 10 000 years have adapted to the river’s cycle, but now it’s broken.”

Governments don’t recognize the manmade cause; forestry, agriculture, urban development, glacial melt and changes in hydrology have caused the rivers to run differently.

“The United States doesn’t know what they’ve lost,” he said. “They don’t know what they’ve done to themselves.”

Chief Rick Thomas, Lyackson First Nation, expressed concern about wastewater management and the condition of the Salish Sea.

Randy Kinley, Lummi Nation, advised the tribal participants not to have expectations that are too high.

“People can only do so much,” he said. “I hope we as a tribal people can sit down and prioritize and use the tools that are permitted to us by law. That is the only way the bureacratic process works in the United States.”

The tribes in western Washington haven’t lost a court case, he said. “We can beat them at the game, but we have to be together.”

Because of the government’s trust responsibility to the tribes, the tribes are in unique position to ask for more.

“We’ll be the bad guys,” he said. “Use us, all we’re looking at is how we can protect it for the next generation.”

Leah George-Wilson, Tsleil Waututh Nation, pointed out that in the United States, each tribe is a sovereign nation, but in British Columbia, only a few have treaty rights.

“More than half us are not within the treaty process,” she said. “If we’re waiting for the treaty process to fix things, we’ll be waiting a long time.”

At this point, fishing rights aren’t even on the table. “We need to find a way to make that space to help create that change, to make that shift,” she said. “The focus is not about, what it is that those Indians want. It’s about what’s right. That collective ability to create that space, to make that change.”

From the snow caps to the wave caps

September 27th, 2010

Representatives from U.S. and Canadian agencies spoke about the shared responsibility of managing natural resources from the white caps of the mountains to white caps of Salish Sea.

Michelle Pirzadeh of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency,  Region 10 (which includes 271 tribal governments), said the EPA receives congressional funding to support Puget Sound restoration. This year, it received $50 million for on-the-ground projects. Of that, $14 million will go to tribal governments. The agency is in the final stages of awarding the money for this year. Three years ago, the EPA received only $1 million, and Pirzadeh credits the tribes for increasing the funding by keeping the momentum going for Puget Sound recovery.

“The tribes are doing amazing work and really leveraging those funds,” she said.

Some of the 2009 projects are described here.

Ian MacLeod of Environment Canada pointed out that there are many levels of decision makers managing the Salish Sea, including  the U.S. and Canadian government, Coast Salish nations on both side of the border, Washington state and the province of British Columbia.

Environment Canada has a regulatory role in protecting species at risk, migratory birds, clean water, pollution abatement and gathering scientific data.

There are opportunities for shared management of species at risk, developing bird management plans, conservation strategies for ecosystems, water quality information gathering, habitat stewardship.

The treaty process is ongoing in British Columbia, which is another opportunity to develop co-management strategies.

“The biggest opportunity is through information sharing, and working with first nations and their traditional ecological knowledge,” he said.

Environment Canada also has an EcoAction Community Funding Program that provides funding for projects addressing four themes: clean air, clean water, climate change and nature.

Tom Laurie of the Washington State Department of Ecology said that the state’s shared management of natural resources was mandated by the Boldt decision (U.S. v. Washington). The culvert case in an example where the state could be doing a better job.

A shining example of shared management is the Centennial Accord. It’s a joint document recognizing mutual sovereignty, mutual respect and commitment to working together.

Ecology shares the management of shared bodies of water with tribes. The Puyallup Tribe was the first in the state to set its own water quality standards on the Puyallup River. Ecology also shares the responsibility of toxics clean ups in harbor areas to improve the habitat.

Fish consumption standards are being revised because they’re woefully inaccurate now, he said. (Participants at the gathering consumed more than the maximum recommended amount at dinner last night!)

Another key shared responsibility in water resources is water quantity – water rights.

“We have a number of groundbreaking co-management relations,” he said. Among these are Lake Roosevelt with the Colville and Spokane tribes, the Yakima River with the Yakama Tribe and the upper reaches of the Nooksack River with the Lummi and Nooksack tribes.

“The Lummi and Nooksack tribes took this on,” he said. “They’re the ones who have led us here.”

Brigid Payne of the Department of Fish and Oceans Canada said that the bilateral process with first nations is a cornerstone of their relationship.

She described the federal Aboriginal Aquatic Resource and Oceans Management and the Pacific Integrated Commercial Fisheries Initiative.

Management plans for Fraser River sockeye have shown a true commitment to long term sustainability, and this year’s huge returns seems to be nature’s powerful way of saying, “You guys are doing the right thing.”

Graphic recording of yesterday’s discussion

September 27th, 2010

Graphic facilitator Timothy Corey has been working with the Coast Salish Gathering since 2007, recording the minutes of the gathering in beautiful murals.

Here he documents the discussion from the first day of the 2010 Coast Salish Gathering.

See more of his work on his Flickr feed.

Live blog from the Coast Salish Gathering

September 26th, 2010

We will be blogging live from the Coast Salish Gathering on Monday and Tuesday.

A draft agenda is available on the Coast Salish Gathering website.

Location Moved

September 24th, 2010


The Swinomish Community Center is required for a funeral, so the Coast Salish Gathering will be moved to the Swinomish Casino Bingo Hall. The address for the Swinomish Casino is 12885 Casino Drive, Anacortes, WA.