For Lummi Nation, a PDX Stop; for Mayor Hales, a Photo Op

A massive totem pole travels up the Columbia River with First Nations protesters, pauses in Portland for a blessing.

By Alex Madison August 28, 2015

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Mayor Hales speaking of his disapproval for Pembina and other proposed fossil fuel export terminals, as the crowd burst into applause, hoots, and hollers of support. Photo credit: Alex Madison.

Packing the pews at SE Division’s St. Phillip Neri Parish this past Monday was the tribal leadership of British Columbia’s Lummi Nation—along with local nonprofits and, briefly, Mayor Charlie Hales. 

The tribal representatives, on a 6000-mile journey along proposed Pacific Northwest fossil fuel export routes, brought to Portland a touring, 20-foot totem pole as a symbol of protest against the many proposed fuel transport terminals. Local proposals include a new Portland of Portland terminal, Pembina Propane, and an expansion of the already operating crude Arc Terminal.

Mayor Hales, speaking to an estimated 500 people at the ceremony, singled out Pembina for particular disapproval. It wasn’t always so: Hales once supported the Pembina project, but this past May changed course. (He’s also now on record pushing the city to fully divest from fossil fuels and environmentally questionable companies; in August, Hales appointed a committee to draft environmentally responsible investment policies for the council to consider.)

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Mayor Hales with Paul Lumley, Executive Director of the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, one of many attending nonprofits on record protesting area fossil-fuel export proposals. Photo credit: Alex Madison.

In the wake of Hales’s approach to the recent ShellNo protests in St. Johns—seen as fence-straddling to some—the Lummi Nation rally provided an opportunity for the Mayor to re-green his brand. “I believe we should not participate in that,” he stated Monday, referring to Pembina, and: “we should as a city put our money where our heart is.”

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For the blessing: hands placed on the totem pole, carved with creatures and land features of the Pacific Northwest. Others who could not reach the totem pole joined hands. Photo credit: Paul Anderson, Lummi Nation.

The Mayor then departed, missing the ceremony's main event: a group blessing of the massive totem pole outside the parish doors. While hundred of hands stretched toward the brightly painted red cedar carving—a physical symbol of shared responsibility—Douglas James of the Lummi Nation invoked the impact of continued fossil fuel reliance on the rising generation: “It’s all about these little ones we see in our midst. They’re the ones who are going feel the impacts, the repercussions.”

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