Our elders have always spoken of the sanctity of Xwe’chi’eXen, Cherry Point. They taught us to protect it for our generation, and for the generations that will come after us. It is a sacred obligation that all Lummi Nation members have, and one that the Lummi Indian Business Council takes very seriously.
On May 9, we celebrated a great victory when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers denied permits for a shipping terminal at Cherry Point. The Corps recognized that this ancient village site and home to our fishing waters is too important to our schelangen, our way of life, to develop.
Afterward, we wrote to Public Lands Commissioner Peter Goldmark to ask that he follow the Corps’ lead to permanently protect Cherry Point by adding these sacred 45 acres of land to the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve. In 2000, the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) recognized the area needed protection because of its significance to environmental resources and aquatic lands.
The Corps was clear in its determination that a lease on the site for a terminal would violate Lummi’s treaty rights. There is no longer a need for DNR to consider leasing this “cutout”; it should add the area into the reserve.
By expanding the reserve, we will take a big step toward permanently protecting the waters and tidelands that are part of our usual and accustomed fishing places. This 45-acre area is protected by the Treaty of Point Elliott of 1855. All federal trustees have an obligation to uphold the treaty rights of the Lummi people and to protect this culturally significant and sacred place.
Adding these acres to the Reserve also aligns with DNR’s own goals: connecting habitats, sustaining ecological processes and protecting aquatic resources and habitat. Multiple studies conducted during consideration of the Gateway Pacific Terminal showed the potential for significant, negative impacts on the ecology of our area if it were subject to industrial development.
DNR will accept public comments on expanding the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve until November 18 at email@example.com. We’re asking the public to support this addition.
The Reserve is home to diverse habitat like eelgrass and kelp beds that are important food sources and essential cover for fish and shellfish. It is a rich and productive environment for many marine species, including salmon and crab, that the Lummi people rely on for commercial, ceremonial and subsistence.
Fishing is our life, our cultural practice and an important part of our economy.
As long as leasing these acres to developers remains a possibility, our Lummi values and way of life are at risk. We trust that DNR will do the right thing, follow the Corps’ lead, and expand the Cherry Point Aquatic Reserve in order to protect our treaty rights, our ability to harvest and to maintain our sacred places.
Tim Ballew II is chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council.