In Canada, the birthplace of the “Idle No More” movement, six members of the Cree tribe are nearing the end of a 1000 mile trek to the nation’s capital to protest the enduring poverty of indigenous Canadians.
For marchers closer to home, the protest route on Thursday was barely four miles long. But the cause was no less urgent. About 300 of them walked drummed, chanted, and sang from downtown to the Port of Seattle. “It’s like a more profound, righteous version of Occupy,” one of the protesters remarked.
Members of the Luumi tribe, who led the march, say their ancestral burial ground at Cherry Point, near the Canadian border, is threatened by SSA Marine’s plans to build a coal shipping terminal to China on the land. The march ended at SSA Marine’s office.
Brit Reed, a 24-year-old Evergreen College student who hails from the Choctaw Nation in Oklahoma, listed off the reasons she came to protest: the coal will expose the surrounding community to health risks, including asthma; the environment will become more toxic for fish and wildlife; burning coal causes global warming. “And it’s just really disrespectful, digging up someone’s sacred site,” she said.
In a statement last fall, the company said it takes the concerns of the Luumi tribe seriously and argued the terminal will meet “all of Washington’s stringent environmental standards and will be an excellent source of family-wage jobs for all of Whatcom County, including Lummi members.”
At the rally before the march, Olivia One Feather of the Standing Rock Nation was unambiguous in her message for the company: “This is unacceptable behavior on every level of humanity. . .We will not stop until you withdraw from these plans around dirty coal. The health of all of us around the Pacific Northwest and the proposed route is not on the table for your profit.”