Lummi Totem Pole Journey: Draw the Line Against Coal Export

Written by Jessica Zimmerle
Outreach Coordinator for Earth Ministry 

Dear Friends of Faith,

The Lummi Nation have boldly said NO to coal export, and they are asking YOU to stand with them.

Over the last month, Earth Ministry has been partnering with the Lummi Nation in opposition to the construction of coal export terminals in Washington. My recent blog post entitled, “Sacred Lands, Sacred Waters,” describes the significance of Cherry Point, or Xwe’che’eXen, for the Lummi – how this land is the source of their spiritual connection to their living ancestors and how fishing in these waters are the source of their cultural lifeway.  

Jewell James and the Lummi House of Tear Carvers are known nationwide for their work in carving and delivering blessed healing totem poles to suffering communities, such as the one that stands in New York City for the children of all who were lost on September 11, 2001. They have now carved a healing totem pole, Kwel’hoy, meaning “we draw the line,” to raise awareness of their own suffering and unite all those who would be harmed by the construction of this terminal. Over the last week, the Lummi have traveled to Montana and back with Kwel’hoy along the entire path of the coal train tracks, stopping for blessings and ceremonies with other native tribes and community members.

I was fortunate to attend two stops along this journey, one on the lawn of the capitol building in Olympia and another at St. Leo Church in Tacoma. Both ceremonies were emotionally moving and extremely powerful. The Olympia ceremony was a beautiful display of native ritual as multiple tribes shared songs and blessings to support the Lummi. The presence and words of Billy Frank were especially inspiring as he is legendary for his activism in securing tribal fishing rights under the Bolt Decision of 1974. In Tacoma, the ceremony was graced by songs by the native youth drumming and singing group of Chief Leschi School and participation by attendees in a traditional cedar water blessing of the totem pole.


At both events, master carver Jewell James used the familiar phrase, “no means no,” to passionately declare that the Lummi have said no to coal, and that we must do the same. Directly addressing the faith community in Tacoma, James stated that “if you believe that God has given you this garden to protect, then it is your constitutional right to fight for it.” He emphasized the power of our words and actions; how we can reach millions if we all share this story and how important it is for us to implement our rights and advocate against coal from a moral, scientific, and legal standpoint. To do so, please contact the office of Senator Cantwell, the Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, in defense of Lummi treaty rights: 

Phone: (206) 220-6400
or email Sally Hintz, Sen. Cantwell’s Northwest Regional Directory:

The final Washington stop for the Lummi Totem Pole Journey is at Cherry Point tomorrow, Friday September 27 from 5:00-6:30. After that, Kwel’hoy will be delivered to the Tsleil-Waututh Nation in British Columbia, who are also fighting to protect their own land from the devastation of oil pipelines. The gifting of this totem pole, and the journey it has undergone, unites all afflicted communities along its path with Native Tribes and First Nations in saying kwel’hoy, or “we draw the line” against coal export and tar sands pipelines. For more information about this final stop, please click here!

In peace,

PS: here is a great article about the Olympia stop!


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