A Historical Alliance Takes a Stand against the Coal Industry

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Katrin Lorenzen
Revelstoke National Park in British Columbia. Nine tribes from the region joined together to protest against a coal terminal in the Salish Sea that would threaten the wellbeing of all communities.

On Thursday, May 14, an unprecedented alliance took a stand against the North American coal industry. The historic gathering brought together nine tribes from Montana, Washington, and British Columbia to oppose a permit for what would be North America’s largest coal export terminal. All nine tribes signed a declaration urging the US Army Corps of Engineers to deny a permit for the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal in the Salish Sea by the company SSA Marine.

Tribal leaders argued that the proposed terminal would threaten their communities, cultures, and the shared future of all people. The coal development would infringe upon treaty-protected resources and sacred sites, thus breaking obligations that the US has agreed to in protecting the tribes’ rights.

The tribes are joined by grassroots activists and organizations such as the Sierra Club in their efforts to resist coal development in the Pacific Northwest. The May 14 event was followed by a day of meetings with local and national environmental groups and representatives from the faith-based community to discuss the greater impacts of coal development on all local residents.

At a press conference following the event, Reuben George, Ceremonial Sundance Chief of the Tsleil–Waututh First Nation, expressed the spirit of the alliance bridging tribes and greater communities, saying “we collectively stand together to protect what we love; the earth is a part of who we are.”