In Solidarity with Original Nations and Peoples

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Ralph Solomon shows the group a geoduck during a tour of the Lummi Shellfish Hatchery.


From April 25–May 2, 2015, the UU College of Social Justice ran our first program focused on “Solidarity with Original Nations and Peoples” based in Bellingham, WA. Our group of 16 people from across the country learned about the history and current impacts of U.S. settler colonialism on this land’s original peoples, and the specific struggle of the Lummi Nation in Northwest Washington to protect Cherry Point, a sacred site threatened by a proposed coal terminal. If the terminal is approved, ships carrying over 48 million metric tons of coal to Asia annually would traverse the fragile Salish Sea and interfere with Lummi treaty fishing rights.

Our official partner for this program was the Lummi Nation Service Organization. This program was possible based on the long-standing relationship of solidarity between the Bellingham Unitarian Fellowship and Lummi Nation. The work of this congregation serves as a model to others around the country seeking to pursue right relationship with First Nations whose land they inhabit.

Participants have expressed that they are seeing with new eyes as they return home, and they have many plans to stand with First Nations—not only in climate justice struggles, but whenever and wherever they are called to act.

Statements from participants of the “Solidarity with Original Nations and Peoples” Delegation:

I can’t find the words to adequately express the depth of my gratitude for having had the privilege to participate in six days of presentations by and about Lummi Nation. It was beyond gracious to host our large group at Lummi Gateway Center as well as the tribal headquarters, Lummi Youth Academy, Northwest Indian College and Coast Salish Institute.

It is one thing to read books and websites. It is another thing altogether to spend time with so many people in the places that hold deep historical and contemporary meaning, and understand directly from those affected how the structures of settler colonialism have pushed and ripped at Lummi wholeness. What I take away from this week is a profound respect for the resilience, resourcefulness, and administrative brilliance of generations of Lummi who continue to fight not just to survive but to thrive, to build for the future and honor the past in both traditional and contemporary ways. 

—Jesse Ford, Philomath, OR

I was privileged to be a part of the “Building Lummi Solidarity” week. This was a life-altering opportunity for me. I was deeply impressed by the many passionate, compassionate, creative, connected and effective people we met with. I was similarly impressed by the challenges they have overcome and yet still face. Though I thought I was conscious of how colonization had brutalized indigenous peoples, my consciousness was widened to a much greater depth than I could have imagined. Suffice to say its personal now. 

—Gary Piazzon, Coupeville, WA

I’ve always felt that something was missing in my work; a connection to local, indigenous tribes. I believe that all of the current injustice issues in the United States are rooted in the original offenses to First Nations, which was driven by the Doctrine of Discovery. However, I have felt inadequate and ashamed to reach out to local tribes because I am a white woman of settler descent. After my experience visiting Lummi Nation and witnessing the work of their community, I feel encouraged to reach out to a local First Nation in Massachusetts that has been actively involved in fighting for justice, the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe. The memories and lessons learned on this trip will fuel my work for many years to come.

—Laura Wagner, Marlborough, MA

As a retired teacher, I am committed to sharing facts about Native history: “Doctrine of Discovery,” the truth about boarding schools, broken treaties, fishing rights, and burial rights ... and most importantly, the rights of Sovereignty! I do not take this commitment lightly!

—Cherri Mann, Port Townsend, WA

I have tried to find the right words to describe all that I have gained from my week with the Lummi Nation. My cup of new knowledge is absolutely running over. I will use the information our Lummi partners shared as my inspiration for action: to speak out against the Cherry Point port expansion and the coal trains through their lands, for curriculum reform in our Idaho schools so that the true Native American story is told, and for recognition of all treaty rights when they are threatened.  As my tribute to our Lummi partners, I will pledge to do my best to live up to the standards they have set for me.

—Pat Rathman, Moscow, ID

This post originally appeared on the Unitarian Universalist College of Social Justice's blog. UUCSJ is one of the collaborating organizations of Commit2Respond.


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    In Solidarity with Original Nations and Peoples

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