Xwe’chi’eXen: Where the Big Picture is a Very Small Fish
Members of the Lummi Nation, including many fishers by boat, gathered on the beach today at Xwe'chi'eXen (Cherry Point) to further draw their line in the sand. Today, their objectives became clear: 'First, to defeat the proposed SSA project. Second, to acquire Cherry Point, have it placed in Trust status.”
Cliff Cultee, LIBC Chairman, and others spoke to the need to work together, protecting the fish and the environment. Lummi Elder, Mary Cagey, shared a spirited perspective on her life, her cultural heritage and the importance of Cherry Point for the Lummi people.
Indeed, Cherry Point is a crucial location in Lummi history and their story of creation. One can only imagine the historic value of the herring resource at Cherry Point - once about half of the total herring production in Puget Sound. Now, the herring are all but gone, an important food stock no longer available to the people.
Today's talk was more focused than an earlier event. The contest over Cherry Point has struck a tribal nerve. Tribal members feel betrayed and in danger. Their way of life is at stake and they know whose agreements not to trust.
You can't really blame them. Local tribes ceded lands to the U.S. government in 1855, but retained the right to fish, hunt and gather on their usual and accustomed grounds. That promise has a hollow ring where giant balls of herring once swarmed, their fecundity feeding the entire ecosystem of the Salish Sea. The tribes bargained their land to an administration that has managed land-use, regulated the environment and permitted pollution until the region's most prolific herring spawning grounds is virtually barren. It has become obvious the sum total of that management spells profits for polluters, but only inexorable deterioration for the tribe. Not such a great deal.
Today's event emanated from the Lummi's Sovereignty and Treaty Protection Office, where the strategic thrust of the Lummi's sacred duty is now taking shape. Meanwhile, other members are in Washington, D.C., working to see that Cherry Point is recognized as a Heritage Site. The beach at Cherry Point, where the Lummi story begins, reportedly features archeological sites including ancient stone fishing weirs.
The Lummi effort at Cherry Point underscores an important question: When will it be for the fish? So far, it appears you can destroy anything if you can create a job or make a buck. That business-as-usual has already wiped out half of our region's herring. WIll we wait until the salmon, seal and orca disappear, too? How will that bode for us?
Maybe the tribe is right and the time has come to focus on restoring the herring instead of permitting more pollution.