Media statements and backgrounder follow.

Coast Salish Nation says “No” to energy development and oil transport through Salish Sea

Swinomish, Wash.—The Coast Salish Nation unanimously agreed last week to work together to address the transport of crude oil shipments, by rail and sea, through their territories.

“We live in a pollution-based economy, and for hundreds of years there have been toxins and pollution dumped into the Salish Sea, poisoning our resources and our people who have called this place home since time immemorial,” said Swinomish chairman Brian Cladoosby. “We call to action the federal, state and provincial governments to work with us to restore and protect the Salish Sea through trans-boundary science, and reform of law, policy and regulations that balance environmental protection and economic prosperity so we may all continue to call this unique place our home.”

Tribal chiefs, chairmen and councils united to protect the Salish Sea from development of energy projects and the transport of crude oil. Delegates at the Coast Salish Gathering endorsed the work of tribes to protect their environment, natural resources, culture, sacred places and economic sustainability as the first people of their territories. Participants lent support to the Northwest Indian Fisheries Commission in the fight for Treaties at Risk, British Columbia First Nation of Tsleil-Waututh in the protection of the North Salish Sea, the Lax Kw’alaams Band for the protection of the Skeena River, the Lower Elwha Tribe for dam removals, and the Lummi Nation, Swinomish, Tulalip and Squamish Tribes in the fight to the fight to protect treaty rights and stop the proposed Gateway Pacific Coal Terminal.

"We consider it a sacred trust," says Squamish Nation Chief Ian Campbell. "Protecting sensitive land and marine habitat is priority one for the peoples of the Coast Salish Nation. Together, we say ‘no’ to crude oil shipments—by rail, by pipeline, by sea."


Media Statements

“It’s about the protection of our treaty and aboriginal rights across the Salish Sea. The transport of the most destructive and unsafe resources across our lands and waters, through my back yard, and putting my people’s way of life, their health and their future at risk is not acceptable. And there is no mitigation that is acceptable. Montana Senator Daines may view this as a treaty-against-treaty issue between Northwest treaty tribes and the Crow tribe, but this is a transportation issue. If the Crow tribe wants to extract their coal as a treaty right, then they can address that with the Bureau of Indian Affairs. But let me be clear; they do not have a treaty right to carry their coal across my treaty land and waters and put the health of my people at risk, destroying my treaty today and for the future of Lummi Nation and all Coast Salish tribes and nations.”

–Jay Julius, Councilmember, Lummi Nation

“There is no better time than the present to state that our Mother Earth calls for legal representation, that Mother Earth needs an attorney to protect her. In the past 150 years, since the Nation States of Canada and the U.S. made their claims to our territory, we have seen the thriving Salish Sea of our ancestors degraded by pollution, development and environmental mismanagement. We have been here since time immemorial; and it is our sacred responsibility to ensure we protect our way of life for generations to come“

–Ray Harris, Co-Chair of the First Nations Summit

“We have removed two dams from the Lower Elwha River so our salmon can return home, but where will our salmon go if the Salish Sea is dirty? I speak fish, as do all of you, and with one voice we are unified for the salmon and the Salish Sea—for today and for generations to come.”

–Russ Hefner, Vice Chairman, Lower Elwha Klallam

"The Tulalip Tribes stand with our brothers and sisters of the Coast Salish Nation in opposition to further infringement on the shared resources that have sustained our people for thousands of years. What we are being asked to do is turn the other way as our precious marine and fresh water resources are put into peril, for who knows how long, for a few dollars today. The risk of a catastrophic spill, by rail or vessel, is too great while the culture and future of Coast Salish peoples hangs in the balance."

–Mel Sheldon, Chairman Tulalip Tribes


The Coast Salish Nation covers more than 645,000 acres and is the ancestral territory of British Columbia Coast Salish Nations and Western Washington tribes. The Nation shares family ties, culture, political alliances and a desire to protect valuable resources in the endangered eco-region. The Coast Salish people have always been related by languages and bloodlines, and have lived in the mountains, shorelines and watersheds of the Salish Sea.

At a May 2015 meeting held in Swinomish, Wash., the Coast Salish Nation unanimously agreed to try to stop all crude oil shipments through their territory. Delegates came to a consensus on several basic principles:

  • We will seek our rightful seat at the United Nations as the People of the Coast Salish Nation. We call upon the Canadian and United States governments to engage with us as a sovereign nation. We call upon the National Congress of American Indians and Assembly of First Nations to support our efforts to protect our treaty and aboriginal rights of the Coast Salish Western Washington Treaty Tribes and British Columbia First Nations.
  • We are not against the growth of a prosperous economy. Rather, we are committed to ensuring that those who do business with the Coast Salish Nation do so in a sustainable manner that protects our sacred resources and way of life, consistent with our treaty and aboriginal rights.
  • Presently there is no plan or mitigation to protect aboriginal and treaty rights from the impacts of these new, unrefined fossil energy projects. The Coast Salish Nation has determined that these projects are unacceptable in our Coast Salish Territory and we believe that there are no mitigation measures that could guard our resources against catastrophic impacts and loss—even where risk is minimized by applicants or government.

Presently the U.S. and Canadian federal, state and provincial governments have some legislative, parliamentary and congressional representatives moving to make decisions that will destroy the treaty and aboriginal rights that are upheld in the Constitutions and by court decisions.

For more information, visit: and find us on Facebook at Coast Salish Gathering

Coast Salish Gathering Coordinator
Debra Lekanof

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