Report on ‘Community Connections’ Dinner

Note: I am writing this description of last night’s meeting for our many (~1800) full or part-time fellow Lummi Island residents and property owners who couldn’t  attend last night’s dinner (this is NOT a ‘media’ report!), as well as any Lummis who are curious about what happened.  I took few notes and may have missed some things that happened not gotten the order of all events right.  As always, corrections, additions and comments are welcome.

About 170 islanders attended the dinner -‘discussion’ hosted by Lummi Nation leaders last night.  Many fewer Lummis attended.  The format was not  conducive to fostering interpersonal interactions or  discussion between islanders and tribal members, in contrast to islanders’ expectations based on the Lummis’ advertising the dinner  as an opportunity for ‘community connections.’

A group of Lummis offered a blessing song before dinner and another song afterward.  An announcement was made that another lease negotiation meeting between tribal and county teams would occur next week, Wednesday, April 6.

After a bountiful salmon dinner (completed by deserts brought by islanders) everyone was offered the chance to submit questions in writing on 3X5 cards, questions that were to be addressed after slide presentation by Richard Jefferson, Director of Lummi Planning and a key member of the Lummi Tribal Ferry Task Force (negotiating team).

Mr. Jefferson’s presentation repeated the Lummi Nation’s talking points about the ferry, ferry negotiations and Haxton Road safety.  He listed safety problems that tribal members believe are associated with ferry operations and traffic. He focused wholly on the Lummi’s perspective, without acknowledging the County’s spending over $6,000,000 tax dollars in recent years, plus $1.5 million more state and federal funds,  to improve reservation road safety. Neither did Jefferson acknowledge the many public expressions of concern for safety on Haxton Road by individuals and groups of Lummi Islanders over the past year, or our desire to work together to improve safety.

At one point during the presentation, Jim Thomas, a respected Lummi Island elder and Tlingit native, rose and asked for the opportunity to speak, but he was not given the chance to do so, nor was any other islander.

Following his presentation, Mr. Jefferson addressed a few very broadly restated issues  that Diana Bob, tribal lawyer and member of the Lummi negotiating team, had organized from the submitted cards.

One issue concerned Haxton Road safety, its sources and who should pay for improvements. Jefferson stressed that the Road was especially unsafe for pedestrians around Gooseberry Pt and that adding sidewalks was critical and really should be part of any Gooseberry dock lease package with the County, but that Lummis would find some way to install sidewalks because they are key to safety.

Mr Jefferson, when asked how many islanders have actually caused accidents, especially fatal ones, said that he could not recall that statistic. He said he could remember the names and family members of everyone who had been killed on Haxton Road.

Jefferson said that in recent negotiations, the county has come up with some new, creative and less costly ways to improve safety on Haxton, including possibly reducing the speed limit or adding a mini-roundabout at McKenzie Drive.  In responding to the question of who should pay for such improvements, he said that it was easier to get funding for jointly submitted projects (tribe and county, for example).

He thanked the many islanders who commented on their appreciation of the tribe and its invitation to the dinner, and for sending letters and cards of support to the tribal leadership over the past year.

In responding to a request to acknowledge the many positive contributions of islanders to the Lummi Tribe over the years, Jefferson said the tribe employed many islanders and appreciated their help.  One islander’s card was read noting that Polly Hanson had started and developed the NWIC library over many years, and that islanders were instrumental in getting a Head Start program for the tribe.

Jefferson responded to a request for more information about the marina in relationship to the ferry by saying it was a long-term goal of his and most tribal members to have a marina at Gooseberry Pt for fishermen and maybe sports fisherman or other boats, with or without the ferry.  He described various designs his Planning Department has explored, including ones that could incorporate a county ferry landing.

In responding to islanders who expressed fear for their own safety if the ferry were required to go to Bellingham (i.e., if the tribe did close the Ferry on April 11), his response was that this was not the Lummi’s responsibility, but the County’s and those who operate the ferry.

Diana Bob said that the tribe is not blaming islanders for all road accidents. She also said that she feels that the County negotiating team is doing a good job of representing islanders’ interests.

At the very end, after many people had left, Steve Schneider asked  (per the Lummi’s email inviting islanders to dinner) what the tribe’s plan for April 11th was, if negotiations hadn’t been concluded by then, since blocking the ferry would hurt islanders lives. Jefferson said that LIBC hadn’t yet talked about that and they still hope negotiations will conclude before April 11. The Lummis have initiated conversations with Ferndale school district about letting kids get to school and allowing emergency runs of the ferry.

Cliff Cultee, Chairman of the Lummi Indian Business Council, concluded the meeting with appreciation for those who had helped organize, cook and arrange the meeting and dinner, the singers, and islanders for attending. He expressed hopes for other cross-community events in the future.

The meeting ended around 9 PM. The tribe provided bus shuttle service for the many islanders who had walked across. Many islanders caught the 9:20 ferry, and the ferry captain and crew kindly added an extra 9:40 run, allowing most islanders to get home before 10 PM.

20 thoughts on “Report on ‘Community Connections’ Dinner

  1. I would like to add 2 points. First, Richard Jefferson indicated that the safety issues were largely resolved and that the remaining issue was the county’s unwillingness to fund part of the marina. So safety isn’t the only problem. Second, in the ferry cabin on the way back Steve said that in the confusion of the meeting breaking up one of the Lummis indicated that they would seek an injunction rather than attempt to blockade on day 61 if negotiations broke down. I didn’t hear that myself because I had already left.

  2. To clarify what Anne is referring to:
    After I asked Richard Jefferson what would happen on April 10, (if the Lummi Nation would attempt to blockade the road or the ferry’s ability to dock), he answered that though they had not really discussed it, they would seek an “injunction” first rather than a physical blockade. He talked around the subject for some time before saying this.
    I think it was obvious that even though in the email invitation this was a question that would be answered at the meeting they were trying to avoid bringing up the subject.
    Except for the food, and ceremonial music, I was really disappointed with the Lummi Nation presentation last night. There was very little discourse, and not much new information- just the same old spin of the facts. To bad, since it could have been much more productive if the Lummi Nation representatives would have allowed.
    Another thing I noticed that even though Mr Jefferson stated at the fisrt gathering (at the Beach School) that the Lummi tradition was to stay as long as it takes to finish a meeting (and they did that at the Beach School), at last night’s meeting they couldn’t wait to get us back on the ferry, and avoid those nasty facts and questions! Just an observation, maybe I’m wrong.
    Thanks- Steve Schneider

    • I am also disappointed there was not more person to person sharing. Maybe they reallyDO want a divorce. Its important to remember that this is not physically possible as we are so close and share the waters if not the land, also remember in ANY group there are differing views and perspectives, this is why diversity needs to be protected. This is where solutions come from when the status quo has a problem. Pancakes anyone??? Maybe PLIC would help pay for a business meal? maybe Lummi Island can offer bad food [sugar] and good neighboring. If only we could agree we would have the best of both. Even if there was no ferry to Gooseberry we will have some kinds of relationships with each other, on the water , in town. kids in school, When Lummi Nation stops working [however formal] toward good relations with us as human beings,They would be going against their own Traditions. It has happened though history with many nations and religions before, the only solution I see is to keep trying,….because I don’t want to be the one who stops asking for better relationships

  3. With such good will and high expectations, it is difficult to read the report and comments. However, the art of adverse negotioation, settlement and resolution is based on a delicate balance between
    “want of gain and fear of loss” by the parties.

    The tribe is clearly motivated by high expectations of gain and the Islanders have fear of loss. Not a winning strategy for the Islanders.

    My apologies to tribal supporters, but it is simply unacceptable for the Tribe to threaten the Islanders with termination of Ferry services when they are expecting free tax payer money for a new $40 Marina. “No Ferry -No Marina ” looks good on bumper stickers, picket and yard signs.

    Our elected officials need to be held accountable by demanding a fair and equtable resolution of our 90 year old “right of way in use” ferry landing or withdrawl and defeat of the Tribes new Marina. Litigation also needs to be on the table.

    For those of you who think this is harsh, What do you think the Tribe would be doing if our roles were reversed ? Unfortunately, people and organizations only take you serious -when you get serious.

  4. Wynne, thank you for taking the time to update us on what transpired at the dinner with the LN on Monday night.

  5. When one is invited to dinner one has some expectation that one will dine with one’s hosts. This was not the case at the Lummi Nation dinner. Mr. Jefferson explained that the buffet line would have been too long if Lummi Nation members had joined Lummi islanders, so the former were fed separately – kind of defeats the purpose of the meeting – unless it was never intended that we actually have the opportunity to talk to our neighbors. In fact, there were very few Lummi Nation members in evidence – perhaps twenty? I wonder how Lummis feel about being excluded? Or perhaps they were invited, but chose not to come. Whatever, the effect was awkward and felt contrived to prevent the free flow of information, not encourage it. I think it is fair to say, that the dinner meeting only made the distance between people greater and feelings more conflicted. It is difficult to see how that can be called a success.

  6. As Mr Jefferson said , tt is up to the LIBC what action they ultimately decide on, so what someone said during or after the meeting is irrelevant..

    It seems that the Marina design is still at the ‘pie in the sky’ design stage and will depend on a lot of factors … which will include how many tax dollars they can squeeze out of the County, State and Federal Governments.

    At present it’s the Cadillac design and the design that blocks and solution as it does NOT include the ferry in it … as Mr Jefferson clearly stated at the meeting. It’s obvious his talk that he will do anything he can to stop the ferry use at Gooseberry Point and will negotiate with that as his top priority.

    He gave us no facts at the meeting only the usual “the elders said … the tribe doesn’t want …. the islanders are the cause of …. ad infinitum.”

  7. I would be very interested to hear any questions islanders asked that were not answered.

    Mine was, “NOAA tsunami modeling shows that waves propagated from our expected earthquake will sweep up the Lummi and Nooksack Rivers, breaching dikes, returning the Gooseberry Point peninsula to the island of Chah-choo-sen – possibly for a long time. Beyond its potential contribution to business and tourism development, shouldn’t the Tribe acknowledge this advantage to having the ferry at Gooseberry Point?

  8. My wife Jennifer and I came away from the community dinner with Lummi Nation with a full stomach but a hollow feeling inside. The comment card approach was geared to ‘screen’ any potentially disturbing questions that the islanders had about the real issues here. I say real because the overriding emphasis on safety does not add up. What I heard was the concern about traffic safety on Haxton Way but the ‘funds’ requested from Whatcom County are for sidewalks, lighting, etc. at Gooseberry Point where no traffic fataities issues have risen. It seems to me that that those improvements are solely for the advancement of their marina project, which I assume has no monetary benefit to Whatcom County. Looks like a wolf in sheep’s clothing. If safety is the primary concern then putting up the suggested electronic speed signs and a regular presence of Lummi Police on Haxton Way could tangibily improve driver compliance with speed limits and detecting drivers under the influence. The other gut feeling I left with had to do with no mention of Lummi Nation’s responsibility for not honoring the previous lease agreement on a technicality that we all know is bogus. After all, the petition we all signed to our Congressional delegates was all about the BIA signing the previous lease and resolving this impasse. I know for a fact that this question was asked on one of those cards but it wasn’t even mentioned. The discussion was simply a monologue that queued their reasons for putting the entire problem on the backs of Whatcom County. We are not dealing with reason here and I’m frankly more than just a little annoyed at this point.

  9. I didn’t attend the dinner with the Lummis. While I enjoy eating salmon (pancakes too) as much as the next person, one pointless and redundant meeting is as much a waste of time as the next.
    Most Lummis, like most islanders, are good and honorable people.
    We can all work to maximize driver and pedestrian safety on and off the rez. Future marinas are in the future. Honorable people can work things out.
    But there’s no right to do a wrong thing. Greed and manipulation are greed and manipulation and enough is enough.

  10. friends, on both sides of hales passage … i have lived on lummi island for 30 years. one of my greatest pleasures in these years are the lummi nation people who are my friends. i find a deep beauty in their hearts, and a knowledge of the earth and sea that transcends most other people i have known.

    i am sad about the impact of european immigrants who have forced our lifestyle on the native people all across the western hemisphere.

    i have admired the lummi island people who have loved and worked with and supported the lummi nation and nearby salish people over the years. i am sad that we haven’t had more contact with one another as communities.

    whatever community issues are important for lummi nation people and lummi island people we have much more to gain from supprt and cooperation than contention. if the ferry, and lummi island drivers, and other aspects of lummi islander presence on the reservation we are willing to work as neighbors to resolve the issues. threatening to close access of the county ferry to lummi nation land reminds me of the cruel choices that our white ancestors made on native people. it is insensitive. in my estimation, judging from the wonderful lummi nation people whom i know, it does not express a salish heart or mind. i ask us all to live with kind hearts and understanding minds. there is not one issue that cannot be settled together. i love the lummi nation salish people. please, my friends and neighbors, show us that you love us. let us share our bountiful earth and sea. let us live easily & warmly in a very complicated world.

  11. After attending monday’s meeting, and then reading all the posted comments, as well as Wynn Lee’s observations, I have to say that I think every comment was accurate and just as I perceived it. I think that the dinner invitation was made before new talks were begun, and the tribe would have liked to cancel it but decided not to. I came away disappointed at being lectured to, without being given an opportunity for any real dialogue. I though Richard Jefferson may be a good man, but not very good at thinking on his feet in a public situation. I hope there are further opportunities to relate to our tribal neighbors in a more authentic way.

  12. For you, Tip. Here are two questions I submitted that weren’t answered.

    1. I’ve heard Islanders speak of supporting and collaborating with Lummi leadership, helping politically and with fund raising efforts to develop Gooseberry Point in a way that serves both communities, working toward a win-win outcome that includes a marina, a ferry landing, and Lummi owned business like a supermarket, a hardware store and restaurants that the Islanders would be happy to support. They seem to think that the LIBC is or would be receptive to this approach.
    I like the vision very much, but I wonder if these people are delusional. Is the LIBC warm to this concept?

    2. Most people have some awareness of the enormous crimes that were committed against the natives of North America: ethnic cleansing (in some cases, genocide); deliberate, systematic destruction of language and culture; displacement and theft of land on a monumental scale, usually under color of law. For this reason, a lot of people’s reaction to the current dispute is, “Bully for the Indians! They’re getting their due.” This might be my initial, gut reaction, if I weren’t close to the situation.
    Here’s the problem with this line of thinking. If Native Americans, and the Lummis in particular, are owed reparations – maybe they are – this debt is owed by The United States. It should not fall on the nine hundred residents of Lummi Island. A U.S. citizen, resident on Lummi Island, is no more liable for this history and its consequences than a resident of Brooklyn or Biloxi. What do you think?

  13. I find it curious that the County will spend $10 million to fix a bridge to 24 homes, but won’t spend $4 million to fix a bridge to 2,000 homes.

  14. A lot of disgrunted chatter.

    We hope and believe they are – honorable, good, reasonable and even love us- as we love them.
    When does the word denial, reality and protest come into the equation.

    At some point, if this does not end favorably and soon… The Islanders have every right to excercise the right of dissent and free speech.

    Imagine 100 Islanders and Others stationed every 200 feet from Exit 260 to Haxton Drive every Friday and Saturday Evening between 7:00 pm until dusk with Picket Signs …

    No Ferry = No Marina

    Why should the Lummi Nation and our Goverment support a Free Tax Payer Grant for $52 Million for a Lummi Tribal Marina and $16 Million Dollar in Road Improvments when the Tribe and Goverment cannot reasonbly faciliate the continuation of a Ferry Landing which has existed for 90 Years.

  15. Lummi Island is a Beautiful Place – It’s residents and owners are drawn to it – by it’s natural beauty, and solitude. The resident custodians are often characterized by their individuality, independence, sensitivity, free thinking and avoidance of an increasingly complex –if not fallen world. However, at the same time the Islanders are struggling with how to effectively respond or have an effective game plan to win – when the Lummi Nation and Whatcom County bring their troubles and power play to our doorsteps.
    As of 2010, there is 235 million dollars of real estate value in our shared name of “ Lummi Island” which has become increasingly embarrassing and tarnished by the Tribes interactions with the outside world. Contrary to the adage “We know the cost of everything but value of nothing“ The real value of the Island is not measured in dollars, but in the unique community of the “ Island” and each families story behind the numbers. We are Homesteaders, Fisherman, Artists, Farmers, Business Owners and Retirees who want and should demand to be respected and allowed to live our lives free from the troubles of beyond. All of us have a lot to lose by the recent unpleasantness. Unfortunately, all of us have become enablers by allowing Whatcom County and the Tribe to use and abuse us in their own ways.

    Don’t know how all of you are coping ? For me, it’s difficult to sleep for more than four hours per night and am becoming increasingly agitated by the anxiety over our future and simple un-justice of these events, not to mention the potential financial and emotional impact to residents, children and elders.

    We are becoming controlled by a group, contrary to their words, but evidenced by their deeds, as not wishing the Islanders and Whatcom County taxpayers good will. If the Tribe was smart and rational by normal business standards, they would seize the opportunity of leadership by being conciliatory and accommodate the 90 year ferry landing to demonstrate good community relations.

    The Lummi Nation has enjoyed significant economic benefits from Tribal self-governance and continuing free tax payer money, yet they choose to squander their political capital and potentially risk their public support by making outrageous financial demands by any reasonable standards, as well as alienation of local government, non-tribal residents and even long time supporters. Current academic reports are raising concerns over this trend among Tribal Nations in general, and have asserted that Courts of Equity and Congress, are becoming less supportive and have been reigning in, rather than expanding tribal rights.

    In contrast our own local government, in spite of their efforts and good intentions to settle this matter, seem to lack the conviction, strength or capital to stand up to the Lummi Nation. In addition, we are discovering that more and more of these costs are being creatively passed thru to the Islanders in the form of significant higher ferry fees over the past few years. We have become cannon fodder in this unjust power struggle, as some politicians declare these costs must be solely absorbed by the Islanders and not Whatcom County residents, in spite of the Islanders tax remittances going to support broader and growing public amenities thru-out Whatcom County.

    The Time may be at Hand – for the Islanders and other sympathetic Whatcom County tax payers to get serious and begin disrupting the Tribes ever-growing free tax payer grant applications, casino revenues as well as embarrass our State Officials to be more than “ The best government money can buy “ as so aptly stated by Tip Johnson in his previous articles. Contrary to what some of you may believe. I’m a supporter of tribal self-governance within reasonable boundaries. Financial and personal success for individual tribal members becomes a life changing event and is a long over-due experience for many tribal members who work hard , but need help. This is good public policy and benefits the greater good, but as some wise Islander posted a few days ago “ Enough is Enough” and the Tribe has demonstrated their indifference to the concept of reciprocal public good, in spite of the millions of dollars provided to them. Perhaps Tip Johnson and Others could help us in becoming effective community activists.

    Change the Name of this Island – to reflect the real identity and character of it’s current inhabitants and owners. The current owners need to define its identity separate from the Lummi Tribes growing
    self-destructive image of late. This name has not been forever as many of you know.

    If you have tuned into the broader public opinion comments outside of Whatcom County, the Lummi name has served us badly during this controversial period. Many people do not understand and are confused that we exist separate and distinct from the Lummi Tribe and are not owned or subject to their jurisdictional control.

    If we want and expect general public support, both now and in the future, outsiders need to understand who we are. The Islanders are a creative group of people who should hold a community vote to decide if they want a new name and what it should be. Have heard many suggestions such as Reef Net , Isla de Pachenco – as part of the San Juans Island heritage, Whatcom County , Mt. Baker etc. This may be controversial, but we desperately need to be recognized as a separate entity from the Tribe. It’s time to shake up the status quo.

    Contribute Money to PLIC or Whatcom County – a tax deductible restricted check for $1,000 has been forwarded to Protect Lummi Island Community –contingent upon them initiating legal action against Whatcom County and the Lummi Nation as Co-defendants to defend our 90 year old ferry right of way. If Whatcom County decides to legally challenge the Tribe, then the money should be transferred to Whatcom County to help them fund their legal costs. If they need more money, it will be freely given according to my ability, even if I need to find more work or sell assets.

    If we have 2,000 land owners or outside sympathetic parties, an equal match would create a $2 Million legal defense fund which is a good start. Perhaps a national law firm will take mercy on the Islanders and be willing to take on this case pro-bono or for filing fees-if it comes to pass. I’m certain the BIA or whatever tax payer funded agency who represents the Tribe, will be thrilled and happy to receive an injunction, summons and complaint or other appropriate legal action during these time of economic restraint , nation public interest and congressional scrutiny over how public funds are being spent.

    I hope and pray, that I have disrupted and disturbed each and every Island resident , tribal executive and tribal shill, who are undoubtedly monitoring this Island’s web site. It’s time for the Islanders to demonstrate to the Lummi Nation that they have something to lose and the Islanders are no longer going to be enablers and cannon fodder, unless this ferry dispute can be reasonably and mutually resolved at an equitable and fair price in the near term. Hopefully, Whatcom County will get the BIA’s signature this next time and have the Tribe sign a bullet proof affidavit they fully understand and will abide by the terms of the agreement as citizens and members of the United States of America.

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