Indigenous occupation of the state capitol ends after days of protest and ceremony

Ed. Note:  This is an edited version of a story written January 11, 2018 by Janine Gates and published in her blog, Little Hollywood. The occupation ended at about 4 a.m. on Thursday, January 11 when law enforcement officers arrived and gave the women two minutes to leave. State workers dismantled the tarpee and told the occupiers that it could be retrieved later that week. 

Drumming, singing, prayer and ceremony, along with the burning of sage and cedar, continued on Wednesday, January 10th as several indigenous women occupied the land and spent nights in a tarpee on the Washington State Capitol Campus.

Robert Satiacum, Puyallup, and others spoke with representatives [of the government] and showed them a copy of the Medicine Creek Treaty.

Eva Ingram, Santee Sioux Niabrara Nebraska, of Seattle had been sleeping in the tarpee. She runs her own company, Independent Two Spirit Media, and explained to Little Hollywood why she was there.

“We are here so we can pray over this land—as indigenous people we look to our women as life givers and life bringers. We as women teach our young ones the ways that we should live, and bring them up that this land is for you, and you are to respect it, the four-legged, the two-legged…and that’s the power that the life bringers and life givers hold. It’s more power than any male will ever understand. So that’s something that we needed here. There’s never been in history seven women to occupy a tarpee or teepee or any kind of structure in front of a Capitol Building in the world. No matter what happens, we made history,” she said.

Ingram and supporters say 2018 is the time for action against the climate crisis.

The occupation was also to bring awareness of the Liquid Natural Gas (LNG) plant being constructed by Puget Sound Energy at the Port of Tacoma on Puyallup Tribal land. The plant, which will serve natural gas customers and maritime transportation needs, does not yet have all the proper permits. Authorities say the permits will continue to be obtained until it is scheduled to open in 2019.

Dakota Case, Puyallup, explained how the LNG will further threaten the Puyallup tribal way of life.

“We live there, right at the mouth of the river. The Tacoma City Council allowed PSE to do their own environmental impact statement and the site is on top of a 70 acre solvent plume —a Superfund site—that’s over an aquifer…I don’t know how they got the dirt samples clean enough to present them…it’s on top of a leaking arsenic site and they’re trying to figure out how to clean it up. How they got past everything is beyond me.

“The toxic air pollutants will emit 81 pounds of ammonia a day at peak, but they only did the environmental impact statement at 50 percent…It goes up into the air and will come back down right into our water. The air quality in the City of Tacoma is so polluted that we have one of the highest cancers rates in the State of Washington.”

He said that in four more years, there will be no more salmon.

“Our elders are coming forward and saying it’s a salmon estuary, that’s stated in the land claim settlement. The pH balance is already off in our water – our fish are having a hard time accumulating at the mouth of the river before they head up stream. They’re not able to spawn so we have to gut them to get the eggs out of there and fertilize the river manually instead of them letting them do it the natural way….Only twenty five percent of our salmon run is original, the rest is imported. The fish farms and the LNG are a threat to us so we’re trying to set up a government to government to negotiate. 

“Enough is enough—we’re protecting our part of the Salish Sea….”

As our interview concluded in the still of night, the rhythmic sound of rain and indigenous drumming and singing got louder.

Case encouraged Governor Jay Inslee to come out from his office or the nearby Governor’s Mansion to talk with them, hoping the drumming and singing was loud enough for him to hear.

For more photos and stories about the indigenous occupation, and a previous interview with Janene Hampton, go to Little Hollywood,
www.janineslittlehollywood.blogspot.com