Wall Street v. Coast Salish: Cherry Point conflict enters electoral arena
United States in focus ⬿

Wall Street v. Coast Salish: Cherry Point conflict enters electoral arena

Support our journalism. Become a Patron!
October 11, 2013

Note: This essay was originally published as two articles in People Land Truth 2013–White Power on the Salish Sea, and Anti-Indian Hate Campaign. Although comprised of news articles and op-eds that ran this spring in IC Magazine, it has current relevance in that it ties them together in a way that makes the topic more coherent and comprehensible. As noted in the Cascadia Weekly yesterday, Pacific International Terminals and Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railroad are now laundering funds through the Washington Republican Party to donate to pro-coal candidates for Whatcom County Council–-the body that will decide whether the coal export facility proposed for Cherry Point will receive the necessary permits. The background on the key players in this escalating conflict between Wall Street and Coast Salish nations seemed worth revisiting.


When most people think of white power, they imagine men in white hoods burning crosses. While few would think of men in pinstripes burning cigars, in reality that is where white power resides. In Whatcom county, Washington state — the Northwest corner of the United States bordering the Salish Sea — white power is no longer expressed through cross-burnings; it is demonstrated by overt attacks on tribal sovereignty, combined with covert assaults on environmental protection, the Growth Management Act (GMA), and Indian treaties. In the Wall Street/Tea Party convergence supporting the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) coal export facility at Cherry Point, white power has emerged as a threat not only to endangered species like the Orca whale and Chinook salmon, but as a threat to the continued existence of democratic functions of governance. While anti-democratic organizations like the California-based Pacific Legal Foundation presently play an auxiliary role in the GPT fraud, they played a more prominent role in the 1990s Wise Use movement reign of terror. As noted at the Cascadia Weekly on April 16, 2013, the property rights groups Pacific Legal Foundation provided counsel to have a history of violence.

As Goldman Sachs, Peabody Coal, Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad, and Pacific International Terminals (SSA Marine) combine to undermine democracy and human rights on the shores of the Salish Sea, Americans from coast to coast had better sit up and take notice. When it comes to white power, the Wall Street/Tea Party convergence signals a terrifying new world order.

Until recently, many in Whatcom county thought the orchestrated hype around siting a coal shipping terminal at Cherry Point was a foregone conclusion. After all, how do you stop Wall Street and the AFL-CIO from stampeding local and state authorities into supporting one of the largest (and fraudulent) energy export schemes in our country’s history? One little Indian tribe with a burial ground and treaty fishing rights in the middle of the project doesn’t amount to a hill of beans in that league. But as the New York Times reported on October 11, 2012, maybe 57 tribes in the form of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians do. Judging by the numerous anti-environmental, anti-Indian, anti-democratic initiatives by Wall Street, organized labor and the Tea Party over the last few years, one might come to the conclusion that Lummi Nation — the small Indian tribe that once owned the San Juan Islands — holds more cards than once thought.

In Fall 2012, Northwest Jobs Alliance (Wall Street/AFL-CIO) began taking out newspaper ads extolling Gateway Pacific Terminal as a model expression of non-Indian beliefs and values. The Northwest Jobs Alliance November 22, 2012 ad — published two months after the Lummi Nation ceremony at Cherry Point — served as public relations advance work for their photo op petition presentation at the Whatcom County Courthouse on November 27. On November 29 at the Gateway Pacific Terminal scoping hearing held in Ferndale by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the Northwest Jobs Alliance paid day laborers to wait all day in line to hold speaking slots for supportive public officials, labor leaders and GPT consultants in order to dominate the public testimony.

Correcting the flawed speaker allotment system at subsequent public hearings to allow more diverse points of view, the Corps of Engineers and Washington Department of Ecology established an online website for public comment on the Gateway Pacific Terminal Environmental Impact Study. In January 2013, the website was hacked and temporarily shut down.

In a January 17, 2013 letter to the editor of The Northern Light, Harold Roper of Birch Bay — a seaside resort community adjacent to the Boundary Pass shipping lanes serving Cherry Point — noted that in December 2011, the City of Ferndale had relinquished its claim to Nooksack River water in order for Public Utility District #1 to use it in supplying Pacific International Terminals with 1.9 billion gallons per year for their proposed Cherry Point operation. According to Mr. Roper, Ferndale residents now rely on inferior groundwater. In May of 2013, an informant to this author stated that Ferndale residents are complaining of bad tasting water and rising utility bills.

As noted in an April 2013 article about Gateway Pacific Terminal at Whatcom Watch, local small city mayors — at a roundtable sponsored by League of Women Voters — responded to accusations of improprieties in their premature, formidable support for GPT by stating it was immaterial. According to the author, Sandra Robson, SSA’s consultant Craig Cole had been so successful in stampeding local elected officials, chambers of commerce, Port and Public Utility Commissions over the previous three years, that the improprieties had already become normalized. Commenting on a January 2011 Small City Caucus meeting where SSA and Cole came to speak, Robson observes that the mayors of Lynden, Everson, Nooksack and Sumas wrote letters of support for GPT in February 2011, before any facts about the proposal were made public–one year before the SSA GPT permit application was even submitted.

In April 2011, says Robson, SSA consultant Craig Cole — accompanied by labor leaders and the president of the Whatcom Chamber of Commerce — attempted to bully the Blaine City Council into falling in line. While the Blaine mayor had signed a letter of support in June 2010, the council wanted to know what the adverse impacts of GPT might be. Undermining their legitimate concerns, the small city mayors had already sent a letter — co-signed by Northwest Central Labor Council, PUD #1, Craig Cole, former Bellingham mayor and Puget Sound Water Quality Authority member Tim Douglas, and then Washington State Senator Dale Brandland — to the Washington Public Lands Commissioner, Peter Goldmark, asking him to weaken protections for the Cherry Point Environmental Aquatic Reserve.

While three of America’s wealthiest corporations were busy manipulating local pawns like small city mayors and labor thugs through their project mouthpiece Craig Cole and Seattle PR firms like Edelman, professional hatemongers from the nationally prominent anti-Indian organization Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) were busy mobilizing resentment against tribal governments and treaty rights.


In April, May and June 2013, regional conferences were held throughout the US to launch a campaign against Indian tribes. The sponsor of the regional conferences, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance, is the foremost anti-Indian organization in the country.

While the April 6, 2013 conference on federal Indian policy issues held in Bellingham, Washington sounded innocuous, the fact it was sponsored by Citizens Equal Rights Alliance signaled the start of another anti-Indian hate campaign. While CERA hate campaigns focus on different issues in different regions, what they have in common is a mission to destroy American Indian governance, culture and society.

As the registration form states, the conference was for learning about how to fight American Indian fee to trust, casino gambling, water rights, land acquisitions and sovereignty. CERA vice chair Butch Cranford of Plymouth, California and CERA board member Elaine Willman from Hobart, Wisconsin were featured speakers.

Another speaker at the April 6 conference in Bellingham, Philip Brendale, who identifies himself as a Cowlitz Indian, was also prominent — along with the Tea Party — in opposing the Yurok Tribe in the Northern California Klamath River Basin water dispute, as was Elaine Willman. He has considerable experience fighting tribal sovereignty, as evidenced by his U.S. Supreme Court case against Yakama Indian Nation. Interviewed by Tea Party activist Kris Halterman on a live KGMI radio podcast with Willman, Brendale said tribal fishing rights, indeed all Indian treaty rights, should be eliminated.

Brendale’s wife is a lobbyist and media expert with Eagle Forum, a far-right Christian organization. Using Indians who oppose tribal sovereignty as speakers is a key strategy of CERA, giving them cover from accusations of being white supremacist. As Brendale admits in a video where he was helping to fight the Nisqually Tribe, though, his mission is to, “take down federal Indian policy.”

Lana Marcussen, CERA legal counsel, asserts destroying tribal sovereignty is a civil rights struggle to free the Indians. Marcussen is a states’ rights, anti-sovereignty advocate active in fighting tribes in California.

Local organizers for the anti-Indian conference were CERA board member and Minuteman Tom Williams of Lynden, and Skip Richards, a Bellingham consultant with a twenty-year history of anti-Indian organizing as both a Wise Use Movement property-rights advocate and a collaborator with Christian Patriot militias. His photo on his LinkedIn page is from a militia recruiting meeting he hosted at the Laurel Grange in October 1994.

Skip Richards got his start as a merchant of fear in the early 1990s when he was a paid agent provocateur of the Building Industry Association, which had teamed up with the Washington Association of Realtors to undermine the Growth Management Act. From 1992 to 1996, the building industry funded and organized field agents who went on a rampage inciting vigilantism against Native Americans and environmentalists in 14 counties, culminating in the arrest and conviction of eight individuals on federal firearms and explosives charges.

Sometimes the spear-carriers, those who believe the hoax and get excited enough to threaten opponents, are looking for a windfall economic opportunity. But the only ones who usually profit from these hate campaigns are the social movement entrepreneurs and their industry backers. What you’ll often see in their aftermath is a rightward or criminal shift in public policy rules and regulations as a result of the consolidation or seizure of political power. In a July 1996 High Country News interview, Skip Richards stated the two things he needed to know in politics were, “who to threaten and who to bribe.”

The other local anti-Indian activist on the event billing was Marlene Dawson. In January 1995, as a Whatcom County Council member, Marlene — wife of a realtor on the Lummi Indian Reservation — urged U.S. Senator Slade Gorton to “drastically cut Lummi funding” on behalf of her and other white fee land owners. The Fee Land Owners Association (FLOA), in which Mrs. Dawson was active, had been at odds with the tribe over the sovereignty of Lummi Nation to manage water resources within its own jurisdiction. To the white developers, this interfered with their ability to make easy money at the expense of the tribe. Had Dawson succeeded in her vindictiveness, drastic cuts to Lummi funding could have imperiled such services as Head Start for their kids, as well as elder care programs.

Noticeably absent from Wise Use, CERA and Tea Party propaganda is the notion that treaty rights are indeed property rights. While they are collective rather than individual rights, the land, water, fish and environment that supports Northwest American Indian culture and society is very much their property. As the supreme law of the land, along with the U.S. Constitution, Indian treaties explicitly delineate tribal properties that cannot be damaged. When industrial and other development projects impair treaty-guaranteed tribal property, the federal government is obligated to intervene on their behalf.


On September 20, 1992, CBS 60 Minutes aired a segment on the violence of the industry-backed Wise Use Movement, focusing on the threats, intimidation, and assaults against parents and community groups in the US who raised concerns about water and air pollution. Caught on film were movement provocateurs Chuck Cushman and Skip Richards, as well as movement propagandist Ron Arnold — all based in Washington State — and interestingly, David Macintosh, White House staff representing President Bush at a national Wise Use gathering. On behalf of President George H.W. Bush, Macintosh congratulated them for the role they were playing in shaping US policy. As Mr. Macintosh put it, “This is an important movement—one that reflects the American people’s desire to have sensible government.” Part of the footage of Clean Water, Clean Air was shot in Whatcom county.

In the Pacific Northwest, the threats in the early 1990s were coming from folks stirred up by the real estate development industry against environmental protection and Indian treaties. In the Fall of 1994, the Committee for Environmental Justice (a militia front group) was hosted by Skip Richards at the Laurel Grange. Days after the militia revival, there was a cross-burning and shotgun attack at a nearby migrant workers’ camp.

This situation played out on numerous Indian reservations throughout the state, especially those with waterfront. Puget Sound was notorious for battles between tribes and developers. United Property Owners of Washington (UPOW), which later became One Nation United (ONU), was the umbrella lobbying and litigation organization for the whites. Former U.S. Representative Jack Metcalf from Langley on Whidbey Island served on UPOW’s board. Senator Gorton had made a name for himself in the 1970s as the Washington State Attorney General who led the fight to deprive Washington Indian tribes of their fishing rights guaranteed under the 1855 Treaty of Point Elliot.

After an armed stand-off on the reservation between Lummi Police and Whatcom County Sheriff’s Deputies at the site of a Lummi Nation well, anti-Indian organizers stepped up their activities. Several Indian youth were harassed and assaulted in the nearby Ferndale School District, and placard-carrying contingents from FLOA, stirred up by Skip Richards’ and his new partner Kris Heintz’ propaganda equating property-rights with civil rights, became regulars at Whatcom County Council meetings.

In May 1995, Ben Hinckle, who’d opened for Chuck Cushman at a Rome Grange Wise Use revival, hosted a Citizens for Liberty meeting at Squalicum Harbor Center. Citizens for Liberty — an amalgam of adherents of the John Birch Society, Liberty Lobby, and other racist organizations — was waxing as a militia recruiting group, drawing interest from members of FLOA and other property-rights fanatics. The new political climate boastfully created by the Building Industry Association had clearly signaled it was time for these dormant Minutemen to prepare for action.

In September 1995, KGMI radio talk-show host, Jeff Kent, led FLOA representatives Jeff McKay and Linnea Smith in an hour-long diatribe against the Lummis. When U.S. Senator Gorton stepped up his attack against Native sovereignty, Washington Environmental Council and the Washington Association of Churches joined the Lummis in condemning this unconscionable act of revenge.

In November 1995, Citizens for Liberty sponsored a talk by Ron Arnold, the hate-mongering Wise Use propagandist from the Center for the Defense of Free Enterprise in Bellevue. Arnold, merchant of fear Alan Gottlieb’s partner, is a not so subtle master of violent rhetoric, who covers himself by claiming his calls to “kill the bastards” (environmentalists) are metaphorical. In December 1991, Arnold had met with Building Industry Association officials Art Castle and Jim Klauser to discuss formation of the Washington Property Rights Network, in order to fund and organize a fake rebellion.

Shortly after, in May 1992, Castle, Richards and real estate developer Bill Geyer incorporated CLUE — a property rights group — that promptly paid Chuck Cushman $1,000 to incite heckler-filled crowds to storm Whatcom County Council meetings. In June, the Whatcom County Republican Central Committee endorsed their efforts, and a year later Castle and Geyer started the Keystone Forum Political Action Committee that captured seven out of eight local council positions in elections that November. In March 1994, Chuck Cushman returned to help with the militia recruiting drive.

Movement entrepreneurs Arnold and Cushman — national players who mobilize ruffians to carry the banner for industry — generate violence toward Indians and environmentalists from coast to coast. According to former Western States Center researcher Jonn Lunsford, crimes including “animal mutilation, property damage, death threats, arson, assault and battery, bombings, and attempted murder” follow in their wake. In May 1988, Cushman was the featured speaker at Protect America’s Rights and Resource’s national convention in Wisconsin, held to oppose honoring Indian treaties. Shortly after his 1988 appearance, Indian fishermen there were assaulted and shot at by white sports fishermen.


On November 11, 1995, a group calling itself the Washington State Militia met at the Rome Grange just outside Bellingham. As it turns out, they had already scheduled John Trochman to come speak in the near future at the Bellingham Lakeway Inn. At the time, John Trochman was the leader of the Militia of Montana, a heavily armed outfit that wasn’t above robbing banks, storming county jails to bust out their buddies, and engaging in shoot-outs with state police when pulled over for traffic infractions.

After intervention by church and human rights leaders in Bellingham and Seattle, the management of the Lakeway Inn cancelled the Trochman reservation, forcing the militia recruiters to relocate their event to Mt. Vernon, thirty miles south. With this advance warning, human rights activists in Skagit County merged with those from Whatcom County in protest on the day of the big event.

Eric Ward of the Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment — a regional human rights organizer — was terrified with, “the idea of militias being able to utilize the electoral force of Wise Use groups” to legitimize racist based policies regionally and nationally. In Whatcom, Snohomish, and Chelan Counties, this epidemic was in full swing.

July 1996 brought several surprises to Whatcom county, not the least of which was a press conference by the U.S. Department of Justice, announcing the bust of eight local individuals for involvement in bomb-making and illegal modification of firearms into fully-automatic weapons—machine guns.

In August 1996, after four and a half years of cover-up by the Bellingham Herald, the Wise Use/militia connection was finally revealed in the Portland Oregonian. This was soon followed by an article in the Anacortes American, the first coverage by a paper inside the Washington State legislative district Skip Richards hoped to represent.

In October, trailing distantly in the polls, candidate Richards chose to play the race card in the general election, insinuating in his campaign literature that the Indians (presumably through guarding their treaty rights) were undermining all that the white people had struggled to build in Whatcom County. His associate Bill Geyer’s County Executive campaign also flopped, in spite of the Herald’s refusal to connect him to Wise Use. The third member of the local trio who’d initiated the faux property-rights rebellion (as well as a key figure in the Washington Property Rights Network that subverted elections in 14 counties) — Building Industry Association executive Art Castle — relocated to the Kitsap Peninsula.

On January 15, 1997, the trial of eight Washington State Militia members began in federal court in Seattle. One of their secretly recorded conversations, introduced as evidence, included a discussion about a route through the heavily wooded Whatcom Falls Park to the rear of the home of Whatcom Human Rights Task Force Chair Damani Johnson. Some of the defendants were set free due to a juror’s inability to follow the judge’s instructions; others went to prison for four years. Bellingham Herald crime reporter, Cathy Logg — who courageously covered the arrests and had her home and computer broken into — eventually moved away.


In 1996, when Washington State Senate candidate Skip Richards was exposed in the Anacortes American as an anti-Indian militia organizer, I met Ken Toole of the Montana Human Rights Network. At a conference on the politics of land and bigotry earlier that year, I met Rudolph Ryser of the Center for World Indigenous Studies. Between the two of them, my education on anti-Indian racism took off.

In 2000, while I was preparing for graduate school in San Francisco, the Montana Human Rights Network published its groundbreaking report, Drumming Up Resentment. This report, along with Rudolph C. Ryser’s Anti-Indian Movement on the Tribal Frontier, provides scholars and activists with essential knowledge on the topic. As the anti-Indian movement now launches a national offensive to terminate Indian tribes in the United States, these two reports are valuable resources for those just encountering this longstanding form of racism.

As Ken Toole observed, the anti-Indian movement is racist at its core because of its clearly articulated goals. The movement in America, he says, is as old as the arrival of the first Europeans. While the modern anti-Indian movement advocates the continued elimination of Indian people, he says, “in this last iteration, the elimination is not by the murder of individuals, but by the termination of their structures of self-governance, the taking of their resources, and by defining them as part of ‘the rest of the country’ through forced assimilation.”


In an excerpt from Drumming Up Resentment, Ken Toole examines the organizational infrastructure of the anti-Indian movement:

“Over the last thirty years, tribal governments have become more sophisticated about asserting themselves through treaty rights. This evolution has often created controversy. Those who have opposed tribes, fearing Indian governance, have coalesced themselves into the anti-Indian movement. Groups like the Interstate Congress for Equal Rights and Responsibilities (ICERR), Totally Equal Americans (TEA), and the Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) have served as national umbrella organizations for groups that have grown out of local and state controversies. These national groups have focused on federal policy by lobbying in Congress and litigating in the federal courts. However, the power and effectiveness of these national groups is linked to the local anti-Indian groups.

In addition to “vertical integration” from local to state to national organizations, the anti-Indian movement also developed “horizontal integration,” or ally relationships with groups and activists in other political and social movements. The anti-Indian movement is allied with the anti-environmental “wise use movement.” There is extensive cooperation between anti-Indian groups like CERA and wise use groups like the Alliance for America.

Loose affiliation between anti-Indian groups and the Religious Right is also evident primarily in the electoral arena and state legislature. Finally, despite their best efforts, anti-Indian activists often stumble into the overt white supremacist movement. It is not a surprising stumble since both movements have racist ideas at the core.”


In the conclusion of Drumming Up Resentment, Ken Toole remarked that the public education system is doing a woefully inadequate job of providing information to students on Indian issues. The result, he says, is that citizens are increasingly ignorant about treaty rights and tribal sovereignty. This, he warns, makes them far more vulnerable to the politics of resentment offered up by the anti-Indian movement.

Capitalizing on that ignorance, right-wing media is able to help hate campaign organizers mobilize that resentment into the electoral arena, riding on fear and anger stoked by ideologues and pundits into seething “white rage.” With industry funding and movement organizing, that racist rage becomes an effective, albeit lethal, anti-Indian pathogen. Given this scenario, the following outline of how one right-wing radio station strategically stoked anti-Indian resentment is perhaps instructive.

Looking at the sequence of the Wealth Wake Up show on KGMI, leading up to the April 6 CERA conference, you can see that on 3/23/13, show host Dick Donohue had on Craig Cole, the mouthpiece for Gateway Pacific Terminal, promoting the hope for economic salvation posed by the proposed coal export terminal (opposed by Lummi Indian Nation). Next, on 3/30/13, Donohue interviewed CERA board member Tom Williams, who promoted the untrue idea that Indians have citizenship privileges without paying taxes. On 4/6/13, Donohue and Tea Party activist Kris Halterman interviewed CERA board member Elaine Willman live at the conference, who characterized tribes as casino bullies using their financial muscle to take half the water.

On the Radio Real Estate show at KGMI on 3/23/13, show host Mike Kent also interviewed Craig Cole, who promoted the idea that supporting Gateway Pacific Terminal was a patriotic duty to save the American economy. While Cole did not say it, the implication is that Lummi Indian Nation opposition to GPT thus makes them unpatriotic, or, un-American.

On the November 3, 2012 episode of the KGMI show Saturday Morning Live, hosted by Tea Party activist Kris Halterman, CERA board member Elaine Willman was interviewed by phone from Wisconsin, stating that, “tribalism is socialism, and has no place in our country.” On 3/30/13, Halterman had Willman back on her show to promote the idea that the state, feds, and tribes are secretly colluding to take down Washington state, and that the CERA conference in one week’s time would teach citizens, “how to take on tribal governments.”


Hate campaigns like the one launched at the April 6 anti-Indian conference are highly scripted public dramas, well thought out and planned in advance. Not only are logistics for the four regional CERA conferences in Massachusetts, New York, Northern California and Washington aimed at pressuring Congress to terminate Indian treaties and abolish Indian reservations, but CERA’s messaging is also fine-tuned and disseminated via hate talk radio and other media in order to alter the state and local political climate. That way, anti-Indian organizers can be sure media consumers and potential anti-Indian activists are well-indoctrinated in anti-Indian propaganda, which in turn can be used in electoral campaigns.

By conducting trainings and workshops where anti-Indian messaging is drilled into participants before and after major media events, pre-existing prejudices against Indians can then be exploited and nurtured as new recruits become involved in hate campaigns. By staying on the messaging developed in these trainings, local media and concerned citizens are disarmed and cornered into discussing Indian policy on anti-Indian terms.

When employed effectively, most of the public is thus led into debating public policy without questioning the anti-Indian claims embedded in their messaging. Since the anti-Indian movement relies on distorted interpretations and inaccurate information repeated ad infinitum, this means hate campaigns have the advantage of mobilizing resentment around false, inflammatory and largely unchallenged information. Because anti-Indian activists are trained in messaging and their opponents are not, anti-Indian activists act intelligently while their opponents react emotionally. Intelligence wins over emotion every time.

Playing to people’s fears over property, water and taxation, anti-Indian entrepreneurs are able to turn that fear into hate. Once the furor is sufficiently stoked through anti-Indian revivals, that hate can be mobilized into exacting revenge. It’s a tried-and-true formula.

Our collective well-being thus depends on systematic prophylaxis exercised by Civil Society. Part of that prophylaxis consists of studying anti-democratic movements and countering the psychological warfare deployed by hate campaigns of such notorious phenomena as the anti-Indian movement. While many in the movement are mistaken or misinformed, the malice of the movement is the message we need to talk about. Debating the anti-Indian talking points is pointless when their behavior is the issue. We can never solve public policy problems when we don’t first circumscribe organized political violence.

When our opponents are committed to terminating indigenous self-determination, that has to be the message we promote. When we begin to examine the racial and religious prejudice underlying their hate campaign, all the other issues become secondary. Until we do, the only messaging people will here is theirs.


In 2000, when the Montana Human Rights Network published its report Drumming Up Resentment, the United Nations General Assembly was still seven years away from passing its Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which, in essence, extended the international human rights regime to include indigenous peoples. As such, many Americans were still struggling with the conceptual difference between civil rights and human rights.

With the benefit of hindsight, we now know the difference. Nevertheless, the insight of the MHRN report’s author Ken Toole remains essential to the indigenous peoples’ struggle today. In fact, as the anti-Indian movement in the United States launches a national offensive to terminate Indian tribes, Toole’s analysis is fundamental to our understanding of the current conflict:

“The context in which most people place words like racism, prejudice, and discrimination is the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s. In that context, an oppressed minority, African Americans, sought inclusion, a piece of the pie, equal opportunity and integration.

The struggle for civil rights in Indian country is different. It rests more on sovereignty and autonomy than on inclusion and integration. The legal framework created by the civil rights activists of the 1950s and 1960s sought to secure equal treatment within existing institutions and law. Indian rights activists, by and large, seek recognition of their right to develop their own law. Basically, they seek recognition of a right to self-determination. This difference is confusing and gives the anti-Indian movement an advantage in the rhetorical arena.

Taken at face value, the anti-Indian movement is a systematic effort to deny legally established rights to a group of people who are identified on the basis of their shared culture, history, religion and tradition. That makes it racist by definition.”


Regarding the April 6 anti-Indian conference and the Tea Party/CERA hate campaign, the anti-Indian history of the organizers is useful, but needs to be updated. An analysis of the funding and organizing structure of the campaign needs to be conducted. Information and intelligence has to be gathered.

That said, there are some things we do know. By their own admission, CERA held their regional anti-Indian conference in Bellingham, Washington because Washington state is a key battleground state over tribal sovereignty. As founder of the six-campus Northwest Indian College, the Lummi Indian Nation is a key player.

Lummi opposition to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) project of Goldman Sachs and Peabody Coal Company, on lands formerly part of their reservation, makes the Lummis a prime target. The fact that conflict over Nooksack River Basin water allocation is a factor in the feasibility of the water-intensive GPT coal terminal application, means tribal sovereignty is a key objective for these Wall Street heavies to undermine.

Mobilizing far-right Christian anti-Indian activists as spear-carriers only makes sense. When you add in the AFL-CIO patsies supporting Wall Street for the couple hundred GPT jobs, you have a ready-made hate campaign with labor muscle.

Add to this the fact that there are no organized and functioning human rights organizations in the area, the Wall Street/Christian Right coalition has an open field ahead. The only thing that might stop them is intervention by Governor Jay Inslee. Since his office is targeted for swarming by anti-Indian activists seeking to pressure him to end state accords with Indian tribes, he will unavoidably be involved in this troubling development. How he responds depends in part on what civil society does. If groups like Washington Association of Churches and League of Women Voters have one thing they ought to do over the next year, it is this.


Something to keep in mind with exposing the CERA hate campaign and their national offensive to terminate tribal sovereignty is that while the fuel might come from the energy industry, and the organizing will likely come from the building and real estate industry, the foot soldiers in the Tea Party come from the Christian far-right. Like all religious fanatics, these are highly-motivated, unreasonable adversaries. They will stop at nothing to have their way or disrupt the lawful and orderly public process.

They will swarm public meetings, attempting to intimidate public officials and their political opponents. They will threaten editors and publishers. They will maliciously harass anyone who dares to question their integrity.

In short, they are domestic terrorists. The only problem is that law enforcement often only acts once there’s a corpse.


As tribes across the US gear up to do battle with the anti-Indian movement, communications will comprise the front line of defense. Understanding how this war of ideas can be fought effectively will make the difference between winning and losing.

One of the most common mistakes of communications in conflict is to respond to attacks in a defensive manner, which violates the core principle of not repeating the talking points of your enemy. Repetition imprints itself on the public mind, and is in turn repeated by media. Developing the essential understandings you wish to convey, and sticking to them, is an effective strategy; responding to attacks allows your enemy to set the terms of discussion.

Another core principle is not to provide a platform for your enemy. Some PR people think it is a demonstration of fairness to invite your enemy to debates and discussions. What they should be doing is finding ways to discredit their enemy and subvert their operations against them. I can analyze almost any PR release and find violations of these principles; PR people study mass communication, but not netwar.

Tribal governments will be embroiled in psychological warfare, and the principles of psywar are rarely understood by public relations staff. This is a separate function from investigative research, but a related one.

When developing research budgets, it might help to point out that investigative research in social conflict is not a one-off; it is a continuous flow of information generated before, during, and after netwar. This flow can begin with a briefing based on experience, proceed to an estimate of the current situation (after scoping it out), continue with a full report once researchers hit critical mass on essential information, and then generate periodic updates through monitoring media, events, communications and activities of the opposition.

The format of presenting essential understandings in short video segments is an effective way of engaging the public online. Tribal governments might want to consider producing something — in advance of announcing initiatives — in order to guide subsequent public discourse.

Wise Use entrepreneurs will probably offer their fundraising and organizing services to the anti-Indian organizers. They have a lot of experience at raising money and mobilizing bigotry, and appear to be looking for a new political opportunity to use their skills. They should not be underestimated.


The first online report of the CERA/Tea Party hate campaign was on April 6, the day of the anti-Indian conference. That report at Get Whatcom Planning, a blog by Western Washington University professor and environmental lawyer Jean Melious, notes the active involvement of the Tea Party and KGMI radio in promoting the event to attack the treaty rights of the Lummi Nation and Nooksack Tribe.

In Melious’ April 28 report on right-wing misbehavior at the county planning commission, she expresses her horror at the hyperbole used by a property rights attorney – advocating for official lawlessness in the form of nullification. Nullification is a states’ rights theory, used to oppose the federal Civil Rights Act, that has roots in the states of the Confederacy. In this instance, it is being advised by Wise Use attorney Jack Swanson as a tactic to oppose Washington State’s Growth Management Act, but nullification is also a recent topic of discussion among the Washington GOP Liberty Assembly, where Constitutionalists affiliated with the Christian Patriot Movement merge with Ron Paul devotees to promote white supremacy and anti-Indian activism. The Republican Liberty Caucus of Washington is chaired by Sandi Brendale.

The only daily newspaper in Whatcom county, the Bellingham Herald, covered up the right-wing crimes in the 1990s, thus providing no accurate institutional memory as community safeguard. While reporting on the 1996 arrests of Christian Patriots by the U.S. Department of Justice, the Herald never exposed the ringleaders behind the climate of fear, that led to mobilizing resentment in the form of militias. Having provided cover for real estate and building industry officials, the Herald laid the groundwork for the 1990s coup and the subsequent consolidation of political power the Tea Party and white supremacists — with the organizing assistance of CERA — now hope to build on.

In my 2003 book Blind Spots, I described how the combination of media collusion and corporate corruption led to the corrosion of governance. While the reign of terror that Wise Use operatives like Skip Richards, anti-Indian ideologues like Elaine Willman, and Tea Party activists like KGMI radio host Kris Halterman promote might not play out the same this time around, it nevertheless portends a further corrosion of community, and for the Lummi Nation, a looming threat to the safety of the members of their tribe.

As I noted in my memoir, when Eric Ward at Northwest Coalition Against Malicious Harassment in 1996 stated he was terrified with the idea of militias being able to utilize the electoral force of Wise Use groups to legitimize racist based policies regionally and nationally, he wasn’t referring to some vague threat. He was talking about a reality on the ground. As the Tea Party and Wise Use hate entrepreneurs try to capitalize on fear over water rights and economic anxiety today, Wise Use ideology and anti-Indian rhetoric again threaten to throw the region into turmoil.

A community’s incapacity to deal with social phenomena like hate campaigns creates a popular psychosis where such aberrations as the Tea Party, Citizens Equal Rights Alliance and Christian Patriot Militias are rationalized as normal, which, unfortunately, becomes a self-fulfilling interpretation. To break out of this popular psychosis, citizens of Whatcom county and Washington state need a more realistic estimate of the situation.

When most people read news like this, they assume that someone else in their community will take care of the problem. Law enforcement, human rights groups, churches, some government agency. Were it only so.

We're fighting for our lives

Indigenous Peoples are putting their bodies on the line and it's our responsibility to make sure you know why. That takes time, expertise and resources - and we're up against a constant tide of misinformation and distorted coverage. By supporting IC you're empowering the kind of journalism we need, at the moment we need it most.

independent uncompromising indigenous
Except where otherwise noted, articles on this website are licensed under a Creative Commons License