“to keep safe all things under the sky, that we are connected with all things through our traditions and ways, so we must protect our land, our people, and our waters.”
Ezekial Serrano Quinault
My internship with Washington Environmental Council (WEC) started two weeks after an oil train derailed in Mosier, Oregon, causing an emergency evacuation of more than 300 people in nearby communities. Both Oregon and Washington are facing an increase in proposals for transporting more oil and coal by train and tanker vessels through the greater Pacific Northwest, putting communities and waterways at risk. WEC, as a member of StandUpToOil Coalition, is working to stop proposed oil terminals in Vancouver, Grays Harbor, and an oil-by-rail expansion by Shell Refinery in Anacortes. WEC is also working on local, state and federal policies to ensure the safe transport of the oil coming to Washington’s five refineries located in Puget Sound. For the past three weeks, I’ve been working on a march and rally event hosted by the Quinault Indian Nation. The Quinault Indian Nation is located at the mouth of the Quinault River on the outer coast of Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, only miles away from the newly proposed oil terminal in Hoquiam. Last year, the Quinault Indian Nation tribal president Fawn Sharp represented her people at several international climate talks worldwide, presenting current impacts of climate change, including rising sea level and disappearing glaciers, that are threats to every tribal member’s daily life.
On this past Friday, the Quinault Indian Nation hosted a march and rally in the city of Hoquiam to protest against the proposed oil terminal in Grays Harbor. This proposal would bring oil by rail and vessels in Grays Harbor, placing local environment at risk. My job as an intern with WEC involves phone-banking residents in nearby counties to come and support the Quinault Indian Nation and gathering signatures for a petition directed to the city of Hoquiam and Washington Department of Ecology to stop oil terminals to be built in Grays Harbor. The Quinault Indian Nation claims its treaty right with U.S. federal government to prevent this oil terminal to be built in Grays Harbor.
This is not just a fight by the Quinault Indian Nation. It is a fight joined by more than 600 people, including local fishermen, local elected officials, kayaktivists, and five other native tribes from Washington and Oregon. I cannot change the world by myself in eight weeks, but together as a community, we can make our voice heard.