Puyallup tribal member and Water Warrior Dakota Case joined up with Greenpeace this week to bring attention to the liquefied natural gas (LNG) plant at the Tacoma Tideflats. Riding aboard the Greenpeace vessel Arctic Sunrise, Dakota and the ship’s crew passed through the Blair Waterway on June 25, tailing barges from Canada loaded with tar sands in order to document the devastation these ships and shipping lanes bring to indigenous people and lands on the Salish Sea. Greenpeace is making a film on the subject, and Dakota was on board to give voice to what the Puyallup people, and all Coast Salish people, are facing with fossil fuels. The film is due to be completed in a couple of weeks.
“We know the Port of Tacoma is one of the biggest buyers of the tar sands and one of the biggest distribution points,” Dakota said.
With the Tacoma LNG plant being a fossil fuel scourge on Puyallup ancestral lands, Dakota, Tribal Councilwoman Anna Bean and Puyallup elder eco-activists Ramona Bennett and Clyde Bill met with Greenpeace representatives about the Puyallup Tribe’s ongoing efforts to keep it away from their reservation.
“That was such an opportunity – the platform they gave the Puyallup Tribe to voice our message and also talk about the tar sands, the U.S. Oil refinery, LNG – everything that’s a threat to us in petrochemical pollution, that’s a threat to our way of life. They gave us a stage to put us out there to the rest of the world, and their platform is huge,” Dakota said about Greenpeace and the documentary project.
Initially, working with Greenpeace almost didn’t happen until the air was cleared concerning the organization’s stance on treaty rights. At the meeting, Ramona Bennett asked outright whether Greenpeace would protest the Tribe moving forward with efforts to thin the number of seals decimating salmon in Puget Sound, which threatens a Puyallup basic food source for body and soul. “They said, ‘We stand with your treaty rights. We fully support the treaties,’” Dakota said, and this applies to how Greenpeace views Makah whale-hunting as well. “They said they stand with the Makah and support them.”
Dakota said the Arctic Fox crew’s hospitality toward him was extraordinary. “The crew was so nice, making sure I was good and everything was okay.” He said he especially enjoyed the peacefulness of being out on the water. “There was no noise pollution, no traffic, nothing. It was just me, the water and the ship.”
Activists in Tacoma have not let up on pressuring Puget Sound Energy to take its LNG plant off the Puyallup Tribe’s ancestral lands, having refined tactics from protesting at the site to going where PSE executives meet to confront them face to face – at the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, shareholders meetings, etc.
“If PSE is somewhere, we’re right there,” as Dakota explained. “If they show up anywhere, we’re there.”