Tag Archives: La-migra

Trump’s Games Are Destroying Immigrants’ Lives

For Immediate Release: February 15, 2018

Trump’s Games Are Destroying Immigrants’ Lives

(WASHINGTON)—Kica Matos, spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement, FIRM, issued the statement below after the Senate failed to pass the bipartisan DREAM Act:

“Millions of young immigrants’ lives have been turned upside down since Trump heartlessly ended DACA without a permanent legislative solution in place. And, instead of allowing a bipartisan group of Senators pass the most popular solution—the DREAM Act—he has acted like a wrecking ball, meddling in the negotiation process and destroying the delicate conversations that have focused on protecting the future of millions of lives at stake.

Sadly, too many Senators sided with Trump’s racist agenda and turned their backs on immigrant youth. They failed to stand up to Trump’s tactics and bring the bipartisan DREAM Act up for a vote. But, it is evident that his extremist agenda doesn’t pass muster—his plan was strongly rejected in the Senate today.

The fight for justice continues at the local, state and federal level. There is a solution to the chaos Trump created and it’s called the DREAM Act. Now America must stand up for what’s right and demand that Congress pass it.”



Trump White House is a Cesspool of Enablers

By Arturo Castañares / Publisher and CEO

Just when we thought the people around Donald Trump couldn’t get any worse at dealing with internal crisis, this week they hit a new low in handling the serious issue of spousal abuse.

Reports surfaced this week that the staff secretary to the President has been accused of physically abusing his two ex-wives, with one of them releasing a picture of her black eye she says was caused by one of the President’s closest staff members.

In today’s world of the #MeToo movement against sexual harassment, allegations of spousal abuse should be taken very seriously, especially when they involve a man that is working within the highest levels of our government.

You would think, or would like to believe, that the leader of the free world and his most senior staff would move quickly against anyone accused of physically abusing his spouses, but, the exact opposite happened.

It turns out that the White House and the FBI knew about this man’s history of abuse for months, and no one did anything about it until this week when the former wives finally spoke out publicly.

This man’s past was so bad that he could not pass the FBI security clearance check that is required of people working within the West Wing of the White House. The guy even had a protective order against him and he was still, not only hired in the White House, but promoted, too.

For months, the President’s Chief of Staff, former U.S. Marine General John Kelly, knew about the abuse allegations and knew it had kept the man from passing his background check, but General Kelly did nothing about it. The man continued in his role working directly with the President even without a security clearance.

This week, when the story broke about the man’s sorted past, the White House defended his integrity and honor. Both Chief of Staff Kelly and Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended the man. One of the people working on the White House’s statements is the Communications Director who is now dating the accused abuser.

But, by Wednesday, the media attention was so intense that the White House reluctantly cut the guy loose.

Their official position changed and, although they continued to defend him, said the allegations against him are shocking and troubling. By Thursday, he was gone.

This story may come to end now that the serial abuser is out of the White House, but a larger problem still remains.

The President, who himself has been accused of sexual harassment by over a dozen women, promised to hire only the best and brightest in his White House, yet he has hired and defended a cast of characters with less than stellar reputations.

Since he took office, the White House has hired and lost several of the highest-ranking staffers close to the President, including Bannon, Priebus, Walsh, Flynn, Papadopoulos, Spicer, and even the Anthony “the Mooch” Scaramucci.

Trump has lost 34 percent of his senior staff in the first year, the highest level of turnover among the last six presidencies.

The knee-jerk reaction of Trump and his staff has been to deny allegations, defend those accused, and retaliate against the accusers and the media for bringing the stories to light.

Every time a story breaks, it seems the White House would rather deflect and blame others than to look honestly at the problem.

The man at the center of this week’s drama was, by all accounts, an all-star at work. He graduated from Harvard, and was a Rhodes Scholar. He had previously served as Chief of Staff to several Senators.

And, it appears, he was an abusive husband at home.

Abusers should not be given any protection or cover. As we have learned in the past few months in the still-growing exposure of sexual harassers in Hollywood, politics, and business, women have been preyed upon by men in various ways for too long.

Harassment and abuse only continues when it goes unreported, not investigated, or tolerated by others. It has no place in the office, on the movie set, or in government.

The story of this week was that the President and those around him chose to continue to protect a known abuser instead of confronting him, getting him treatment, and consoling the victims.

Instead, they did exactly what they have done from the start of Trump’s campaign and since his election; they sided with the aggressor over the victims and defended him until the very last moment.

We need leadership on the important issues of the day; immigration, security, jobs, and, yes, treatment of women.

The President should be leading by example. Even though Trump may never clear himself of allegations against him, he should, at least, deal seriously with new allegations of harassment among his closest advisors.

This week, the White House again showed it is, at best, tone-deaf when dealing with issues of harassment.

At worst, it has again enabled an aggressor to escape – for a few months – his day of reckoning.

In the end, he lost his job, but, the President and those around him kept theirs, at least for now.

Members of Congress Fail to Protect Immigrant Youth, Hold Them Hostage to Racist Demands

For Immediate Release: February 9, 2018

Members of Congress Fail to Protect Immigrant Youth, Hold Them Hostage to Racist Demands

(WASHINGTON)—Kica Matos, spokesperson for the Fair Immigration Reform Movement (FIRM), issued the statement below after Democrats and Republicans voted to pass a two-year spending deal without any protections for immigrant youth in place:

“Millions of lives are on the line as Republicans in Congress cower to the nativist demands of Donald Trump and the bigots who surround him in the West Wing. Every day that passes without a vote on the DREAM Act, is another day when hundreds of young immigrants lose their ability to better themselves and contribute to their communities and their families. Their political games are making young immigrants vulnerable to detention and deportation.

Donald Trump and Congressional Republicans are holding immigrant youth hostage in exchange for an extremely racist agenda that degrades people of color. Their antics are the antithesis of who we claim to be as a country. We value freedom, opportunity and family—none of which are reflected in this deal that sacrifices a generation.

Despite the consistent attacks by an Administration that is determined to make America white again, our movement is fired up and ready to keep fighting. Since Trump ended DACA in September, we have made countless calls and visits to Congress and held hundreds of actions across the country with a clear message: stop the hate; we need the DREAM Act now. Last November our message was heard loud and clear in Virginia. And we will make sure that those Members of Congress who did not stand up for immigrants feel it in the ballot boxes next November.”


A Pipeline Runs Through it?

In 2013, Enrique Peña Nieto’s government deregulated Mexico’s energy sector, opening it up to foreign investors for the first time 75 years. In what he called an “historic opportunity”, the Mexican President proclaimed “This profound reform can lift the standards of living for all Mexicans.”

But not everyone stands to see their quality of life materially improve from the deregulated sector. Such is the case for the Yaquí Peoples in Sonora state, Mexico, whose territory is currently home to an 84-kilometre stretch of natural gas pipeline.

The Aguaprieta (Agua Prieta) pipeline starts out in Arizona and stretches down 833km  to Agua Prieta, in the northeastern corner of the Mexican state of Sonora—cutting through Yaqui territory along the way.

Once completed, the pipeline would also cross Yaqui River (Río Yaqui), the Yaqui’s main source of water.

More than a few Yaqui are adamant that they will see no benefits from the project.  “The gas pipeline doesn’t help us, it only benefits businessmen, factory owners, but not the Yaqui” said Francisca Vásquez Molina, a Yaquí from the Loma de Bacúm community.

As with Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines, the Aguaprieta project comes with its own share of risks.

In addition to the  considerable environmental impact that stems from the pipeline’s construction, the high methane content of natural gas could bring on disaster.  Rodrigo Gonzalez, natural resources and environmental impact expert, maintains that in the event of a gas explosion all human, plant and animal life within a one-kilometre radius surrounding the explosion would be lost. Anyone within the second kilometre would risk second and third-degree burns.

In the community of Loma de Bacúm, the gas pipeline is just 700 m from houses. In nearby Estación Oroz, it is 591m from a primary school.

Gonzalez has pointed out that another viable route for the pipeline was initially considered by the company that could have avoided Yaqui territory altogether. He suggests this route was ultimately rejected to save costs. “At the beginning of the project, two routes were mooted. That which didn’t cross indigenous territory cost 400 million pesos whilst that which puts Yaquí lives at risk costs 100 million pesos.”

IEnova, the company behind the pipeline, has repeatedly made assurances that all due safety procedures have been followed in construction and that the risk of accidents is minimal but this has not been enough to assuage the fear or anger of everyone opposing the gas pipeline.

In a public statement last year, the group Solidaridad Tribu Yaquí said, “This is a people that say no to a megaproject of death, dispossession and destruction[…]These rich men don’t care about the life of one, two, or three people, much less if they are indigenous… [they] don’t care if the Yaqui culture is exterminated. What is important to these rich men is to conclude the work and pocket all the profits to be brought about by the appropriation of the Yaqui territory.”

Not all Yaquí communities are united in rejecting the gas pipeline, however. Indeed, of the eight Yaquí communities consulted, only the Loma de Bacúm community refused to give their consent to the project. The other seven communities chose to accept the compensation offered. This decision has sadly resulted in tensions between Loma de Bacúm and the other communities. Things reached a critical point in October 2016 where one Yaquí member died and thirty injured in a confrontation involving different Yaquí communities.

Seemingly alone in their struggle, the Loma de Bacúm Yaquí have consistently resisted the Aguaprieta pipeline. In April 2016, they successfully fought to be granted a moratorium on its construction. When, in 2017, it became clear that IEnova, would carry on regardless and that neither federal nor state or authorities could be counted on for support, the Loma de Bacúm community resorted to more drastic measures. On May 21, community members removed cables which had been laid down in the preliminary stages of the gas pipeline construction. Then, after another court ruling that IEnova should remove all infrastructure within 24 hours fell on deaf ears, on August 22 the community went ahead and cut a 25-foot section out of the live gas pipeline, despite the grave risks they ran in doing so. As a result of the community’s actions in August, IEnova was forced to cut off the gas flow in the area and it has remained out of service ever since.

The community has been accused of sabotage and vandalism to IEnova property but the community maintains that IEnova, a company owned by US-based Sempra Energy, is trespassing on their land and holds them responsible for all damage brought on by the construction of a pipeline to which they never consented.

In a video shared on Facebook, one community member explained “If you want to have us killed, there’s no problem. We’re not scared of that… We’re not scared of this company nor this project…All that the Yaquí tribe is asking for is that the law is upheld and that federal and state government respect it. If you want to have us killed, go ahead there’s no problem but we’ll defend our land and that is our right.”

In September 2017, a judge once again found in favour of the Yaquí community ruling that IEnova did not have the right to enter Yaquí territory to repair the gas pipeline. Whether this latest ruling will carry more weight with both local and state authorities than the previous ones remains to be seen.

For the time-being, the stand-off looks set to continue. Loma de Bacúm has made it clear it will not back down until the pipeline is removed or rerouted. “If they want to build a pipeline. that’s fine”, said community spokesperson Guadalupe Flores, “but it will not pass through here.” At the same time, IEnova refuses to accept that one small community can curtail their plan to use Yaquí territory in order to provide electricity to the Comisión Federal de Electricidad (CFE), the country’s largest electric utility. Nor does it seem willing to brazenly defy the court’s latest ruling, at least for the time-being.

The struggle in Loma de Bacúm echoes loudly among all Indigenous Peoples who are grappling to make sure the resource sector cannot run roughshod over human rights and environmental concerns; but it is perhaps loudest in Mexico. Since the new energy policy went into effect, four other pipeline projects have been suspended. Looking ahead, a “shale offensive” is now set to begin later this year should the PRI retain power in July, leading to a proliferation of similar conflicts.

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ICE targets immigrant rights leaders in shift “from law enforcement into a political-oppression…

ICE targets immigrant rights leaders in shift “from law enforcement into a political-oppression apparatus”

Sign this petition to rescind the deportation order against Maru Mora Villapando

Maru Mora Villalpando speaks to supporters during a press conference in Seattle on January 16, 2018. Photo Credit: Enrique Cerna/Crosscut

From NWDC Resistance and Mijente:

The Seattle office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has served a “Notice to Appear,” otherwise known as a deportation notice, to Washington-based community activist and mother, Maru Mora-Villalpando.

Maru leads Northwest Detention Center Resistance (NWDCR), an organization that was co-founded when immigrants held at the Northwest Detention Center began a series of hunger strikes in 2014 protesting their inhumane treatment. Mora-Villalpando’s efforts have transformed the NWDC from an ignored facility in an out-of-the-way location to a key site of local resistance, with weekly rallies and vigils outside its gates.

Now, in an unprecedented and arbitrary act of retaliation ICE has chosen to target Mora-Villalpando directly. ICE is now purposely targeting people such as Mora-Villalpando who are organizing against the agency and the Trump administration’s racially-motivated deportation agenda.

“ICE only knows about me because of my political work,” explains Mora-Villalpando. “I have spoken out to defend immigrants in detention and shared my story as an undocumented mother. I have sat in meetings with immigration officials and challenged their practices. They are an agency whose actions have already been devastating to my community. But with the letter they delivered to my house, they are showing themselves to be an agency that silences any opposition to their practices,” she concluded.

Sign and Share the Petition to rescind Maru’s order of deportation:

ICE Serves Deportation Notice on Undocumented Leader for Organizing Detained Immigrants

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La oficina de Inmigración y Control de Aduanas (ICE) de Seattle ha enviado un “Aviso de comparecencia”, también conocido como un aviso de deportación, a la activista y madre en la comunidad de Washington, Maru Mora-Villalpando.

Maru lidera la Resistencia del Centro de Detención del Noroeste (NWDCR), una organización que fue cofundada cuando los inmigrantes detenidos en el Centro de Detención del Noroeste comenzaron una serie de huelgas de hambre en 2014 protestando su trato inhumano. Los esfuerzos de Mora-Villalpando han transformado el NWDC de una instalación ignorada en una ubicación apartada a un sitio clave de resistencia local, con manifestaciones y vigilias semanales en sus puertas.

Ahora, en un acto de represalia arbitro y sin precedentes, ICE ha elegido apuntar directamente a Mora-Villalpando. ICE ahora está apuntando deliberadamente a personas como Mora-Villalpando que se están organizando contra la agencia y la agenda de deportación racialmente motivada de la administración Trump.

“ICE solo sabe de mí por mi trabajo político”, explica Mora-Villalpando. “He hablado para defender a los inmigrantes detenidos y compartí mi historia como una madre indocumentada. Me he sentado en reuniones con funcionarios de inmigración y desafié sus prácticas. Son una agencia cuyas acciones ya han sido devastadoras para mi comunidad. Pero con la carta que entregaron a mi casa, se muestran como una agencia que silencia cualquier oposición a sus prácticas “, concluyó.

More News from Crosscut:

“I believe that ICE sent me this letter and started deportation proceedings against me because they are not so much against my immigration status, but against my political work,” Villalpando said in her first interview since receiving notice from ICE. “This is political oppression. That’s what they’re doing. ICE is finalizing the transition from law enforcement into a political-oppression apparatus.”

Villalpando is one of several well-known activists recently targeted by ICE. Last week, for example, ICE detained Ravi Ragbir, executive director of the New Sanctuary Coalition of New York City. His arrest sparked protests that led to the arrest of 18 people. That same day, ICE also picked up Eliseo Jurado, the husband of Ingrid Latorre, who is fighting deportation as she takes sanctuary in a Colorado church. Jean Montrevil, co-founder of the New Sanctuary Coalition, was also detained. Villalpando received her letter from ICE last month, just before the Christmas holiday.

ICE targets Maru Mora, prominent immigration activist, for deportation

Maru Mora speaks about ICE initiating deportation proceedings against her:


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Trump in a ‘Shithole’ of Trouble After (Another) Racist Comment

By Arturo Castañares / La Prensa San Diego Publisher and CEO

Just when we thought the political rhetoric coming from the President couldn’t get any more offensive, Donald Trump lowered the bar a few more notches this week, again displaying his complete disdain for people from most other countries.

During a meeting regarding immigration in the Oval Office with congressional leaders on Thursday, Trump got frustrated about a proposal by the Congressional Black Caucus that would allow Visas for immigrants from African countries and Haiti. Trump asked why the US would want more people from those countries instead of from Norway.

“Why do we want all these people from shithole countries coming here?”, the President asked.

Yes, that’s right, the leader of the free world, from the wealthiest country in the world, referred to other countries in that way. His hardcore supporters may call that plain talk from a non-politically correct swamp drainer, but that’s just plain racist.

Maybe Trump, a native New Yorker, doesn’t know what the plaque on the Statue of Liberty actually says. “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

The famous line is from a poem by Emma Lazarus written in 1883 to raise money for the base of the Statue of Liberty. The quote has come to symbolize the openness of the United States in attracting and accepting immigrants from every country in the world for over 200 years, creating what has become the most eclectic blend of nationalities and cultures in the world.

But, to Trump, that melting pot seems to be a bad thing. During his campaign and since his election, he has continued to cast foreigners from certain countries as bad for our country.

Mexicans as rapists and murderers. Muslims from various countries as terrorists. Haitians as all having AIDS.

Trump’s stated political position of “America First” tries to mask his true animosity toward certain countries. He argues that he puts our country above all others. That would be true if he was truly xenophobic, meaning he distrusted ALL foreigners equally.

But, he doesn’t speak negatively about all countries, just the ones that have people of different color skin, and especially non-Germanic language speaking countries.

Take note: Mexico, Haiti, China, North Korea. Bad. England, Germany, Norway. Good.

And further evidence of his racist tendencies is that he targets minorities within countries he likes, like accusing Muslims within England and Sweden of being terrorists, but not calling out white supremacists in those countries.

You don’t even have to look internationally, though, to see Trump’s racist actions. When neo-Nazis and white nationalist marched in Charlottesville, Virginia, last summer, Trump said they were fine people. When a white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter protesters and killed a woman, Trump refused to label it an act of terrorism.

In contrast, immediately after two attacks in London and an attack in Paris took place, Trump called those acts of terrorism, and used them to push for his Muslim ban. The difference? The alleged attackers in these cases were of Middle Eastern descent, even though their actual nationality and citizenship were still unknown at the time.

Trump’s knee-jerk (or in his case, just jerk) reaction to situations involving foreigners from countries he’s uncomfortable with is to label them in some derogatory way. Losers. Terrorists. Rapists. Murderers. Drug dealers. And this week, shithole.

Why would he have that world view? Let’s see.

Trump’s dad, whose father was kicked out of Germany for failing to register for military service, later lied about their German heritage after World War II and claimed to be from Sweden in order to rent more apartments to Jewish tenants. In the 90s, Trump himself re-embraced his German heritage and was the Grand Marshall of the German-American Parade in NYC. Trump’s first wife was from Czechoslovakia, and his current wife is from Yugoslavia. All good countries, I guess.

To Trump, people from other countries, especially Latin, Asian, and Muslim countries, are jumping our border, taking away our jobs, and killing our citizens. He casts them all as Black vs White, Good vs Bad, and Us vs Them.

When will Republicans, both elected and voters, that support Trump for some of his policies, finally call him out for his racist comments and actions? When will tax cuts and deregulation not be enough to overlook the racism?

When will we demand more from our President? When will decent people say enough is enough?

Racism is wrong, especially when it comes from the President. It normalizes abnormal behavior. It sets the worst example for ourselves and our children.

People have made excuses for Donald Trump for too long. Enough is enough. Period.

Rey Misterio: Lucha y Superación

Por Mario A. Cortez

Foto / Alfonzo Lorenzana

Ser optimista y mantenerse determinado ante la adversidad es difícil para muchos. Aun así, siempre hay algo por que luchar, aunque se vea poca esperanza.

Rey Misterio, ex luchador de talla mundial, ha enfrentado muchas dificultades en su camino a volverse una leyenda de los cuadriláteros. A pesar de enfrentar momentos amargos en su carrera y vida personal, él siempre ha se ha enfocado en salir adelante.

“Aun con todo lo que debe que cargar un luchador, mi cosa favorita de luchar siempre ha sido traer a la vida a el personaje de Rey Misterio, el cual es muy querido por muchos”, dijo Misterio a La Prensa San Diego en una entrevista.

Rey Misterio, cuyo nombre de pila es Miguel Angel López, cree que tenía como destino ser luchador.

Su afición a la lucha libre comenzó a muy temprana edad, cuando un grupo de vecinos de su barrio fue a una función de luchas en su natal Tijuana. Fue esa noche en la que nació dentro de López la afición por la lucha libre.

Con el paso de los años, López recibió entrenamiento por parte de figuras locales dentro de la lucha libre tijuanense como el “Chamaco” Martinez, El Marinero, y Maravilla Blanca.

El 6 de enero de 1976, López recibiría la oportunidad de debutar como luchador profesional ante un lleno total en el Auditorio de Tijuana. Esa noche nació la persona de Rey Misterio, nombre que proviene de la fecha en la que debutó, el Dia de Reyes, y por la necesidad de mantener en misterio su identidad, esto debido a que López no quería que su familia se enterara que era luchador.

Desde esa noche, y en cada función en la que se presentaba Rey Misterio, el personaje de López se comenzaba a ganar el respeto y cariño de la afición tijuanense. Con cada lucha, López también sometia a su cuerpo a una serie de impactos muy fuertes.

Durante su etapa como luchador profesional, el personaje de Rey Misterio subió a el rombo de batalla de seis por seis en las más importantes arenas de Mexico, al igual que plazas en Estados Unidos y varios paises mas.

A pesar del amor a su profesión, López afirma que durante sus largas giras el sentia que más que su salud, su sacrificio más grande era no estar con su familia.

“Yo estuve fuera durante fechas muy importantes y eso siempre me pesó muchisimo”, aseguró. “Esta forma de vida te da mucho pero te quita cosas que no tienen precio”.

Rey Misterio sin su mascara

El Legado de Rey Misterio como luchador incluye varios campeonatos nacionales y la formación de luchadores tijuanenses quienes se han vuelto figuras internacionales como Damian 666, Konnan, Psicosis, Extreme Tiger y Rey Mysterio Jr., quien es sobrino de López.

En una función realizada en Denver, Colorado, López lucho contra La Parka, uno de los personajes favoritos entre los aficionados a la lucha. Durante su enfrentamiento, López recibió un golpe que le provocó espasmos musculares y a los dias le causó mucho dolor.

“En este deporte hay un gran riesgo y siempre termina uno sacrificado por el aficionado”, compartió López. “Cuando un luchador se siente bien físicamente jamás quiere que eso se acabe”.

Una noche, al levantarse de su cama, López sintió que las piernas ya no le reaccionaban y entró en desesperación y pánico.

“Me arrastré hacia un sofá y me senté, luego me quise suicidar”, confesó López. “Fue tan fuerte la depresión que sentí en ese momento que intente matarme”.

Con la fuerza para seguir con vida, López se sometió por varios meses a estudios médicos y tratamientos. Eventualmente, la lesión que sufrió finalmente le costó el uso total de sus piernas.

Durante una terapia y tras hablar con amigos, López vio que tenía un propósito más grande que simplemente ser Rey Misterio.

Encontrando inspiración en su cristianismo, López ahora vive nueva etapa como orador motivacional y busca impartir consejos y ejemplos de las experiencias que ha tenido, tanto como figura pública como en su vida privada.

López mas que nada busca llevar esperanza a gente con discapacidades, ya que el conoce de primera mano lo aterrador que puede llegar a ser perder el uso de las extremidades.

“A la gente discapacitada con la que hablo siempre le hago saber que que la vida no se acaba estando en una silla de ruedas, todavia se puede vivir una vida plena”, afirmó López. “Les comparto mi testimonio de vida y les aconsejo que no caigan en cadenas de pensamientos negativos”.

Durante sus presentaciones, López también realiza convivencias con el público, creando así un enlace más personal con quienes escuchan su mensaje.

“Aveces cuando platico con gente de la audiencia me preguntan más acerca de mi vida, mas acerca de como me supere psicológicamente de mi lesión y varias cosas”, mencionó.

“A veces también me preguntan si me quito la mascara para dormir o para bañarme”, López agregó en tono de broma.

Sin perder de vista lo más importante, López siempre recomienda a todos no tener miedo a la hora de enfrentar nuevos retos, por tan intimidantes que estos sean.

“Yo he sobresalido en mi vida personal y como luchador por mi audacidad”, concluyó López. “Siempre el mundo ha sido para los audaces”.

Magda Fernandez: Protecting the Harbor

This is 2017 – California was taken from Mexico in 1848. Good that she is where she is now but she should have been the 50th or more.

By Andrea Lopez-Villafaña

Magda Fernandez, San Diego Harbor Police

Magda Fernandez is the first and only Latina in the San Diego Harbor Police Department to hold the position of Sergeant. Andrea Lopez-Villafaña | La Prensa San Diego

As the only female and Latina Sergeant for the San Diego Harbor Police Department, Magda Fernandez, is not only serving her community but also paving the way for future generations.

Sgt. Fernandez has been with the Department for 16 years and works within the investigations and intelligence section of the Harbor Police, which handles criminal cases.

Currently, she oversees criminal detectives and a task force group, which are detectives assigned to work with other agencies like the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Agency, and the Department of Homeland Security.

Being an officer for this specific department in San Diego requires versatility because the Harbor Police is responsible for police services and marine firefighting for the Port of San Diego, the San Diego International Airport, and the San Diego Bay.

Harbor Police duties can range from traffic enforcement and general patrolling tasks to airport security or vessel patrolling in the coastal areas.

“There’s not a thing routine or typical of what we do, there’s no routine day,” Sgt. Fernandez said.

Sgt. Fernandez laid out her firefighting gear on the table and shared that marine firefighting requires a different mindset. Andrea Lopez-Villafaña | La Prensa San Diego

The Department also trains all officers in marine firefighting, something that she said is exciting and requires a mindset shift.

“You’re working with a lot of adrenaline and excitement,” Sgt. Fernandez said. “So it’s taking off one uniform and getting out of one role and entering another role, which is just as equally or more important.”

The ability to carry out vehicle patrolling, vessel patrolling, airport enforcement, search and rescue, and marine firefighting all in one job is a requirement that appealed to Sgt. Fernandez because of her professional background.

Originally from Nogales, Arizona, Sgt. Fernandez recalls not making the best decisions as a teenager. However, her father played a role in encouraging her to follow a different path.

She became a volunteer at a hospital with the help of her father, who was a nurse, and she eventually moved to the emergency room as an emergency medical technician.

It was there that Sgt. Fernandez was exposed to the idea of pursuing a career in law enforcement. Watching police officers enter the hospital with victims and prisoners piqued her interest, she said.

She joined the Santa Cruz Search and Rescue Team as a diver and then joined the United States Coast Guard. Eventually she joined the San Diego Harbor Police Department.

Sgt. Fernandez said the department was right up her alley because of the different skills required that she possessed like diving, and firefighting, which she had experience in having volunteered as a firefighter.

“It covered all of my interests, it satisfied all of my needs,” she said.

Going on 17 years with the Harbor Police, Sgt. Fernandez has experience as a boating collision investigator, environmental crimes investigator, and a marine safety investigator.

She helped establish the Harbor Police Department’s Terrorism Liaison Officer Program, which focuses on educating officers and members of the port community on being aware of potential terrorism and criminal activities.

The program seemed of value to her, she said, because she believed it was important to educate the community on alerting the department of suspicious activities.

In 2008, Sgt. Fernandez was named Officer of the Year for her dedication and work for the Department.

Sgt. Fernandez’s three boys look up to her achievements and she said they are interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement as well. Andrea Lopez-Villafaña | La Prensa San Diego

“I’m very proud of my accomplishments and it hasn’t been an easy journey,” she said. “Nothing in this life is easy unless you work hard for it and we’re going to hit those rode bumps and we just got to pick ourselves up and dust ourselves off and keep going and those are the times that you realize what you’re made out of.”

Aside from her personal achievements, she is passionate about watching young officers succeed in their careers through their mentoring and training at the department. Sgt. Fernandez said it is not about duplicating yourself but instead duplicating the efforts back into the community through them.

Her greatest motivation, although she laughs and shares that there are many, is making her three children proud and ensuring the safety of her community.

“I want to make my community proud, continue to make my Latino community proud, and be an example for young Latina ladies,” Sgt. Fernandez said.

Medicines of the land: Sámi Reflections on the Role and use of indigenous medicine today

This article is a part of Medicine Stories, an exclusive series made possible by a grant from the Elna Vesara Ostern Fund.

One of the Sámi traditional knowledge holders of his time, the late Jouni Antti Vuomajoki from the Inari river area in Finland was walking in the forest close to his home community.

He saw a stone object, resembling and being most likely an ancient, pre-historic stone axe, on the ground.

Upon returning to home, he told his son, Niilo, about the discovery.

Niilo suggested that they contact the authorities or the National Board of Antiquities to register this Stone Age archaeological find.

Jouni Antti refused.

Niilo asked: “Why not?”

Jouni Antti replied: “Because one day – he who left the axe there – one day he might come back looking for it at the spot where he left it at.”[1]

The Sámi are the constitutionally recognized Indigenous peoples in Finland. There are three cultural language groups of the Sámi in Finland, each with their own specific territorial engagements to place – the North Sámi numbering the most, the Inari Sámi who only live in the territory of Finland and the Skolt Sámi, who belong to the larger Eastern Sámi cultural sphere. Sámi languages belong to the larger Finno-Ugric group, which also contains Karelian, Estonian, Finnish, Livonian and other local languages of the Eurasian North.

The “iconic” trades of the Sámi have included hunting, fishing and central to the culture – reindeer herding. All of these traditional nature uses are intimately connected to the Sub-Arctic nature and renewable uses of its resources. Sámi Indigenous knowledge has evolved over thousands of years in this harsh northern environment.

We discuss in this invited article the bio-cultural landscapes of the Sámi homeland from the viewpoint of “medicines of the land” – it contains reflections on traditional and sacred places, examples of ethno-botany and attempts to preserve these unique knowledge traditions amongst the Sámi and in the Siberian North, as framed by the Indigenous leaders of that region.

The Snowchange Cooperative, a Finnish cultural and science organization, has been working with Sámi communities for the past seventeen years. This partnership has contributed to governmental Arctic Council assessments such as ABA and ACIA in addition to bearing several scientific papers and monographs about the situation in these communities and their bio-cultural knowledge. There are several Sámi leaders in the Snowchange international steering committee.

At Snowchange, the Sámi are co-authors of all the work that happens and own their knowledge. Nothing happens without FPIC – free, prior and informed consent. Snowchange also houses a large archive of oral history and Indigenous and local-traditional knowledge, copies of which have been also placed with partner communities, families and individuals as well as in the Siida Cultural Center in Inari, Finland since 2008.

Scientific reports on the Artctic have made the Sámi situation in Finland more visible; however, many central challenges, which are at the same time the most urgent, remain. They have to do with cultural and linguistic revitalization and preservation of Indigenous medicines and the preservation of the larger biocultural reality of Sápmi, the Sámi homeland. Sámi still to this day have no land or water rights.

The story at the beginning of this article conveys an oral history of the Vuomajoki family, where the old man Jouni Antti sees a stone axe and leaves it alone. Younger generations challenge this, calling for a report to authorities. Jouni Antti, being immersed in the Sámi tradition, decides otherwise.

No matter how we interpret the decisions and choices of the Elder Vuomajoki, we are left with a realization that the Sámi have their own senses of the world, of time, place and events that can be challenging to understand outside the culture.

However, these stories also convey a profound and sensitive engagement with the landscape and all of its elements – seen and unseen – and more importantly, ways of being with it. In essence, they result from decisions flowing from and guided by the Sámi tradition.

More importantly, the Sámi language, traditional mind, livelihoods, culture and life itself is in a deep and holistic engagement with place – each to their own respectively. Revitalization efforts need to reflect this realization – a view that nation-state governments in their compartmentalized categories of decision-making often fail to understand.

Spiritual Ownership of Land: Eastern Sámi Sacred Places

Map 1: General map of the seid sites in Sápmi, Sámi homeland

Concepts of “landscape” and “the environment” are hard to define from within Sámi culture. Traditionally, the Indigenous Sámi saw themselves as a part of the world and nature, not above or outside it. Relationships with the natural world were defined through negotiations, respect and compromises. Magga says that “In the Sámi landscape the unseen, immaterial aspects were strongly present…’Magical landscape’ emerged through sacred and offering places and old gravesites[2]”.

Vuolab-Lohi writes that sacred places have included, for example, rocks and springs. Some of these places have been known in Eastern Sámi languages as “seid, sietj, sit, sejt, sied”. While it is for the Sámi to know the exact meaning of this concept, usually scholars refer to the “seid” as sacred elements of the landscape.

Between 2006 and 2017 the Snowchange Cooperative worked with the Skolt and Eastern Sámi communities to document traditional knowledge and land uses, as well as cultural heritage. The work continues. It emerged from a request of the Sámi Council to respond to the pressures of mining companies in the Eastern Sámi space by mapping land and water uses. The main results were released in the Eastern Sámi Atlas. The Skolt Sámi had to leave their homelands in the aftermath of the Second World War in 1944.

One of the purposes of the Eastern Sámi Atlas was to map the ‘lost’ homelands, in a cooperation of a team of geographers and the Sámi themselves. During this mapping work detailed maps, locations and photos of some specific seid sites were documented. Prior to the release of the Atlas, the Skolt Sámi Council and a Skolt family, on whose homeland some of these seid were located, decided to withhold some of the materials that they wanted to retain in the internal space of the community. They also agreed to release most of the 70 maps that had been produced during the atlas work. This act can be seen as a form of spiritual ownership and governance of the landscape in question.

One of the Finnish geographers involved in the work, however, severely protested this decision. He felt that censorship had taken place, as scientifically produced materials need to be made available to everyone, everywhere. He has since criticized the Sámi decision on a number of forums from his viewpoint. He remains working on these topics.

Sámi Ethnobotany

Sámi ethnobotany is reflective of the sub-Arctic environment and its northern plant life. One of the iconic species of the Sámi world, boska, or rássi, Angelica (Angelica archangelica) is central to the North Sámi uses of plants. It is a two-three year growing plant rich in Vitamin C and other medicinal qualities.

It is found distinctly in the northern fjell areas close to small streams and rivers. All parts of boska were traditionally utilized, both for food and for medicine. In a modern context, the stem of the plant is most widely used. The timing of the use of the plant is around midsummer when the summer light is reaching its maximum in the Arctic. Boska or Angelica is used in soups, meat and fish dishes and smoked as a tobacco in a pipe. It is also dried and preserved for the long-term. Further, it is a traditional food of the reindeer, including the roots.

Medicinal use focuses on the plant seeds, roots and leaves. Dried root would be chewed to avoid catching a cold. It is also applied to treat coughs, low blood circulation, stomach ailments, rheumatism, exhaustion and as protection against infectious diseases. In traditional belief Angelica was associated with fertility magic.

In recent decades, locations of boska–such as Sulaoja in Utsjoki region of the North Sámi territory in Finland–have become contested spaces: Plans to start industrial freshwater production in sacred areas rich with Angelica have been resisted by the Sámi who wish to keep these sites secure.

Another Sámi iconic plant knowledge involves the use of sedges–for example, water sedge, as the insulation material for the traditional winter footwear of the Sámi. They were usually collected from the stream and small river areas in August. Known locally as ‘shoe hay’, these insulators would be crushed using a special tool–in Sámi, šluppot, a birchtree hammer–and then inserted into the Sámi winter boot, made from reindeer skins. Shoe hay also had a role to play in traditional reindeer skin summer footwear.

Winter traditional footwear was well-suited for the sub-Arctic winters, for skiing, the traditional mode of reindeer herding prior to the advent of the ‘snowmobile revolution’ of 1960s and hunting trips. This use has sharply dropped with the introduction of woollen socks and skidoo boots used in modern-day herding. However, the skills to utilize the sedges for the winter footwear are highly treasured among the Sámi as demonstrations of handcrafts skills. The sedge was preserved in a tight bundle.

’Show hay’, i.e. sedges were stored in a bundle called ’viera’ – one bundle was taken to be used at a time. All Skolt Sámi photos: Satu Moshnikoff, 2017

Skolt Sámi Plants Knowledge

The Skolt Sami are often named as the most traditional of the Sámi peoples. Various aspects of their own ethnobotany has triggered renewed scholarly interest in recent years>. Skolts use different berries as a food source:

  • cloudberry (Rubus chamaemorus)
  • bilberry (blueberry, Vaccinium myrtillus)
  • lingonberry (Vaccinium vitis-idaea)

Traditionally Skolts also use mushrooms, mostly boletus (Boletaceae) and thus they differ from the other Sámi groups in this regard. Cloudberries are used in berry soups and pies. For winter, cloudberries are stored in wooden containers in their own juice and jams and preserves are also made. Nowadays most of the jams are stored in freezers.

Blueberries are often used fresh, in pies and soups since they do not keep well. Today berries are preserved frozen, whole and crushed with sugar. Lingonberries are preserved crushed in wooden containers or glass jars. They keep well in their own juice. Lingonberries are also used in juice making. Nowadays it is a common practice to also freeze lingonberries.

Boletus mushrooms were a special food for cloudberry picking trips. People would take potatoes and salt with them and they would pick small boletus mushrooms since they begin to appear right at the time of ripening of cloudberries. Potatoes and small mushrooms were boiled in salt water and picked from the kettle with the tip of a knife to be eaten. Dried boletus was used in wintertime in reindeer or moose meat stews.

The Skolt Sami have traditionally used the inner bark of a pine tree as an extension of their daily bread. It was considered a great delicacy when fish broth was thickened with the inner bark of this tree (Pinus sylvestris). Crushed, it was also used in bread dough.

Pettu” in Finnish, in Skolt Sámi pie’??, the inner bark of the pine tree was traditionally collected at special times of the year. The inner bark sheets were peeled from underneath the pine bark with a special tool ´pettulutta´, in Skolt vuetkkem made out of reindeer bone. The sheets were then roasted in the heat of an open fire until they were dry.

Dry inner bark sheets were crushed on top of a reindeer hide, on the hairless side. A special tool, two-edged chopper made out of reindeer shoulder bones, was used in crushing the sheets. Ready flakes were stored in a dry place. Shelf fungus / Polyporus (Inonotus obliquus) which grows on the trunks of birch trees was used and is still being used in making tea.

Skolt Medicinal Use of Plants

The Skolt Sámi traditionally inhabited places and areas that are located far away from all modern services and healthcare. Thus they had their own means and medicines to treat illnesses. Today these traditional ways of healing are gaining more and more appreciation.

Another shelf fungus / polyporos growing on birch trees, niiusik?c?äänn in Skolt, tinder fungus (Inonotus fomentarius), was used in a process called taulaaminen, in Skolt toullmõš. Fungus was dried and cut into small pieces that were set on fire. The burning pieces were then set on to the skin of the patient in the area that was in pain. When the burning piece hit the correct spot–where the pain was located–it bounced away from the skin. It has been noted that these points for burning fungus are the same as Chinese acupuncture points.

Aches and strains were treated with compresses and poultices. A poultice boiled from Northern Labrador tea (Rhododendron tomentosum), in Sámi olžvuei’vv was used in treating back and foot aches. Birch leaves and the thin, inner part of birch bark was used in treating wounds. For coughs, Skolts boiled tea from the year’s growth of pine needles in order to remove the mucus.

Tanning of Hides and Colouring of Wool

Tanning and colouring of hides was carried out using mostly willow (Salix) bark. Alder (Alnus) bark was also used in colouring, because it gave the skins a more red tone than the willow bark. Traditional ropes were made out of pine roots. They were treated with birch ashes, which made the ropes more durable. Dishes and utensils such as boxes, containers and sugar holders made out of pine root were colored using tree bark. Knitting wool and cloth were colored with solutions boiled from lichen and plants.

Plants and mushrooms are used to color the woolen strings.

Articles for Daily Use

The Skolt Sámi have traditionally used pine roots for plaiting containers, sugar holders, dishes and pulling ropes as well as lines for fish nets. Young rowan (Sorbus) trees were bent into carrying devices and backpacks (The famous rosna backpack is a Skolt Sámi innovation), which could be used in transporting heavy loads.

Birch bark was used in making boxes for storing for example sewing materials and for picking berries and mushrooms and larger containers for fishing purposes. Birch bark was a very good material in making fish net buoys since it floats. Birch bark was also used in making fish net weights; a stone was set inside a birch bark purse. By connecting birch bark sheets by sewing with leather strings it was possible to make a practical foldable travelling table. It was light and easy to carry when travelling on the land.

Tuohikaara, a birch bark travelling fold out table contains reindeer sinew sewing to keep the birch bark together.

Juniper branches (Juniperus communis) were used in making oven brooms (besoms) that were used in removing the ashes from the oven. Wet juniper branches were used as incense when there was a need to freshen up a house that had been unused for some time. A soft shelf fungus, birch polypore (Piptoporus betulinus), was used as a pincushion.

Soft shelf birch polypore was used as a pincushion because it remained soft.

Re-building the Traditional Bio-cultural Landscapes Among the Indigenous Nations of the Arctic

How are the Arctic and boreal traditions re-built? How are the medicines, in all of their forms from plant life to living landscapes, re-discovered in an era of unrelenting assault from global culture, mining companies and climate change?

Answers to these questions have been developed by the late Professor Vasilii Robbek, one of the leaders of the Even Indigenous peoples of Republic of Sakha-Yakutia, Siberia, Russia who are also reindeer herders like the Sámi. Snowchange staff and researchers had a profound possibility to learn from and discuss the Arctic traditional knowledge issues between 2004 and 2010, prior to his passing.

Much has been said about Professor Robbek’s academic and legal-social legacy before. Less is known about his approach to how Indigenous knowledge and traditions worked. Moving behind the rhetorics and discourses of traditional knowledge, Professor Robbek’s worldview and motivation for the life-long focus on Even and other Indigenous traditions stemmed, first and foremost, from his childhood experiences as a part of a nomadic family on the lower Kolyma area.

In April 2005 we discussed how the old Even herders ‘conceptualized’ their knowledge. Robbek proceeded to answer: “All answers can be seen from nature.” Then he reflected, as an example, how his father had predicted upcoming weather from behaviour of a forest mouse that crossed the river in a certain spot and style. From the ethnological perspective there would be value in documenting the links Even make with their natural ecosystems and traditional weather prediction – a topic that links events of nature with the interlinked weather phenomenon.

The question of Arctic Indigenous knowledge as a vehicle of issues that have not yet been ‘confirmed’ is nothing new. A recent ‘discovery of science’ determines that northern lights do make sounds–an observation known to thousands of Northern hunters, fishermen and herders for millennia, yet disputed until 2016 by natural scientists, until finally proved to be ‘true’. The Arctic is filled with examples such as this.

However, more important than single links or observations was the framing of Robbek’s life philosophy – all answers can be found from nature.

What if this sentence is not in fact a mere romantic reflection of lost civilizations and noble savages?

Professor Robbek meant what he said – that in natural world, and the engagements and belongings Indigenous peoples have with their life-worlds, are reflective systems. The troubles, questions, issues and events of human world are indeed mirrored in their homelands and its beings. This mystical-philosophical realization, profound and yet so simple, seemed to be the driving engine of Robbek’s struggles for his peoples across decades.

We can summarize this effort in the attempt to preserve the ‘traditional mind’. While English or Russian language has no adequate concepts to correspond to the Indigenous terminologies, this concept will have to do.

Robbek’s realization was that the settler societies do not have any realization of the depth and inter-connectedness of the human-nature coupled systems of the Indigenous homelands. He also observed that this link is being eroded due to a number of drivers, including cultural change, land, language and cosmological loss as well as loss of the actual habitats and Indigenous lands.

A mouse crossing a river at a specific time and place has no meaning for those people who are not fully immersed in the ‘system’ of the particular Even nomadic homeland. The event becomes mundane, meaningless.

Later in life, Vasilii Robbek directed much of his energies toward the concept of nomadic schools. This attempt was to immerse future generations of Evens and others in both worlds – the Indigenous cosmologies and the Russian curriculum as a part of the preservation of the nomadic lifestyles of Sakha-Yakutia.

A similar initiative across the Finnish Sámi areas is found in linguistic revitalization efforts. They have been built on the Maori language nests. The idea behind this action is that children, from the earliest age possible, are fully immersed in their Indigenous languages as much as possible. Often parents, who are also (re-)learning the Sámi language, join in the nests while children are learning to boost their own skills.

A struggle that remains is that funds for these language nests are negotiated on a yearly basis. Every year, major cuts are proposed, leaving it to the Sámi Parliament and civil organizations to defend and justify why the annual funds are needed.

The most advanced and deepest reaching effort underway in Finland in terms of cultural and linguistic revitalization among the Eastern Sámi is the Neiden/Näätämö river collaborative management process. It is located, with various manifestations, in the Neiden watershed. This project initiated as a cooperation between the Skolt Sámi and other Eastern Sámi communities, Sámi Council, Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment – IPCCA, United Nations University – Traditional Knowledge Initiative and the Saa’mi Nu’ett cultural organization.

The project has been a part of the international Indigenous Peoples Climate Change Assessment (IPCCA) initiative that is being developed and coordinated by a Peru-based indigenous non-profit organization, ANDES, and supported by UNU. By applying the IPCCA methodology of community-led self-reflection, evaluation, and future visioning based on local worldviews and traditional knowledge, the Sevettijärvi Skolts developed a community-based climate change adaptation plan.

Out of this process a collective consensus has emerged that the climate change challenges faced by the reindeer, while significant, are manageable given the present-day nature of reindeer herding. Instead, the Skolt Sámi identified their customary salmon fishery, the other half of their traditional subsistence and cultural identity, as a much greater concern.

As a result, the Snowchange-Skolt partnership has chosen to focus their climate change adaptation efforts on enhancing the resilience of the Skolts’ traditional salmon fishery along the Näätämö River. Scientists have also identified that the stocks of the Atlantic salmon have diminished in the past 30 years, mostly due to fishing and human alterations in the habitats of the fish; the focus on the salmon is justified by the shared concern among both Indigenous societies and the science community.

Now in its sixth year, the co-management activities have spread to another Eastern Sámi home river, the Ponoi, in the Murmansk region, Russia. A major cultural-linguistic digital database and maps have been developed with international partners across the world. Earlier in 2014, the Skolts released a short film about the all-encompassing efforts underway as a part of the process of registering the Skolt Archives into the UNESCO Memory of the World institution. It was a success. Materials from the river project have been actively used in the language nest work of the Skolts.

Most profoundly, the Sámi have invited others to join. The collaborative management plan and project along Neiden includes local knowledge of the Kven Finnish-minority living on the Norwegian side of the river as well as science, local Finnish peoples and authorities. Therefore it has emerged as a potential vehicle for a ‘peace process’ between the state and the Skolts, to address decades of a colonial rule, leaving it behind and exploring a future of joint river management so that all cultures, ecosystems and landscapes can survive the 21st century.

In September 2014, the Skolts hosted a major international Festival of Northern Fishing Traditions”, another success and a demonstration of how traditional culture, language and peoples can make a powerful comeback when all of these elements work towards the same direction. Magnani documents the Cultural Festivals to be a key method for revitalization among the Skolts.

When Jouni Antti Vuomajoki found the stone axe in the forest, it became a crucial Event for him. This is a key concept in many Indigenous societies of the Eurasian North from the Sámi to the Kolyma River and shores of Chukotka in NE Siberia.

These Events, which often are documented, as “Indigenous observations” should be read in the context of a layered spherical reality. An Event, when it occurs, is often interpreted in the Indigenous culture against the immediate surroundings, but also against the deeper mythical-spiritual layers of Indigenous mind and memory. An Event can be reflected on in multiple ways – it may contain links and repetitions to mythical times, which are passed down as oral narratives and histories. It may even exist simultaneously in Myth-time and present. Robbek was one of the people who fully understood this significance.

Summarizing these efforts, for the Sámi, the lack of land or water rights remains a crucial hindrance in preserving and maintaining their medicinal plant lore and practices. On-going industrial forestry practices in the northern boreal, for instance, wipes out the plants and species characteristic of an old-growth forest and Sámi home areas.

More broadly, by listening to the voices of the Snowchange community work across the Eurasia, from Swedish Sámi to the Skolts, to Murmansk, onwards to the Khanty and Mansi in Western Siberia all the way to the Even, Yukaghir and Chukchi of Sakha-Yakutia, NE Siberia, a common realization is emerging – this is the Event, the hour of change, the moment when the future of these societies, languages and cultures is decided.

If the Indigenous leaders across the world fail now in their efforts, and the nation-states and corporations infringing on their lands continue their relentless assault, we will witness a massive collapse of both natural and cultural diversity in the imminent future. Therefore, the time has come to act today, for the Elders of tomorrow to make sure these peoples—along with their lands, communities and distinct societies–survive into the next century.


[1] The Authors are grateful to Niilo Vuomajoki for passing on this oral history, and allowing it to be published here. The Vuomajoki family reviewed the draft of the article and approved it.

[2] Translations by Tero Mustonen.

[4] Main author of this section is Satu Moshnikoff from Sevettijärvi with contributions from Tero Mustonen. The text has been translated by Kaisu Mustonen into English.

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Nestlé crunched: Ouster from Gorge signals win for tribes, environment

Oxbow Springs in Cascade Locks. Nestlé has officially packed up and abandoned its effort to bottle the spring’s water, for now. (Photo courtesy of BARK)

After a nine-year battle with locals, Nestlé Waters North America has officially pulled up stakes and left the state of Oregon.

Following an Oct. 27 letter from Gov. Kate Brown to Department of Fish and Wildlife Director Kurt Melcher, Nestlé cleared out its Cascade Locks storefront and issued a terse statement thanking the city for its support.

“We are grateful to the residents, elected officials, neighborhood business owners and leaders who welcomed us to Cascade Locks, and who have supported our interest in bringing good paying jobs to the community,” the statement read. As of press time, Nestlé Waters North America did not respond to inquiries.

“They’ve closed their offices here, they’ve come in and said thank you for your support, and that’s it,” Cascade Locks city administrator Gordon Zimmerman said.

During the nine years of attempting to get into Cascade Locks, Nestlé began making similar attempts in two other Columbia River Gorge cities in Washington: Waitsburg and Goldendale. Both proposals were quickly put to rest after generating intense local opposition.

And the defeat of Nestlé isn’t the only thing environmental groups are celebrating.

On Election Day, Nov. 7, in Vancouver, underdog candidate Don Orange pulled off a landslide victory over his well-funded opponent, Kris Greene, winning a seat on the next Vancouver Port Commission. Winning the election will allow Orange to fulfill a campaign promise to cancel the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal – a project first proposed in 2013 that’s also languished from intense opposition and objections from treaty tribes. The opposing port candidate, Kris Greene, became the subject of public controversy after accepting large cash injections from the oil companies hoping to do business at the port.

Exactly one week after that election, Cowlitz County also denied two shoreline permits for the proposed Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export terminal – effectively ending the last proposal for coal exports in the Pacific Northwest.

Six massive proposals for coal exports were spread across the region five years ago and would have collectively shipped 150 million tons of coal to Asia every year. To put that amount into perspective, total coal production in the U.S. was 728 million tons in 2016.

Not long before, Millennium had lost another permit after the Washington State Department of Ecology announced it would create unavoidable damage to air quality as well as tribal and cultural resources.

In a press release from the Cowlitz Indian Tribe, Chairman William Iyall said: “We thank the Department of Ecology for protecting the people of Washington State. The Millennium Bulk Terminals coal export facility has posed a great threat to our people, our food resources including salmon, and to our communities.”

Iyall also called on Cowlitz County and local businesses “to come together with us to develop ethical, environmentally sensitive business opportunities that will create jobs and economic stability long after Millennium has moved on.”

As of press time, a spokesperson for Millennium at Gallatan Public Affairs did not respond to a request for comment.

Like the battle against coal, the entry of treaty tribes in the fight against Nestlé has also marked a decisive turning point, raising questions about whether government planners are respecting tribal neighbors and their economic priorities.

Despite the influence they’ve carried, many government officials have not publicly acknowledged the significance of treaty and water rights regarding Nestlé’s plans in the Gorge.

“It’s really exciting for me as a native individual in Warm Springs to see this water exchange being disrupted,” said Carina Miller, a tribal councilor at Warm Springs. “I do appreciate the governor intervening, but I don’t appreciate her not acknowledging our treaty rights, and our sovereignty in this whole ordeal.”

According to available records, tribal governments were only informed about the Nestlé proposal in 2015, after grassroots activists in Cascade Locks began to contact them. Since that time, at least three tribal governments submitted letters of opposition to the project – including the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, whose territory includes Cascade Locks.

In Goldendale, one public meeting with objections from the Yakama Nation was enough to scrap the project. As reported in the Goldendale Sentinel, one Yakama attorney, Keegan Bordeaux, testified:

“Fish cannot survive in the Columbia River without sufficient water quality, quantity and temperature, making every cold water source, including those around Goldendale, vital to the future health of the Columbia River fish. Any threat to these water resources is an attack on the health of our fisheries and the Yakama Nation’s treaty-reserved rights to participate in those fisheries.”

These facts were not lost on local officials.

“There’s no way that we would’ve ever gotten off first base had we not included the tribe from the get-go,” Goldendale city administrator Larry Bellamy said.

But in Cascade Locks, consultation was bungled so badly the two spokesmen for the town, the mayor and city administrator, have two different stories about what happened.

“The tribes have never said that they wanted, or didn’t want, the Nestlé proposal,” said Zimmerman, the city administrator.

A letter from JoDe Goudy, dated June 6, 2016, states otherwise. It reads: “The Yakama Nation calls on the Cascade Locks City Council to drop its harmful effort to bring Nestlé into the Columbia River Basin. Such efforts undermine our culture and threaten our treaty-reserved rights.”

“We tried to talk to the Yakamas,” Mayor Tom Cramblett said. “I’m a common sense guy. It was very common sense to me that this project was going to be a beneficial one to them. … I think I could have convinced JoDe Goudy.”

Cramblett began making his case to the Yakamas by sending a letter back to Chair Goudy, which read: “I’m sorry that Facebook and special interest groups can put out information that is not factual and misleading that could seriously harm the economic stability of our community.” The Yakama Nation did not approve his subsequent request for a meeting.

“I think they’re delirious,” said Klairice Westley, of Wanapum Fishing People Against Nestlé, who held a fast to protest the City Council. “It’s pretty clear the (Warm Springs) tribe opposed it. I mean, we had tribal council members come to City Hall meetings and say no – the tribe opposes this. If he thinks, after reading that letter, he can go to JoDe Goudy and the Yakama Tribe and convince them otherwise, then they are really delusional.”

Westley said city officials like Cramblett have consistently dodged the issue of treaty rights at Oxbow Springs in a way that marginalizes Native people.

“1855 Treaty says that if you got something going on there that involves anything that they use for their sustainability, you need to make them aware of it,” Cramblett said. “So yeah. Hey, people screw up all the time. We didn’t do it on purpose.

“Once we found that we weren’t in compliance, according to them with the 1855 Treaty – because we were doing something that had to do with fish. Once we did that, we immediately got with them and did the best we could to keep them informed and keep them part of the whole thing. We understand that’s important.”

Despite this, Cramblett continued to strike a combative tone, calling opponents of Nestlé “outsiders,” calling out some by name, and saying he would have pushed the project to completion if not for the governor – over objections from Native Americans and their tribal governments.

“They want me to have a responsibility to them, and I’m fine with that, but I’ve got a responsibility to my citizens, too.”

“Anything that I see that I think is viable, I’m moving in that direction,” he said.

Of course, economic development does remain a real need in Cascade Locks, although not every official is fixated on Nestlé.

Paul Koch, general manager at the Port of Cascade Locks, says the important thing now is to move on and look for common ground with neighboring communities.

“The Port Commission’s job is to create jobs and get business to move here. And if you can’t get that 50-job one that’ll give the city 2 million bucks, then you go on to the next one. It doesn’t make sense if you have limited resources to hire a bunch of attorneys and fight something that is never gonna pay off.”

When he first joined the port in 2013, Koch said Cascade Locks quickly learned the hard way that going it alone was a losing strategy.

“The first month I was here the commission handed me a letter they had received in November of 2012 from the state that said ‘by the way, if you don’t fix the Bridge of the Gods by March or April (of 2013) we’re going to close it or severely weight-limit it. And then the next paragraph said ‘And by the way, we won’t be done with our analysis telling you what needs to be fixed until December.’

Within a matter of months, Koch said the bridge was back at full capacity – a feat that required serious help from surrounding communities, and collaboration from local, state and federal officials.

“But the result of that was that the community realized that being an island unto yourself and being mad and upset because the National Scenic Area was created and you didn’t want it, or being mad about this, gets you nowhere.”

Koch says the Port has been working for two years on a joint project with the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs on an integrated hotel-resort that would focus on local recreational opportunities. And although the project incorporates gaming, it appears to have incorporated the criticisms that shot down its former casino project.

“This proposal has a much reduced size casino attached to the hotel. So it wouldn’t be as dramatic. And there’s also a commitment that a part of that would be the sailing areas, the fishing areas, the biking, trail hiking, the nature areas, all of that would be absorbed into that one concept,” Koch said.

“The ultimate plan is to have sailing beaches on either side of the peninsula that’s out there, and then some other development, and then it would all be recreation oriented. And that’s about an $800 million development if they do it,” he said.

Koch also says the Port is also looking for grant funding to remove rocks from the mouth of Herman Creek to allow more salmon to access its cold water – a project they’ve been working on for two years in collaboration with the Umatilla and Warm Springs tribes.

“We have no problem with the Indian tribes,” said Koch. Adding that “they’re kind of perplexed as we are” with the lack of funding for Herman Creek.

Since joining the port in 2013, Koch said only one employee he started with is still there, with 20 people on staff today.

“Our elected leaders have, well, since I’ve been here starting in 2013, they’ve been very realistic and they know … You better develop relationships and partnerships and work together, and we have that advantage of the National Scenic Area here, which is a natural region that we all should be working together on the same things.”

Deanna Busdieker, a city councilor in Cascade Locks, agrees that the city must find ways to attract better businesses – and try to do so in partnership with local tribes. Busdieker agreed to speak with Street Roots with the clarification that she speaks as an individual, and not as a representative for Cascade Locks City Council.

“Time basically stopped when the mill closed,” Busdieker said. “There are a lot of people who just want to be a company town again, to go back to the way things were … but it’s not really how it works now.”

Busdieker was the single person on Cascade Locks City Council who continually opposed the Nestlé plan. Busdieker says that the economic outlook in Cascade Locks is already improving, but that change has not yet led to new political leaders. She points to local businesses like the native-owned Brigham Fish Market and the Renewal Workshop as indications of what the town can do.

“With Nestlé out … we can maybe start looking at more appropriate businesses. I would like maybe hemp production going here, and maybe we can get the Natives involved here. They’re working on growing it on the reservation, so that could be a partnership. But you’ve gotta have a mayor and council that’s willing to look at these things.”

Busdieker says the way her city has handled communication with tribes has been a major disappointment for her, and that political change is necessary to make it better.

“I did make a lot of enemies. Retribution is a real thing in Cascade Locks. I used to be the paid tourism administrator. I was a contractor. Within two weeks of just asking questions about Nestlé that council didn’t want to answer, I got pulled from the governor’s conference on tourism. Then my contract went back out for bid. Which is why I’m practically homeless now.

“I’ve lived in the Gorge for 21 years … everywhere from The Dalles to Cascade Locks, and on both sides of the river. The ecology side of my interdisciplinary degree was almost entirely focused on the Columbia River watershed. … We’ve just got to do everything we can to protect those cold pools. After 2015 when we had that horrible drought and all the fish kills on the Columbia … you know those cold pools are so essential to the fish being able to migrate.”

On Nov. 28, Washington state’s Energy Facility Site Evaluation Council finally denied the Tesoro-Savage oil terminal in Vancouver – affirming the majority brought by Don Orange to the port of Vancouver, and ending a four-year battle. In a press release, the Cowlitz tribal chairman asked the governor to accept his agency’s decision and acknowledge his tribe’s concerns about air and water quality.

Across the region, such conflicts over development – and clashing visions of development – have plagued infrastructure projects that promised fast cash to poor towns while bringing them into conflict with their own people and with treaty tribes, eating up time and money on all sides.

With years of hindsight, it may be a good time to ask: How many of these conflicts would have happened if local governments had prioritized tribal relations, and simply planned better projects?

This article was originally published at Street Roots. It has been re-published at IC with permission.
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