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Tribes, environmental groups protest recent sewage spills

Activists: City should be held responsible for fouling Columbia River

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
4 Photos
Native American tribal members and environmental activists marched through Vancouver on Saturday to protest sewage spills into the Columbia River.
Native American tribal members and environmental activists marched through Vancouver on Saturday to protest sewage spills into the Columbia River. Alisha Jucevic/The Columbian Photo Gallery

Native American tribes and environmental groups protested Saturday and called for the city of Vancouver to be held accountable for recent sewage spills into the Columbia River.

Last month, two failures at the city of Vancouver’s Westside Wastewater Treatment facility led to pours of about 500,000 gallons of human waste into the river. The incidents are being reviewed by officials.

Speakers at the event didn’t mince words, putting the spills on par with ecological blows like nuclear waste disasters and oil spills. Paul Cheeokten, of the Saanich Nation, called them all a “genocide of wild salmon.”

“This river is suffering and dying from the ill minds of people who don’t understand the circle of life,” he said.

The event, held at the Vancouver Landing Amphitheater, lasted more than three hours and included a dozen speakers and a march into the downtown area. More than 70 people were counted at the event.

Tribal leaders urged state representatives to get involved to hold the city of Vancouver accountable and stamp out pollution. Roxanne White, a member of the Nez Perce with Yakama Nation heritage, added tribal leaders hope to be involved in any discussion.

Many tribes in the Pacific Northwest subsisted on fishing before the arrival of Europeans, and the Columbia River was key for people in the region.

“It is our lifeline itself,” said JoDe Goudy, chairman of the Yakama Nation. “This has been, since time immemorial, the foundation of our people’s relationship with the rivers and the salmon.”

Columbian staff writer

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