Lower Elwha Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles displays the tribe’s flag in a presentation to the Standing Rock Sioux on Aug. 29. (Lower Elwha Tribe)

Lower Elwha Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles displays the tribe’s flag in a presentation to the Standing Rock Sioux on Aug. 29. (Lower Elwha Tribe)

Lower Elwha tribal members stand with Standing Rock Sioux

Delegation part of a larger group of Salish and Washington tribes.

STANDING ROCK SIOUX RESERVATION, N.D. — Members of the Lower Elwha Klallam tribe traveled to North Dakota to support the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s fight to stop the construction of an oil pipeline.

Tribal Chairwoman Frances Charles on Aug. 29 addressed the Standing Rock Sioux tribal council to offer the support of Lower Elwha, Jamestown S’Klallam and Port Gamble S’Klallam tribes as part of a delegation of Coast Salish and Washington tribes.

They were among representatives of the Yakama Nation, the Swinomish Indian Tribal Community, the Lummi Nation, the Puyallup tribe, Nisqually tribe, Suquamish tribe and Hoh tribe who traveled to support the North Dakota tribe.

“Our people stand with you,” said Charles in a video posted on YouTube, which can be seen at http://tinyurl.com/PDN-charlesvideo.

In speaking to the North Dakota tribe, Charles offered encouragement to carry on the fight to protect lands and sites they believe are important.

She recounted the part that her tribe played in the fight for removal of the two dams that once blocked fish passage in the Elwha River, a project that was completed only two years ago.

“Don’t ever give up,” Charles said. Her tribe, she said, found strength to fight in their elders and ancestors and “followed their footprints.”

She also enjoined the Sioux to “use what you know to work with the outside” to educate others about the importance of the tribal sites and places.

Charles said it is important for the tribe to “help them understand the process.”

Lake Oahe water could be contaminated if something were to happen to the pipeline, she said in a phone interview. This would affect not just the Sioux and its rights, but water for farming and consumption for tribes and states downstream.

She called the protests at the Standing Rock Sioux reservation “powerful and peaceful.”

The Klallam, she said, are very supportive of the Sioux’s missions for peaceful protection of their land, which she said “affects everybody.”

The U.S. government’s order to stop construction in the area “gives us hope,” said Charles, although the tribes are waiting to see what the next steps will be.

“The education process will continue,” she said, adding that the prayers and thoughts of all the Klallam are with the tribe in North Dakota.

Some members of the Lower Elwha delegation have discussed going back to the North Dakota reservation, but there are no concrete plans yet.

“We’re hoping for a quick resolution on this,” she said.

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Assistant Managing Editor Mark Swanson can be reached at 360-452-2345, ext. 55450, or [email protected].

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