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Giving Voice to Pacific Northwest Tribes
By Holly Testa, Director, Shareowner Engagement

Leaders representing Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians (AFNI) spoke at the annual meeting of Goldman Sachs investors last month with the help of First Affirmative clients. Debra Lekonof of the Swinomish and Jeremiah Jay Julius of the Lummi spoke at the meeting and voiced concerns about the bank’s financing of a coal terminal on tribal lands.

Goldman Sachs has significant ownership in Carrix, parent company of SSA Marine and Pacific International Terminals. Their proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal at Cherry Point, which would be built on burial grounds of the Lummi nation, would facilitate coal exports to Asia. In addition to the significant implications for climate change given coal’s large carbon footprint, the environmental impact would likely be devastating for Pacific Northwest tribes.

Deborah Lekonof told Goldman Sachs shareholders that 57 tribes of the AFNI adopted a resolution opposing this exportation and transportation of fossil energy. In endorsing the resolution, Swinomish Chairman Brian Cladoosby stated: “We want the world to understand that the impacts of over 2,300 giant new vessels transporting over 70 million tons of coal per year in the Salish Sea and over 500,000 barrels of oil per day by train across our lands, rivers, and wetlands will devastate our treaty and aboriginal fishing areas, sacred places, and human health.”

Jeremiah Jay Julius pointed out that Goldman Sachs Environmental Policy Framework recognizes “…the identities and cultures of indigenous peoples are inextricably linked to the lands on which they live and the natural resources on which they depend” and that the bank prefers to” finance projects in indigenous areas where free, prior, informed consultation results in the support of the project by the affected indigenous peoples.” Consent has not been given in this case.

First Affirmative helped tribal leaders attend the annual meeting to ask Goldman Sachs for a face-to-face meeting in their homeland. Lloyd Blankfein, Chairman and CEO, has agreed to this request.

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Posted: July 22, 2013