Northern Cheyenne Travel 1,200 Miles to Testify Against Coal Port

Spokane Coal Port Rally group from Northern Cheyenne
Northern Cheyenne group that traveled 1200 miles roundtrip to Spokane, WA to a coal port hearing. From (l) to (r) – Mike Scott (Sierra Club), Burdette Birdingground, Vanessa Braided Hair, Kale Means, Alexis Medicine Horse, Jeff King, Alexis Bonogofsky (National Wildlife Federation), Kaden Walks Nice, Adriann Killsnight – Photo by Jack McNeel
On Monday, December 3, eight Northern Cheyenne tribal members and one Crow tribal member drove over 1200 miles round trip, in the middle of winter, from their homes on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation in southeastern Montana to Spokane, WA where a public hearing on the proposed coal port export facility in northwestern Washington is being proposed.

Why would someone care about a coal port facility being proposed over 1,000 miles away?

Black Thunder Coal Mine - Wyoming
Black Thunder Coal Mine – Powder River Basin – photo by Ecoflight
The coal port facilities that are being proposed in the northwest will heavily impact those of us in Montana, especially people from the Northern Cheyenne Tribe, whose Reservation is currently surrounded by operating and proposed coal mines as well as coal-fired power plants to the north and south of the Reservation.

If these ports are permitted and constructed, southeastern Montana will become a sacrifice zone for coal development and the Northern Cheyenne will bear the brunt of impacts to their land, water, air, and cultural sites.

Since the Army Corp of Engineers did not schedule any public hearings in Montana, over 60 Montanans decided to head to Washington to tell the Corp that they must analyze the impacts that this coal port facility will have on southeastern Montana and all of the rail communities that will have to deal with the exhaust, coal dust, train noise, traffic delays, air and water pollution, destruction of cultural sites, and the myriads of other impacts from coal mining in southeastern Montana.

Army Corp of Engineers needs to analyze all impacted communities – from the prairies to the ports

The basic message that people from Montana brought to Spokane is that impacts to ALL of the communities, from the existing and proposed mines in the Powder River Basin to the ports on the West coast and all the rail communities in between, must be analyzed.

By agreeing with the conservation community that citizens in Spokane will be impacted by new coal port terminals they implicitly admit that all rail communities will be impacted. If Spokane residents have a right to be a part of the coal port scoping hearings then Montana rail communities should also have the opportunity to attend a public hearing in their own community, instead of travelling over 1,000 miles.

If the rail communities are impacted, then the people who live near the massive new coal mines that are being proposed to feed these ports will be impacted exponentially more and deserve their own hearing.

Northern Cheyenne and Crow tribal member testimony

Even though only 75 people were allowed to speak, and the coal companies paid temporary workers to hold spots, the Power Past Coal coalition was able to secure spots for four of the Northern Cheyenne speakers and one of Crow speakers. Below you will find short 2 minute videos of their testimony.





How you can help

You can comment on the proposed coal port Gateway Pacific Terminal online or by email at

Tell the Army Corp of Engineers that they MUST analyze impacts from these coal ports in all communities, from the mines to the ports, from the prairies to the ocean.

You can also join or donate to NWF’s efforts to stop coal exports.

Become of fan of NWF’s Tribal Lands Partnerships Program on facebook and follow us on Twitter @NWFTribalLands