The case against restoring the reservation - There are many examples of Klamath tribal members trying to dispose of reservation assets and lands for cash
December 21, 2003
Lynn Bayona is President of The Basin Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont National Forests, 2575 Campus Drive, Suite 346, Klamath Falls, OR 97601, 541-880-2606. Many Alliance members worked on this article.
Published in the Klamath Falls, Oregon, Herald and News
To submit a Letter to the Editor: [email protected]
Save the Winema & Fremont Forests - Proposal to Create Tribal Reservation Is Contrary to the Public Interest
The much publicized
negotiations between the Klamath Tribes, federal representatives and a
select group of private landowners have highlighted the contentious
issue of establishing a Tribal reservation in the Winema and
The problem with this
scenario is the Reservation was bought and paid for already by American
taxpayers. This would be as
if the French claimed that Thomas Jefferson coerced them into the
An additional justification for having 690,000 acres given to the Tribes is the assertions of mistreatment and the forced transformation to a European society 150 years ago. This argument is questionable considering many tribal members are over 50% European ancestry, and some tribal members are only 1/16th Native American (Federal Register Nov 21, 1957).
We encourage everyone to take a full and in-depth look at history.
attempting to liquidate assets
The historical record
is replete with examples of the Klamath Tribal Members actively trying
to dispose of their Reservation assets and lands in exchange for a cash
payment. The following are
excerpts from Tribal documents received by the Bureau of Indian Affairs
and Klamath Tribes currently archived in the regional National Archives
“If it is found at all practicable, we believe the Government should itself purchase the timber on the Klamath Reservation and make it into a forest reservation. This would necessitate an appropriation of a considerable sum of money by the Government, but it would enable the Indians to receive at an early date their respective interests in this estate.” (Petition of Klamath Modoc and Yahooskin bands of Snake Indians, 1922)
Then the 1936 General council discussed a “Proposal for the appraisement of the tribal estate for the assistance of the members for withdrawing their proportionate share from the Reservation”
Finally in 1950, the furor of tribal members wanting to sell their share of the reservation compelled the Tribal Council to act. In the 1950 tribal council meeting, the Klamath Tribes voted to introduce the voluntary withdrawal act in Congress, allowing their members to sell their share of the reservation for cash. The voluntary withdrawal act did not pass Congress but evolved into the Act Providing for Termination of Federal Supervision of the Klamath Tribes allowing the Tribes to sell the reservation in exchange for cash, for the withdrawing members.
While the Tribes insist
they did not receive adequate representation during the passing of the
Termination Bill, the Council minutes speak for themselves. In 1954 the
two elected delegates from the Tribe, Boyd Jackson and Jesse Kirk were
Wade Crawford spoke
before the Council: “ . . .Mr.
Jackson and Mr. Kirk had a meeting on these amendments that are now a law,
and that’s public record . . .Mr. Jackson agreed to that bill. . .The
parties representing you agreed to this law, don't let them give you
anything about they wanted to change it.”
In the same meeting a letter was read into the transcript from Congressman Sam Coon:
As reported at the
“In conclusion, we desire to advise the tribes that we believe on of the most desirable features of the bill, and one which has encouraged us to agree upon the bill as reported by the House Committee, is that which provides for a complete and accurate appraisal of tribal property.” (emphasis added)
Klamath Tribes terminated?
Klamath Tribes were not terminated. Federal Supervision (control) was
all that was terminated. This
point is very clearly stated in the Klamath Tribes
adoption of this Constitution we act to clarify the misconceptions that
exist regarding the effect of the Klamath Termination Act (25 USC Sec.
564 et. seq.) by stating to all people that the Klamath Tribes never
ceased to exist and that the effect to termination was the eligibility
of our members to receive services from the federal government.
Therefore, Public Law 99-398, was approved on
Both the reservation and the Klamath Tribe existed after termination. Tribal members were given a choice of whether they wanted to stay in the Tribe, or withdraw from the Tribe and get their share of the reservation in cash.
of Federal Supervision, 1,659 tribal members voted to withdraw for a
cash payout, 80 voted to remain and 394 did not vote, or presented
invalid ballots. Those who did not vote or presented invalid ballots
were considered remaining members for a total of 474 remaining members.
Source: The Federal
Register and the list of Persons Electing to Remain.
According to the Klamath Tribes’ own calculations, The Tribes were paid $220,647,000 in termination payments between 1961 and 1980 (Economic studies in support of Klamath Tribes self sufficiency and impacts of Termination).
In today’s dollars, these payments ranged between $318,613 and $762,787 per person, when adjusted for inflation, utilizing the American Institute for Economic Research’s inflation calculator.
The remaining members
received substantially more money than the withdrawing members.
The remaining members received payment when the
In 1986 Congressman Bob Smith introduced legislation to restore federal supervision of the tribes, which entitles tribal members to receive health, education, and welfare benefits.
According to the Herald
“Smith Said the bill would not restore the Klamath Tribe’s reservation nor would it suggest that the federal government should ever provide land for a reservation…If it is the Tribal (chairman’s) intention to reconstruct a reservation in the future that must be done through the same land acquisition methods available to any American”
about water rights?
water battle continues to be long and divisive. The tribes have filed
for claims to essentially all the surface water in the upper
showing actual flow back to 1922 compared to the Tribal instream claim
(the flat line), when the graph drops below the flat line irrigators
would not be able to irrigate, if the claim was granted.
The claim is well in excess of actual flow especially in the
period prior to 1954 when the tribes held the Reservation.
tribes do not have specific instream water rights, but they have massive
claims. The claims may
ultimately grant the Tribes a lot of water or virtually nothing,
depending upon the Klamath Adjudication.
The Ninth Circuit Court Recently ruled on the Adair case, setting
aside a lower court ruling the Tribes were seeking.
Now the standard is back to the amount of water necessary to
preserve the Tribes current hunting and fishing livelihood, not as it
existed in 1864.
about the Environment?
In 1925 the Tribal council states “We have sold 1,000,000,000 feet, and 5,000,000,000 feet of timber [are] yet to be sold.” For reference purposes a billion board feet of boards if laid flat would completely cover 35 square miles of land.
on the Klamath Indian Reservation 1929
Many tribal members
wanted to cut more an more timber as exemplified by the October 1946,
general Council Meeting; “BE IT
RESOLVED, that the General Council does hereby agree and consent to the
sale of all the remaining stand of virgin timber and the cut over lands,
in 50 to 100M ft M.B. for cash to the highest Bidder, and that the pro
rata share of each man, woman and child shall be paid to him or her, in
about the Sucker?
W.H. Slattery, a reservation engineer, made the following observations while investigating potential repairs to the Chiloquin Dam in 1940. Please note that suckers are also referred to as “mullets”:
is my observation that the fishing activities of the Indians near the
dam could render serious injury to a great number of fish.
In attempting to “gaff” trout, which seem to be more
desirable than mullets, the fishermen often “gaff” mullets, which
they immediately return to the stream after serious mutilation by the
removal of the gaff hook. In
fishing along the stream for trout immediately below the dam with rod
and tackle the fishermen often snag mullets, the hooks entering the body
which necessitates the bring the fish to shore for removal of the hook
by cutting it out with a pocket knife or by allowing the fish to tear
itself free form the hook while being brought into shore.
The trout fishermen do not enjoy these difficulties since it
results in the loss of much time and effort besides the loss of valuable
During the run of fish I have observed as high as twenty-five fishermen both with tackle and gaff hooks, below the dam and I feel that these fishermen would mutilate a great number of fish in the above manner.”
“As to the fish which have died in their attempt to pass the dam on their migration upstream, referred to in office letter July 24 1939, Mr. Blocklinger claims that the only dead fish he has seen in the vicinity of the dam are those which have been removed from the stream by fishermen and left upon the dam to rot. Also, he states that these fish are called ‘suckers’ and are not preferred for food.” (Slattery 1939)
Chiloquin Lumber Company Dam. This was one of many former reservation
mills; it did not have a fish ladder and was near the mouth of the
Chiloquin Lumber Company Dam. This was one of many former reservation mills; it did not have a fish ladder and was near the mouth of the Sprague River.
agreements on Land management?
There is no
guarantee that the next tribal council will honor agreements.
The tribes consider themselves to be a sovereign entity within
be subject to tribal police and courts instead of our locally elected
Since tribes are independent nations, they cannot be sued to enforce a contract. In the Regularly scheduled General Council meeting, February 22, 2003, a quorum of the Klamath Tribes General Council adopted the “Matters Concerning Return of Forestlands to the Klamath Tribes”, which in part states: “Because the land will be Indian Country upon its return, it will not be subject to state or federal authority except as such authority applies to other Indian Country of the State of Oregon…The Tribes will have civil enforcement jurisdiction for violations of the laws and regulations by both tribal members and non-tribal members…The Klamath Tribal Court…will have jurisdiction over all of the lands returned to the tribes and civil jurisdiction as provided by law over persons located on tribal lands…The Klamath Tribal Court may, in the future, assert jurisdiction over crimes committed by Indians within the boundaries of the lands returned.”
according to the Klamath Tribes Constitution approved
Much Control does the Klamath Tribe want?
to their own
B) It shall be the policy of the Klamath Tribes to seek the return, to the Klamath Tribes, of all lands, natural and cultural resources, including minerals and water rights that become available and which were historically a part of the Klamath Tribes heritage.
C) All waters which originate in or flow through the Klamath Tribes jurisdiction, or which are stored within the Klamath Tribes jurisdiction, whether found on the surface or underground, are a valuable Tribal resource of the Klamath Tribes, and are to be protected for the present and future use of the Klamath Tribes.
Section II: The sovereign powers, authority and jurisdiction of the Klamath Tribes and its government shall extend to all persons and activities within the territory which formerly constituted the Klamath Reservation and is consistent with Federal law.
III: The sovereign powers, authority and jurisdiction of the Klamath
Tribes and its government may extend beyond the geographical boundaries
of the Klamath Tribes territorial jurisdiction.”
The land grab
must be stopped
The withdrawal of reservation assets in exchange for cash was a goal voted on by a majority of the Tribal members. It was an outcome they lobbied Congress, under the Voluntary Withdrawal Act. Having successfully achieved their goal it is inequitable to let them now reassert a right to re-vest themselves with the reservation already sold.
As American citizens we have a moral obligation to preserve our National Forests for future generations. We must fight to preserve wood cutting, hunting, fishing, snowmobiling, horseback riding; hiking, skiing and other recreational opportunities, which we all enjoy.
But there is a bigger question of the great injustice of Tribal sovereignty where the tribes have used the endless checkbook of the federal government, attacking our agricultural community trying to get title to all the water. If the Tribes want to be good neighbors the first thing they should do is drop all their massive water claims, and heal the community.
Who will be next if the Tribes get ten times as much power? One can read various employment advertisements for the Tribes and their Casino where they state “Indian preference will apply”. Could anybody else get away with race based hiring practices? Will those same practices apply to lands gained? We justifiably expect the Tribes to live by the same rules as everybody else, is that too much to ask?