Past, present cloud Tribes' meetings
Shayleen Idrogo, an attorney for the Klamath Tribes,
addresses the audience during a meeting at the
tribal headquarters in Chiloquin.
Published Nov. 16, 2003
By DYLAN DARLING
During public meetings last week the Klamath Tribes
tried to focus on the future and what they would do
with forests in a new reservation.
But the past and present kept coming up.
Questions, concerns and opinions about how the
Tribes ended up without a reservation in the first
place dominated the meeting in Beatty on Monday, and
questions about how the Tribes manage what they
already own underscored the Chiloquin meeting
After Klamath Tribes Chairman Allen Foreman's
introductory presentation at the Beatty meeting, the
first question for him came from Judy Criswell, who
has a 135-acre horse ranch near Chiloquin.
"Are you or are you not an American?" she said.
"I am one of the first Americans."
Jeff Mitchell, a former chairman of the Klamath
Tribes, answers questions directed toward him during
Wednesday's meeting in Chiloquin.
His answer met with groans and deep sighs from many
in the crowd, setting the tone for what would be a
Groans and grumbles again rolled through the crowd
of about 120 when Foreman mentioned racism and after
the Tribes explained their take on the past.
Many at the Beatty meeting asked the tribal
officials why their members can't just move on from
the past, accepting the mistake of their forefathers
to sell off the Tribes' homeland.
Foreman said part of the problem is that the members
of the Tribes didn't get paid for their land, but
rather were paid for their lost assets, such as
timber. He said the government forced the Tribes
into termination, and it was unjust.
His response lead to more groans from many in the
crowd. Throughout the evening there were several
heated moments, most coming from debates about the
Debbie Brown, who has lived with her husband on 12.5
acres near Beatty for 10 years, said people who live
in or near the old reservation area shouldn't be
punished for what the government did to the Tribes.
"We can't be held responsible for what happened 20
years ago," she said.
She said people who live on or near the old
reservation are worried about how a new reservation
will change their properties. Many said they bought
land where they did because they wanted to get away
from people and have national forest land beyond
their back yards.
Missy Hess, who said she is a rancher and an Indian,
said less time should be spent arguing about the
past and more should be used to discuss the future.
"I thought this was going to be about what needs to
be done, not what has happened," she said.
At the Chiloquin meeting, many wanted to talk about
what is happening now, not what might happen later.
People from the public and the Tribes raised
concerns about the conditions of the Kla-Mo-Ya
Casino, Williamson River, town of Chiloquin and
other areas seen as being under the control of the
Jim Kincaid, who has lived near Chiloquin for about
a year, said he sees a trash-filled river and a
"If this is how they treat the river, if this is how
they treat the town, then what are they going to do
with 700,000 acres of land?" he said.
Officials with the Tribes said there are many
cleanups of the river and much of the waste in it
wasn't dropped in by members of the Tribes. They
also said they aren't the ones who run Chiloquin.
Although some of the subject matter was touchy, Anna
Bennett, a member of the Tribes land and water
committee, said the Chiloquin meeting was not as
"vicious" as the Beatty meeting.
Despite differences in points of view, those at the
Chiloquin meeting want to work together, she said.
"I don't get that feeling from those out in Beatty,"
The formats of the two meetings were a bit
In Beatty, tribal officials gathered in a corner and
Foreman tried to call on people with their hands
raised for comment, but many interrupted each other.
Foreman then tried to answer as many of the
questions he could on his own, sometimes turning to
the other tribal representatives for help.
In Chiloquin, those with questions had to come up
and speak into a microphone. Their questions were
asked of a panel of tribal officials.
Bennett said the Chiloquin meeting was more
structured than the Beatty meeting partially because
of reaction to how the Beatty meeting went and
partially because of the change in venue and the
She said the Tribes plan to have more public
meetings in December, including one in Klamath Falls
and several in the I-5 corridor. At those meetings,
questions about the past and present will probably
come up again, Bennett said.
She said the Tribes will do the best they can to
address the concerns.
"We are not going to fight with people, we are here
to find solutions to problems in the Basin," she
said. "But some people are not going to agree with
you no matter what you do."
The Tribes' next public meeting about the
reservation is from 1 to 5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 13,
in Klamath Falls at the Mabel Liskey Henzel
Pavilion, 2200 Eldorado Blvd.
Reporter Dylan Darling covers natural resources. He
can be reached at 885-4471, (800) 275-0982, or by
Following is the text of a document distributed
by the Klamath Tribes Wednesday during a public
meeting in Chiloquin. The document, titled
"Frequently Asked Questions & Answers" addresses
issues regarding the Chiloquin-based Tribes' effort
to regain their former reservation.
1. How long have the Klamath, Modoc and Yahooskin
people resided in the Klamath Basin area?
We are taught that we have been here "from the
beginning " According to federal case law, we have
been here "since time immemorial. " According to
professionals in the field of archaeology, we have
been here for 14,000 to 20,000 years. Our ancestors
were already firmly established residents when Mount
Mazama erupted and created Crater Lake more than
7,000 years ago.
2. What is the basis for the Klamath Tribes'
existence as a distinct sovereign entity?
The United States Constitution recognizes Indian
Tribes as distinct sovereign entities. The Supreme
Court has held that Tribes have both inherent
sovereignty and the sovereignty accorded to them by
Congress and the Courts. We believe that our
sovereignty is inherent - it is, as the Supreme
Court has held, an attribute of our indigenous or
Although our sovereignty has been diminished, the
United States continues to legally recognize Indian
Tribes as domestic dependent nations. The United
States Congress acknowledged the Klamath Tribes'
sovereign status when it chose to restore our
federal recognition in 1986.
3. Did the United States give the Klamath Tribes a
reservation in the 1864 Treaty?
No, as part of the Treaty negotiations, the Klamath
Tribes ceded, or gave to the United States, over 20
million acres. Our ancestors reserved to themselves
(for our benefit) over 2 million acres of our
aboriginal homeland, to be permanently held in trust
for us by the United States.
4. Why do the Klamath Tribes want the former
reservation lands returned to us?
We believe that the sale of the reservation, like
the termination of the Tribes, was morally unjust.
President Nixon articulated the injustice of
termination in 1972, and the termination policy was
ended. We also feel that we have a spiritual and
cultural responsibility to heal and protect our
Homeland for the generations who will follow us.
5. Is it true that the Tribes sold the reservation
three times, and that the government gave it back
No. The United States Congress terminated the
Klamath Tribes in 1954 and mandated that the Klamath
Tribes assets be sold and the resulting funds
disbursed. The only option tribal members were given
was to "remain" as a shareholder of the assets
(including a proportionate share of the land) which
were to be managed by an unnamed trustee, or to
accept their share of the assets in cash. A Bureau
of Indian Affairs newsletter distributed to tribal
members implored them to withdraw or risk ending up
After the majority of tribal members chose to
withdraw their assets as advised, Bureau of Indian
Affairs employees labeled over 70 percent of the
withdrawing tribal members incompetent - including
many adults. The assets of persons deemed
incompetent were then placed under the management of
trustees - frequently local attorneys and judges.
The local bar association established a "special"
(higher) Indian fee for the management of these
funds. Many attorneys mismanaged funds - three
mismanaged them so grossly that they were disbarred,
and at least one was incarcerated in federal prison.
When "remaining" tribal members voted to dissolve
their trust, the bank trustee interpreted that as a
vote to sell all assets and the resultant funds were
distributed. By that time, many of the original
remaining members were deceased.
After all of this, the Federal Trade Commission
conducted an investigation into Klamath County
business dealings. That investigation revealed
discriminatory business practices towards Indians
after termination. No Indians were compensated for
either trustee mismanagement or for the FTC
6. Why didn't other Indians do what Edison Chiloquin
did, and take land instead of accepting money?
As many people know, one Klamath Indian - Edison
Chiloquin - negotiated with the federal government
to accept a parcel of land (as a life estate which
transferred to the U.S. Forest Service at his
death), instead of accepting his share of the
terminated and condemned tribal assets in cash. This
was not an option offered to tribal members, but an
unique agreement struck between Edison and the
7. What are the boundaries of the lands the Tribes
want to have returned?
Generally, the boundaries include former reservation
lands currently held by the Winema and Fremont
8. Will non-Indians who currently reside within the
boundaries of Winema National Forest lose the right
to live there?
Absolutely not. The Tribes would not do to others
the injustice that we feel was done to us. (Condemn
and take their lands, or try to intimidate them into
9. Will the Tribes provide for access to people
living on private property (in-holders) within the
boundaries of the former reservation?
Yes. On February 23, 2003, the Klamath Tribes
General Council voted for the Tribes to honor
current permitted uses and valid existing rights on
the former Reservation lands, and to issue future
permits and rights based upon tribal management
goals and objectives. The Tribes also adopted the
following statement: "Private landowners will have
the absolute right to access their property
throughout the lands returned to the Tribes. The
Tribes will maintain the right to limit certain
routes of access in accordance with tribally adopted
management goals that are not burdensome to the
Anyone with easements or rights of way with the
Forest Service will have those honored. Even if
someone does not have an easement or right of way,
the Tribes have committed to assure that they have
reasonable access to their lands.
10. How can the people living within the returned
land be certain that they will have access to their
The Klamath Tribes have already agreed that this
access right will be included either directly or by
reference in any legislation transferring lands to
11. Will people living on private property within
the returned lands have to pay for access?
We don't foresee any immediate circumstances in
which private landowners would have to pay a fee for
access to their private property. If that were to
change, any such fee would be commensurate with such
fees charged by the federal and/or state government.
12. Will the Klamath Tribes allow for general public
Yes. On February 23, 2003, the Klamath Tribes
General Council approved the following commitment:
"Non-tribal members will continue to have access to
the returned lands for hunting, fishing, camping and
other recreational purposes. Such access will be
pursuant to the Tribal policy on public access to be
developed by the tribes. The Klamath Tribes are
committed to building a positive working and sharing
relationship with the general public, while
maintaining our ability to sustain our culture,
enhance the Klamath Basin ecosystem, and protect our
culturally significant areas. On this basis, the
Tribes will work with the federal government, the
state of Oregon and the general public to develop
the process for the administration of public access
to the lands for recreational purposes, including
hunting, fishing, camping and other activities as
appropriate. The Tribal policy on public access will
provide a framework for the development of relevant
tribal ordinances that are consistent with tribally
adopted ecosystem management goals. "
As the new manager of these lands the Tribes will be
undertaking the restoration of the forest, the
watershed, and habitat necessary to support the
return of abundant wildlife.
That will necessitate a different approach to how
these lands are managed. The Tribes plans for the
management of these lands include a process for
public involvement and review of tribal plans.
13. Will the Tribes allow for public recreation?
Yes. On February 22, 2003, the Klamath Tribes
General Council agreed that public access would
continue to be allowed for "hunting, fishing,
camping and other recreational purposes...
consistent with tribally adopted ecosystem
management goals." The Tribes have also committed to
developing a Klamath Tribes Recreation Strategy,
which will balance Tribal needs with public access
for a variety of recreation experiences.
14. Will non-Indians be allowed access to the
forestlands on foot or horseback?
Yes. Such activities will be allowed for everyone to
the extent that they are done in manner that is
consistent with the Tribes' overall forest
15. Will the tribal lands be managed like the Warm
Springs Reservation - with two different sets of
laws (for Indians and non-Indians)?
Yes, to some extent.
A different set of laws already applies to members
of the Klamath Tribes, based on our Treaty Rights.
The Klamath Tribes also have both civil and criminal
jurisdiction over our own tribal members. Under
Public Law 280, this jurisdiction is concurrent with
that of the state of Oregon. (Tribes do not have the
legal authority to exercise criminal jurisdiction
over non-Indians, although we may have civil
authority over some matters.)
The general public will have legally mandated access
to the returned reservation lands and legal recourse
to ensure that the Tribes follow the commitments we
have made regarding forest management decisions.
Furthermore, the Tribes will host regular meetings
with private landowners; both within the reservation
lands and bordering them, when any decision is being
considered that may substantively impact them.
16. Will the Tribes use both Indian and non-Indian
companies for forest work if the land is returned,
or only Indian companies?
The Tribes hope to employ as many tribal members as
are qualified. There is a tremendous amount of work
to be done, however, and we anticipate that we will
be contracting with both Indian and non-Indian
companies to accomplish that work.
17. How will tribal management of the lands be
Most of the tribal management of the lands will be
funded by the federal government, just as it
currently is. The tribes are looking into various
types of environmentally friendly business
development to offset some of those costs.
As is the usual case, federal dollars spent for
management of the forestlands will circulate several
times within Klamath County to the benefit of the
18. What if someone believes that the Tribes have
violated the terms of the transfer of the lands to
The Tribes have committed to a detailed public
participation process for review and comment on
tribal land management actions. If anyone feels that
the tribal plans violate the terms of the transfer
or existing tribal land use laws, that person has
the right to appeal within the Tribes and then to
tribal court. If still dissatisfied with the
outcome, that person can appeal the matter to the
federal district court.
19. Don't the Tribes have sovereign immunity? How
can someone sue the Tribes in their own courts or in
federal district court?
The Tribes have agreed to an unprecedented waiver of
our sovereign immunity to both our own courts and to
the federal district court. Any person who feels
that land management actions affecting these lands
is in violation of the law transferring the lands,
or the Tribes' own laws, may bring suit in tribal
court. If that person feels he or she is not
accorded a fair hearing in tribal court, the Tribes
have agreed to waive our immunity to suit in federal
20. What about federal environmental laws? Will they
apply to the returned lands?
The same federal environmental laws that apply to
other lands apply to tribal lands; specifically, the
Clean Water Act, the Endangered Species Act and the
Clean Air Act, as well as other federal laws of
general application. Any information that these laws
would not apply is simply wrong.
21. Will the Tribes allow for public hunting and
Yes. On September 27, 2003, the Klamath Tribes
General Council adopted the following language:
"Hunting, fishing and trapping permits will be
issued to Tribal members and the general public
based on the availability of resources." On that
date, the Tribes also committed to improving
riparian areas to provide enhanced habitat for
wildlife and fish, improving fish habitat to provide
for increased fish population, improving deer winter
range habitat for mule deer, maintaining or
improving summer habitat for mule deer, and
improving fawning and calving areas. The Tribes also
committed to working in cooperation with other
agencies to improve mule deer numbers.
22. What kind of fees will be charged for hunting?
Will they be in addition to what the state currently
The Tribes plan to take responsibility for issuing
hunting tags within the boundaries of the returned
lands. We will charge hunting fees that are
commensurate with those charged by the state of
Oregon. The Tribes will coordinate this
responsibility with the state, and will not agree to
participate in any plan to double-charge hunters.
23. Will tribal hunting be cut back in order to
allow the herds to grow?
The Tribes will take whatever action is necessary to
allow the herds to grow. Tribal members, however,
have a Treaty right to subsistence hunt and the
Tribes would cut back on their hunting privileges
only as a last resort.
24. Will the Tribes allow for public wood gathering?
Yes. On September 27, 2003 the Klamath Tribes
General Council committed to the implementation of a
wood cutting program that will provide a sustainable
source of firewood fuels for both Tribal members and
the general public. The Klamath Tribes have not yet
determined if commercial wood cutting will be
allowed in the near future. All wood cutting will
have to comply with the Tribes' overall forest
25. Will the Tribes allow grazing to continue?
Yes. On February 22, 2003, the Klamath Tribes
General Council agreed to honor current permitted
uses and valid existing rights, including grazing.
At that time, the General Council also agreed to
issue further permits and rights based upon tribal
management goals and objectives. On September 27,
2003, the Tribes committed to a grazing program that
will be managed in a manner that avoids conflicts
with mule deer and other wildlife, decreases
erosion, enhances riparian areas and maintains
healthy upland conditions.
26. Why do the Klamath Tribes have a water right
when they are not irrigators?
The Supreme Court has held that when Congress
entered into agreements setting aside reservations
for Indian Tribes (such as the Klamath Treaty),
enough water was impliedly reserved to meet the
needs of the Indians residing there. This is known
as the Winters doctrine.
When the Klamath Tribes were terminated in 1954,
Congress specifically stated in the legislation
that: "Nothing in this [Act~ shall abrogate any
water rights of the tribe and its members... Nothing
in this [Act~ shall abrogate any fishing rights or
privileges the tribe or the members thereof enjoyed
under Federal treaty. "
In the case of United States v. Adair, the 9th
Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the Tribes' right to
enough water to support treaty harvest activities,
and recognized a "time immemorial" priority date.
27. Will the Tribes put in dams above private lands?
The Tribes do not have plans to put in any dams.
However, the Tribes - like other parties in the
Basin - are considering the feasibility of
establishing a long-term water storage facility of
some sort. Any such plan would be developed with the
input of others in the Basin, and with specific
attention to anyone whose land or resources could be
impacted by such action.
28. Why aren't all meetings public - why wasn't
everyone involved in the special meetings between
the Tribes and some local irrigators and ranchers?
The meetings between the Klamath Tribes and various
Klamath Basin rancher and irrigator representatives
grew out of contention and conflict. The group,
which was originally pulled together by
representatives of Klamath Basin Rangeland Trust,
determined early on that it would stay relatively
small in order to provide a forum for informal,
level-headed discussions about highly charged
No "deals" have been made behind closed doors, but
the various parties have come to understand one
another's perspectives much better as a result of
patient and persistent dialogue.
29. Why don't the Tribes plan to buy back the land?
The return of the lands is being considered as part
of a negotiated settlement agreement. As articulated
by one tribal spokesperson: "The federal and state
governments have said that land recovery is unlikely
without water settlement. The Tribes have said that
water settlement is unlikely without land recovery.
The Tribes feel that it is in everyone's best
interest to reach a negotiated settlement agreement.
If the parties are unwilling or unable to come to
such an agreement, however, the Tribes and all other
parties will have to proceed through the state's
water adjudication process.
30. Will the Tribes provide taxes or some other
funding for schools?
The federal government provides "impact aid" funds
to school districts that have federal and/or tribal
employees working on lands held in trust, including
Indian reservations, military bases, national
forests and similar holdings. Federal impact aid is
also provided to school districts that have Indian
children living on Indian lands held in trust by the
Some Klamath County schools already receive extra
grant funding from non-profit organizations because
of the number of Indian students attending their
schools. The Tribes are also looking into various
types of business development that would enable us
to assist the local schools.
31. Since the federal government is the trustee for
Indian reservations, what makes the Tribes think
they won't change their minds again as in the past
(and take away the returned lands)?
There are no guarantees in life, but since the 1970s
the federal government has publicly acknowledged the
failure and injustice of the termination policy.
Times have changed since the 1950s, and many more
people in the United States and around the globe
respect the rights of indigenous peoples to maintain
their cultural identity and still participate in the
32. Why aren't the Tribes willing to co-manage the
reservation with the Forest Service? Why do they
want to have ownership of the lands?
The Tribes had a homeland in the Klamath Basin for
14,000 - 20,000 years. This is where we believe our
Creator meant us to be, and we believe that it is
critical to the well being of our people -
physically, culturally and spiritually - that we
remain here. We believe this was meant to be our
Homeland, from time immemorial into time infinite.
We have an inherent responsibility to care for this
place and the resources therein.
We have attempted to co-manage these lands with the
Forest Service, but it has been a dismal failure.
This is generally not the fault of the local U.S.
Forest Service employees, but a result of the fact
that policies for national forests are oftentimes
national or regional in scope, and oftentimes driven
by political decision-making at the Washington,
D.C., or Portland level.
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