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Tribes, their foes, schedule meetings

published Dec. 10, 2003

Group opposing reservation wants its members to attend tribal meeting, too


The Klamath Tribes are set to hold their third in a series of meetings about the possible re-establishment of a reservation Saturday in Klamath Falls.

A group formed recently to oppose the Tribes' reservation proposal plans to hold its own meeting Thursday, and encourage its members to attend Saturday's tribal meeting.

Meanwhile, an informal group of representatives from various land and water interests will hold another closed-door meeting Friday.

The Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont Forests, which staged a protest outside the informal group's meeting last Monday, will meet at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at the Shilo Inn.

Lynn Bayona, alliance president, said the meeting is for people to ask questions about the reservation issue, and to encourage people to go to the Tribes' meeting on Saturday.

"It's kind of a moral booster for people who don't feel like they have a place to speak," he said.

Bayona said one of the group's members, Ed Bartel, president of the Sprague River Water Users, once spent a week at the National Archives in Seattle, and came back with stacks of documents about the Klamath Tribes and their termination in 1954.

He said Bartel has a lot of numbers, dates and other information to share at the meeting. There's no formal agenda for the alliance meeting. Rather, it will be a time for people to ask their questions and share what they know.

The alliance started about a month ago to give people - from hunters to ranchers to small land owners - a voice in the reservation issue, Bayona said.

After last Monday's protest, Bayona said he got about 25 to 30 phone calls and numerous e-mails from people who wanted to know more about the issue and the alliance.

"This thing is really rolling on," he said.

The alliance plans to demonstrate with picket signs again Saturday, rallying for an hour before the Tribes' meeting at the Mabel Liskey Henzel Pavilion. The rally is set to start at noon.

At Saturday's meeting, the Tribes' leadership, including Chairman Allen Foreman, will explain why they want a reservation again. Tribal officials will also answer questions from the public and address specific concerns.

Saturday's meeting by the Tribes' is the last one to be held locally. In early November, the Tribes held meetings in Beatty and Chiloquin.

Later this month, members of the Tribes leadership plan on traveling to Portland, and then on down the I-5 corridor to Salem, Eugene and Medford.

While the Tribes' meetings focus on re-establishment of a reservation, the informal group's meetings haven't dealt with the issue in a couple of sessions, said Dan Keppen, executive director of the Klamath Water Users Association.

He said the group - made up of about a dozen people representing the Tribes, irrigators and other interests - has been going over computer models to try to figure out a balance of water in the Basin.

The computer models, provided by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, make an understandable picture of the complex mathematics of how the different pieces of the water systems in the Klamath Basin affect each other. Keppen said they show how tweaking different elements, such as storage or irrigation demand, affects things downstream.

The informal meetings have been controversial because of the closed door, which has kept the public and the media from finding out what is being discussed. Although the group has designated three spokesmen and plan to release recommendations, many people, like those in the alliance, question what the focus of the meetings are, Bayona said.

Keppen said the group is unintentionally fanning the fire of suspicion by not having anything to release yet. He said he doesn't know how much longer the group will continue to meet.

"The idea is to keep meeting until we have some proposal to offer the community," he said. "But we haven't gotten there yet."

Anything the group recommends would need to be approved by Congress to be adopted, so it will need support from the community and the region to come into being, Keppen said.

He said he thinks the community senses that a reservation land deal is what is being discussed, but that isn't the case right now.

"There is so much concern about the land return that it is eclipsing these other important issues," he said.

Reporter Dylan Darling covers natural resources. He can be reached at 885-4471, (800) 275-0982, or by e-mail at ddarling@heraldandnews.com.

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