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Tribes present their case

Published Dec 14, 2003


Klamath Tribal Chairman Allen Foreman faced a mostly skeptical crowd of about 150 people Saturday in Klamath Falls as he made a case for re-establishing the Tribes' reservation that was abolished by the federal government nearly 50 years ago.

About 100 people demonstrated outside to protest the idea, while plain-clothes police officers sat among the crowd inside. The gathering inside included about 30 tribal members.

While the mood was tense at times, the meeting was orderly and concluded abruptly.

Speaking to a crowd packed inside the Mabel Liskey Henzel Pavilion, Foreman outlined why the Tribes want 690,000 acres of national forest land, and how they would manage it.

Foreman said federal termination in 1954 devastated the Klamath Tribes, which he said had been one of the most prosperous tribes in the country.

"It was like a plague," he said.

Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes, explains why the Tribes want to have a reservation re-established to about 150 people who packed Mabel Liskey Pavilion Saturday afternoon.

Donald Wharton, an attorney with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, Colo., said the Tribes want the land for spiritual, cultural and legal reasons.

"At the heart of what the Tribes are talking about is a legal issue," he said. "The rectification of a historic wrong."

Wharton has been working with the Klamath Tribes off and on for different organizations since 1973.

Foreman went through about 55 questions that were brought up repeatedly at the two previous meetings - in Beatty on Nov. 10 and in Chiloquin on Nov. 12.

The questions ranged from queries about access to concerns about the effect on private land.

Foreman said the Tribes are not looking to take over land that is private property.

"The Tribes would not do to others the injustice they felt was done to them," he said.

Many unanswered questions, especially those specific to resource management, should be addressed by the Tribes' forest management plan, Foreman said.

The 116-page plan should be on the Tribes' Web site by Thursday, and copies will be available at libraries around the Klamath Basin.

"The plan is field-based. The people working on it actually went out and walked the land," he said.

The existence of the Tribes, Foreman said, depends on the natural resources within the old reservation boundaries, and that is why they want the land back.

"We've attempted to co-manage the forest with the Forest Service, but it has been a dismal failure," he said.

After his presentation, Foreman opened the meeting to questions.

Many people who are becoming familiar faces at the Tribes' public meetings raised their hands with questions.

One of them was James "Mountain Chief" Sanderville, a tribal member who has used the meetings to question the Tribes' leadership.

When he first tried to ask a question Saturday he was asked to wait his turn. Some in the crowd shouted for him to get a chance to speak, while others told him to sit down.

Once it was his turn to speak, Sanderville stood. Again came the dueling calls for him to get a chance for him to get a chance to speak and for him to "sit down and shut up."

After a couple of questions, Sanderville was cut off. Tribal attorney Shayleen Idrogo said his questions and concerns should be brought at the Tribes' General Council meeting and not at the public meeting.

Sanderville concluded his remarks by saying, "Ignorance is dangerous," then walked out of the meeting.

He returned a couple of minutes later with a sign that read "Investigate Tribal Corruption."

Midway through the question-and-answer session, a group of people, mostly some of those who had been protesting outside, left the meeting.

Pat Cane of Sprague River, who held a protest sign during the meeting, stayed, but she didn't like what she heard.

She said she doesn't believe the Tribes should be entitled to receive land they sold to the government.

Janet Walksnice, a tribal member from Klamath Falls, said the meeting was a good start, but there is a lot more education needed.

Walksnice, 31, said re-establishment of a reservation would help her generation and the younger tribal members understand their culture.

"It's a goal for all of us," she said.

Today, tribal officials planned to hold a public meeting in Portland. They will then go to Salem Monday, Eugene Tuesday and Medford Friday. The officials are doing a tour of the I-5 corridor because many tribal members moved there after termination.

Foreman said the Tribes may hold more public meetings in the Basin, although none are scheduled at this time.

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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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