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7/29/2005 Capital Press by Dylan Darling Freelance Writer
Garnett Bowa, right, and other members of the Basin Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont Forests protest a proposal to return Forest Service lands to the Klamath Tribes. The protest took place in December 2003 outside the Shilo Inn, where parties were meeting to discuss the proposal. - Ron Winn photo
Garrick Jackson, right, a member of the Klamath Tribal Council, helps a young member make a bow at the Klamath Culture Camp near the headwaters of the Williamson River last summer. Terminated in 1954, the tribes launched a comeback in the 1970s. The camp is in its 24th year. - Gary Thain photo
1825 – Finan McDonald and Thomas McKay are believed to be the first white men to enter the territory of Klamath Indians.

1852 – Ben Wright, an “Indian hunter” from the mining town of Jacksonville trying to halt attacks on Applegate Trail pioneers, leads an ambush on Modoc Indians during a parley. His group kills 52 men, women and children, estimated to be about 10 percent of the entire Modoc population.

Oct. 14, 1864 – The federal government signs a treaty with the Klamath Tribe. The treaty applies to the Klamath, Modoc tribes and the Yahooskin band of Paiutes. All three roamed a large area. Claims to 20 million acres were ceded, and 2.2 million acres were retained as a reservation. The treaty provides hunting, fishing and gathering rights in perpetuity.

1870 – A group of Modoc Indians leave the Klamath Reservation to return to their homelands near Tulelake.

1871 – The tribe’s reservation is reduced in size when a government survey excludes large parcels of tribal land.

Nov. 29, 1872 – After prolonged negotiations, a U.S. Cavalry detachment is sent to bring the Modocs back to the reservation. Civilians join in raiding a neighboring camp, and the Modoc Indian war is on. Most of the military action centered on a standoff in what is now Lava Beds National Monument.

June 1, 1873 – Modoc war leader Kientpoos, also known as Captain Jack, surrenders after leading the Modoc Indian War. Leaders are tried, and many families are deported to a reservation in Oklahoma.

1896 – A federal boundary commission says 617,000 acres had been excluded from the reservation in previous government surveys. The commission values the land at 83 cents per acre.

1896 – The sale of processed lumber from the reservation reaches a quarter-million board feet per year.

1901 – The United States pays the tribe $537,007 for 621,824 acres. Twice the tribe tries to get more payment, but both efforts fail.

1933-1937 – Wade Crawford, a member of the Klamath Tribe, serves as superintendent of the reservation, the only American Indian to serve at the post.

1945 – Crawford goes to Washington, D.C., to endorse a bill that would liquidate the tribes.

Aug. 13, 1954 – Congress adopts the Klamath Termination Act calling for the end of federal supervision of the tribe and the abolishment of the 1.2-million-acre reservation.

May 1958 – Tribal members vote, either to withdraw from the tribe and receive cash payment or to remain in the tribe with a portion of land managed by trustee. Of the 2,133 members on the final roll of 1954, 1,658 vote to withdraw, and 77 choose to remain. The 398 who don’t vote are added to the remaining group. Later, 135,000 acres of timberland is set aside as for what will be known as the “remaining members.” The balance of the land is allocated to a liquidation process that takes more than a decade to complete.

1959 – U.S. National Bank of Oregon is designated land trustee for the 475 remaining members. Trustees get $38,000 each from timber sale profits.

1960s through early ’70s – The government sells former reservation lands in blocks of 5,000 acres, which few tribal members can afford. Crown-Zellerbach buys 90,000 acres. The U.S. Forest Service takes over management of 690,000 acres, which become part of the Fremont and Winema national forests.

1961 – The termination process is completed. The federal government issues $43,000 checks to the 1,658 members of the tribe who voted to withdraw.

1964 – Remaining members vote to keep land trust in place.

1969 – Remaining members vote to terminate the land trust.

1974 – Remaining members get $103,000 each for their interest in trust land sold to the U.S. government and added to Winema National Forest.

1975 – In a lawsuit titled Kimball vs. Callahan, a federal court upholds the treaty rights of tribal members to hunt, fish and gather on their former reservation lands. The case is appealed.

1980 – U.S. Bank wins a lawsuit against the federal government asking for more money for the reservation land that was held in trust. Remaining members are paid another $170,000 each.

1986 – Congress restores federal recognition for the Klamath Tribe; Congress reaffirms tribal hunting, fishing, gathering and water rights, but does not restore tribal lands.

Early 1990s – The Klamath Tribe, which includes descendants of the Klamath and Modoc tribes and the Yahooskin band of Paiute Indians, changes its name to the Klamath Tribes, to signify representation of all three groups.

1997 – Tribes open Kla-Mo-Yah Casino, their first enterprise since termination.

October 2000 – An economic self-sufficiency plan called for in restoration legislation is released. The plan says a restored reservation is key to the tribes achieving economic self-sufficiency.

2002 – The Interior Department and Klamath Tribes announce discussions aimed at restoring 690,000 acres as a Klamath Tribes reservation.

2004 – Tribes break ground on $3.1 million tribal health building in Chiloquin.

– Sources: Herald and News, Klamath historian Andy Ortis, Klamath Tribes,

U.S. National Park Service,

Shaw Historical Library

Water issues linked to tribal quest for land

KLAMATH FALLS, Ore. – By definition, “termination” means end.

But for the Klamath Tribes, the word is the start of controversy.

The 1954 federal termination of what was then called the Klamath Tribe left the American Indian group that had been based in Chiloquin, Ore., without a reservation, some of its members with loads of cash, some with land held in trust, and all members free of federal oversight.

A half-century after the end of the reservation, Klamath leaders are talking about a restored reservation. Federal officials have been in discussions with them about the possibility, fueling rumors and speculation about what might happen in the perennially water-short Klamath Basin.

The state of Oregon’s long-running adjudication of pre-1909 water rights is dominated by how claims will play out for ranches, farms and downstream water users. Claims arise from an 1864 treaty reinforced by several federal court decisions.

Some say the deals made as a result of termination were cut-and-dried sale of land – the tribes sold and the government bought, federal aid ended, and members of the dissolved tribe got a bundle of cash.

But others say the termination process didn’t make sense to many of those whom it most affected, the members of the tribe.

The Klamath Tribes want a reservation returned to them, and they have identified a 730,000-acre chunk of national forest and wildlife refuge land about the size of Rhode Island. Various groups around the basin are opposed to the idea.

“We have the opportunity to have a better basin,” said Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes.

The latest plan floated by the tribes involves buying back the land for “fair market price,” but leaders have given no indication of what that price would be or where the money would come from.

If not with money, the tribes may use water to get the land, or at least to get the support of farmers and ranchers for the political deal needed to get reservation restoration through Congress.

Water holds the key to many political debates in the basin, often bringing various groups together while sometimes pitting one against another.

The summer of 2001, when much of the federal Klamath Reclamation Project was shut down for most of the growing season, widened the gap between groups already divided, and further bound those already together.

Since then, there have been many efforts to try to get the groups together, but the debate is still fierce and positions firmly entrenched.

The 730,000-acre patchwork piece of federal land sought by the tribes includes all land within the former reservation boundary that is now under federal control. Most of the land in question is within the Fremont-Winema National Forests in Klamath and Lake counties.

Tribal leaders say they won’t make any attempt to recover former reservation lands now in private ownership.

In early March, Fort Klamath rancher Roger Nicholson and Foreman traveled to Washington, D.C., to talk about an agreement to drop challenges against competing water claims on about 280,000 acres of agricultural lands above Upper Klamath Lake.

In July, project farmers joined Foreman as he presented the “fair market price” concept to the Klamath County Board of Commissioners.


The debate about the tribes’ future brings up issues of their past. There’s argument about whether the tribes were swindled out of their 1.2 million-acre reservation, or if they willingly sold most it to the federal government following termination in 1954.

Some tribal members argue there was a misunderstanding by those who in 1958 voted to withdraw. They say those favoring withdrawal thought their vote would only end federal supervision of the tribe and the reservation.

Critics say the tribal members knew that the deal meant the reservation land would be sold, and that those favoring it simply wanted the cash.

Foreman said he is still optimistic about the possibility of the tribes getting a reservation again, but he wouldn’t speculate on when it might happen.

Bill Bettenberg, director of the Interior Department’s Office of Policy and Analysis, was designated by the Bush administration in 2002 to meet with the tribes about the restoration of a reservation. But he recently said he has been preoccupied with other issues and hasn’t had a chance to focus on it.

There have been “a few phone calls, but no meetings,” Bettenberg said. “Last time I was in the Klamath Basin was early last year.”

Bettenberg plans to retire in August. Interior hasn’t named a replacement for Klamath tribal talks.

For the reservation to become a reality, Bettenberg said, it would have to be part of a broad “basinwide” agreement that brings balance to the water issues.

Closed-door meetings a year and a half ago that could have brought a deal spurred opposition in the basin. Although the effort failed, the opposition persists.

Called the Basin Alliance to Save the Winema and Fremont National Forests, the group opposed to land return is made up of small landowners, Upper Basin water users, forest recreationalists and others. The alliance is ready to publicly oppose any proposals the tribes have concerning a restored reservation.

“I think the possibility is always there – politics and money are always there,” said Lynn Bayona, spokesman for the Basin Alliance.

Alliance board members say the group is concerned about possible infringement of property rights for people who own land near and around a new reservation. They call it a “land grab.”

In the meantime, other developments make the water issue ever more complicated.

Irrigators are hoping Congress will change the Endangered Species Act. That would ease restrictions on water in the basin. The tribes have a $1 billion damage suit against PacifiCorp over salmon runs cut off since 1918 by a hydroelectric project on the Klamath River. Downstream American Indian tribes lead a push to get the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to order removal of the hydroelectric dams as part of the 2006 relicensing of that project.


Chuck Kimbol, a former tribal chairman, said a Klamath Tribes’ reservation would restore a forest left in disarray by the management of the federal government, and the restored reservation would be a key piece to a lasting solution to the basin water conflict.

“What gets me is, they are saying, ‘If you get it, what will happen to it?’ Well, you had it, look what happened to it,” Kimbol said.

Figuring out the logistics of termination took several years, and it was finally complete for the Klamath Tribe in 1961, when the federal government paid off tribal members who voted to terminate. It was 1974 before remaining members got their payout after a 1969 decision to liquidate a 135,000-acre timberland trust.

The release of the money started a flurry of spending.

Adjusted for inflation, the individual members’ payout would be $276,600 today, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor’s inflation calculator.

The money didn’t last long.

“They spent it everywhere,” said Glen Kircher, who started a hardware store in Chiloquin with his uncle in 1954. “I’m sure the businessmen in Chiloquin, Klamath Falls and around liked to see the infusion of cash.”

Many of his customers paid off debts and bought something they had always wanted. Some purchased houses or land; others invested in stocks or education.

“And some threw their money away – partying,” Kircher said.

Clarence “Boonie” Jenkins, a member of the Klamath Tribes who graduated from Klamath Union High School in 1961 after growing up in Chiloquin and Klamath Falls, said he saw many members of the tribe go through their money fast, buying new cars, expensive appliances and other big-ticket items.

“If you go back, the root of the thing is these people were getting $100 per month,” Jenkins said. “If you give someone $43,000, hell yeah, they are going to buy a new car. ... The new car dealers were in hog heaven because everyone had two or three.”

He said many members simply didn’t know what to do with that amount of money. Mistakes ranged from bad business decisions to flat-out fast spending.

Not all of the members of the tribe spent their money quickly or lived dangerously. But even many of those who tried to spend their money wisely didn’t escape harm.

Lawyers from the Native American Rights Fund, a nonprofit Indian legal services organization based in Boulder, Colo., charged that merchants had exploited withdrawing members.

In December 1972, Federal Trade Commission officials from the Seattle regional office traveled to Klamath Falls for a public hearing.

The FTC concluded that members of the tribe were charged inflated prices for cars, homes and other items compared with what white customers paid, sometimes double the cost or more. Many were also bamboozled by door-to-door salespeople who charged ridiculous prices for products with exaggerated benefits.


In the 1960s and ’70s, while many of the withdrawing members were spending away, the remaining members of the tribe were still getting per-capita payments. Part of the reservation continued to be held in trust, administered by U.S. Bank’s Klamath Falls office.

The 474 remaining members ended up getting about $38,000 each from 1959 to 1974. The money came in the form of quarterly checks that ranged from $200 to $3,000, depending on the success of timber sales from 135,000 acres of land held in trust.

Bob Mezger, who was the forest manager for U.S. Bank, said the goals of the bank paralleled the goals of the tribe.

“There was always a focus of what was best for the Indian owners,” Mezger said. He said the trust officials weren’t out to make money from the remaining members. Rather, they wanted to get the most out of their investment and manage the forest accordingly.

Remaining members voted to end the trust in 1969 and were paid $103,000 each in 1974 and then another $170,000 each in 1980 after a lawsuit setting the federal government’s appraisal of the land.

After watching the experiences of the withdrawing members, many of the remaining members invested their money well, putting the money in trust funds, buying land and using other secure investments.

The real financial losers in termination were the descendants of members of the tribe on the final roll of 1954.

Born after the roll book was closed on Aug. 13, 1954, the descendants didn’t get any payments from the liquidation of the land, the claims that followed or the liquidation of the trust, unless they inherited it.

But they shared in the hardships, and as they grew up, many resented those who withdrew, those who pushed for termination, and, most of all, the government that ended the reservation and the tribe.

Many descendants tried to forge a life in the area of the old reservation, where the economy was poor, employment chances were limited and social problems abounded. Many left in search of better opportunities.

When the federal government terminated the Klamath Tribe, it ended the flow of monthly payments that had been the sole source of income for many of its members.

Gone, too, was the government’s help with health, education and economic development.

The consequences of the U.S. Congress’ termination of the Klamath Tribe were poverty, confusion and division among former tribal members.

“It created a chain of events no one expected,” said Allen Foreman, current chairman of the Klamath Tribes.

Friction developed among the three categories of former tribal members – withdrawing, remaining and descendants.

No matter what category that members of the tribe fell in or what percentage of American Indian blood flowed in their veins, they were no longer considered Indian in the eyes of the federal government, and thus also by many other tribal governments.

Members of the tribe who tried to enter American Indian rodeos, basketball tournaments and other competitions and gatherings were turned down because they were no longer considered Indians.

“The loss of the land, and to have people tell you are not Indian any more – it didn’t help your self-esteem,” said Gerald Skelton, cultural director for the Klamath Tribes.


Fortunes began to change for the Klamath Tribe in the 1970s. Led by Chuck Kimbol, head of the resurrected tribal government, members of the tribe started the political fight for restoration of the Klamath Tribe and its reservation.

Progress came in 1974 when a federal judge ruled that tribal members had the right to hunt, fish and gather materials from federal land that formerly lay within the tribe’s reservation boundary.

There were no formal tribal government meetings for a decade. But there had been informal gatherings for years, with Kimbol emerging as the leader. In 1973, Kimbol and others went to U.S. District Court in Portland to argue that although their tribal status was terminated in 1954, their hunting and fishing rights spelled out in the treaty of 1864 were not.

They won. Treaty rights were restored to all members of the tribes whose names were on the final roll of 1954. Those rights were extended to their descendants in 1976.

The state of Oregon appealed. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court decision in 1979.

After the initial ruling, a Klamath tribal government was convened to administer treaty rights. The first General Council, or meeting of the tribes general membership, was held in 1975. An election for a new executive committee was held soon after, and Kimbol became chairman.

A separate court case concerning water rights started in the 1970s. The tribes won that, too. Water needed for treaty rights of hunting, fishing and gathering were given the priority date of “time immemorial,” or from the beginning. The ruling makes their claim superior to all others in the Klamath Basin.

The ruling, however, did not specify how much water was needed to satisfy the tribe’s claim. That’s what the adjudication process, now nearly 30 years old, will settle.

But as the Klamath Tribe sought restoration of its tribal status, it didn’t push for land.

Former Rep. Bob Smith, R-Ore., carried the restoration bill; the tribes’ home was part of his sprawling Oregon 2nd Congressional District.

He said he wanted to make sure tribal members had adequate health care. From the time of termination to the mid-1980s, child mortality was high and the life span of adults was about half the national average.

With restoration achieved, the Klamath Tribes saw federal money flowing into their coffers to be used for health, education, administration and other services.

Smith, though, drew the line at restoring a reservation.


“They sold that land,” Smith said in a February 2004 interview with the Herald and News, a Klamath Falls newspaper.

In all, the federal government had paid withdrawing and remaining members of the tribes about $209 million for the land in a series of payments to various groups starting in 1961 and ending in 1980.

Kimbol, then-chairman of the Klamath Tribe, said Smith was good to work with, but firm on the land question.

“He was all right, as long as we didn’t mention land,” Kimbol said.

Still, land was the tribes’ quiet ambition. “If you build a business,” Kimbol said, “you are going to buy a piece of land.”

In 1986, Congress passed Public Law 99-398 to restore federal recognition of the Klamath Tribe. President Ronald Reagan signed the measure on Aug. 27, 1986, restoring the Klamath Tribe as a sovereign entity, but the now official tribe remains landless.

The goal of a restored reservation was a part of the tribe’s self-sufficiency plan in 2000 and talk of it continues today. And as the talk continues, so will the controversy in the basin.




Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM  Pacific

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