Our Klamath Basin Water Crisis
Upholding rural Americans' rights to grow food,
own property, and caretake our wildlife and natural resources.
Tribes have right to rebuild culture, but not at expense of other people
Published Feb. 23, 2004
By LEW CONNER
I recently moved to the Sprague River Valley from California. The prime reason for the move was to get away from the political baloney in that state. Our real estate person didn't tell us of the possible Indian wars, land grabs, water rights problems and the overall turmoil facing the southern part of Oregon.
We heard and read about the lower basin problem and the plight of the farmers south of Upper Klamath Lake, not realizing where we were buying was becoming a greater problem. We have become deeply involved in trying to understand why this has occurred.
The water problem didn't start with a fish, but with money and greed. People started looking for the cause, and began to understand that the reports given were not all that correct and the people hired for the study were biased and should have had their credibility challenged. They were from a side that wanted a problem to exist.
The Lower Basin-Tulelake region water problem is serious, and the answer is not easy to find. Problems are increasing with additional population and misunderstanding of the requirements of the land. That is only the beginning. The Tribes entered with plans already laid as to what their agenda would be.
The Tribes' main point that they can manage the lands, forest and water better than those who are doing the job at present is without regard to history. They do not have the resources or experience to accomplish this.
Current funds included
The Tribes would expect to use what we already have in place - the United States Forest Service (plus big business and Bureau of Indian Affairs, which would only add to the problem), and would also include all the money being used by the Forest Service and other government sources. The Tribes have not issued a boundary position as to what will happen to landlocked people in the forest, and what buffers they want at the forest edge if it is returned to them.
The Tribes claim they were treated unfairly at "termination," yet their own records show differently. It was their elders' council that accepted the vote. They want people today to feel they were misled, misunderstood and misguided at that point in time. How does the present generation know what was said and done that many years ago from either side of the table? No one today understands what was done, except, as usual, to take what is read, which is usually referred to out of context.
When termination started, the big claim was that the Tribes lost their rights. Many people today lose their rights daily. Those who come to this country from elsewhere lost their rights, as did many of our forefathers, yet we all seem to continue. Various peoples have built and try to maintain a homeland culture in a totally different atmosphere from which it originated without asking to get something back for nothing.
From all I read, I feel termination was a beginning for the Tribes. They were being helped to become citizens in the general population. Previously, they were receiving money that they did not work for individuals or for the Tribes as a whole. It came from the forest and other related options of the times. They were in decline before termination, yet they want to blame others instead of themselves for what has happened.
In a recent article I found published in the Oregon Directory of American Indians, I found that roughly 89 percent of the Tribes' members are classified as urban Indians. The average nationwide is about 50 percent. The leading reasons that the majority live in and near major metropolitan areas are education and employment. This included people with and without strong tribal ties.
The tribes recognize many, not all, of these people as tribal members. Their definition of an unrecognized Indian includes those from tribes with whom the federal relationship has been severed by congressional action (termination) and whose tribe the federal government has never recognized. Oops. The same article states that the Klamath Tribes have been federally recognized since 1986. Personally, I really lean toward greed as being the main focus point as to why the Tribes want the forest and water.
The Tribes also want the land for "rebuilding their culture." They have had more than one opportunity to do this and the remains of one are still present: "Edison Chiloquin's camp." In a recent visit to that area, I found it a shambles, and the only response to "why" I've had yet is "we don't have the funds to keep it up." Say what?
The Tribes are a sovereign nation, a unique "country within a country" as given by our government. They are governed by their own set of laws, which predate U.S. law. Our Constitution considers Indian tribes a separate government, except as limited by federal law. What happened to state laws? Is this "pass go, but don't collect $200 and go straight to jail" if you can't afford federal court lawyers?
Tribes do have the authority to levy taxes and regulate land uses. In many cases, they have water rights within and outside of reservation lands. This means that state and local governments do not have authority or jurisdiction over Indian tribes. Remember: Tribes do have that right over you if you encroach on their lands or water rights.
Now the Tribes want to start their own court system. They state that they will deal only with marital or family abuse problems in the beginning. How much does a court make handling these types of cases? It will be a very short period of time before they handle all cases, especially ones that make money - such as traffic fines, trespassing violations, or hunting and fishing violations.
Is this the beginning of the breakdown of the United States into smaller states or countries?
'Dual citizenship' wrong
I feel that the Tribes have a right to rejuvenate their culture, but not the right to get more than any other citizen of the United States. They should not have the right to dual citizenship within this country. People fought for their rights and freedom on both sides of the line. I served my country and will not allow my brother to encroach on my right or property. This problem is creating more hate and discontent than anyone can comprehend at the present.
People will not back down because the problem has gone too far for all sides to stop easily now.
At the last meeting I attended, the Tribes answered questions presented to them in writing. As individuals questioned some of the answers, young tribal members became very rowdy and made harassing statements. No one in the Tribes told these young men to be considerate, shut up or leave. I left before I became unruly myself.
There are many web sites out there that have facts of which citizens and the paper should be aware. Think about what happened in the 1800s in Texas: "Remember the Alamo." Can it happen again in this day and age? We have no oppression at the present, but we are working toward it very rapidly.
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