March 14, 2019

Merkley, Wyden, Walden Introduce Bill to Nullify Fraudulent Tribal Treaty

The bill would nullify the underhanded agreement and reinforce the validity of the 1855 treaty

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, with Rep. Greg Walden (R-OR 2), today introduced the 1865 Treaty Nullification Act to formally and finally nullify a fraudulent treaty with the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and clearly validate an 1855 treaty that establishes the tribes’ reservation and preserves certain hunting, gathering and fishing rights.

The Warm Springs Tribes in 1855 entered into a treaty with the United States, defining the trust relationship between the parties, and establishing rights to land and off-reservation hunting and fishing. However, in 1865, an unscrupulous Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, J.W. Perit Huntington, wrote a supplemental treaty that amended the 1855 agreement to prohibit members of the Warm Springs from leaving their reservation without government permission and relinquishing all off-reservation rights.

“Documentation shows that the 1865 treaty is a complete fraud. The signatories were lied to, and the tribes never agreed to relinquish their rights,” Merkley said. “Officially recognizing and correcting this unjust history is one way we can empower and affirm tribal sovereignty today, and it’s time for the federal government to finally right this tremendous wrong.”

“There’s no question, the 1865 treaty is a complete sham that was cruelly and deceptively negotiated by the federal government,” Wyden said. “I fully agree with what I’ve heard directly from the Warm Springs tribe in visits with them—it’s long overdue that Congress stand up for tribal sovereignty and right this historic wrong by formally recognizing the 1855 agreement.”

“Long recognized as a fraud, the 1865 Treaty has not been enforced by the U.S. Government,” Walden said. “The Department of the Interior has said the ‘1865 Agreement must be regarded as an historic anomaly which has not practical or legal effect on the … Tribe’s 1855 treaty.’ Federal courts have confirmed this stance as well. Nullifying the 1865 treaty firmly clarifies these long held stances in law, and leaves no doubt about the tribe’s treaty rights under their 1855 treaty.  I am proud to partner alongside Senators Wyden and Merkley to correct this historical anomaly.”

“This legislation is a monumental opportunity to reverse a villainous fraud committed long ago against the Warm Springs people,” said E. Austin Greene, Jr., Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Tribal Council. “We are grateful beyond words that our congressional delegation seeks to right this historic wrong.”

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has said that it is the policy of the State of Oregon that the 1865 treaty is null and void. Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum has determined that the state cannot defend the 1865 treaty because U.S. vs. Oregon has already clearly established that the 1855 treaty governs the Warm Springs Tribes’ off-reservation rights.

“We have a historic opportunity to right a 154-year-old wrong, and I am honored to be working with the Warm Springs Tribe to do it,” said Oregon Governor Kate Brown. “I am proud to stand arm-in-arm with our congressional delegation in support of restoring to the Warm Springs Tribe the sovereign right to leave the reservation freely and to fish, hunt, and gather traditional foods on their ancestral lands. I urge Congress to act quickly to rescind and nullify the historical injustice of the Treaty of 1865.”

“As Oregon’s chief law officer, I have determined that the state cannot legally enforce the 1865 treaty, but real justice cannot occur for the Warm Springs tribes until Congress acts to nullify the 1865 ‘Huntington’ Treaty.  I join Oregon’s delegation to call upon Congress to right this wrong once and for all,” said Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum.