June 25, 2020

Senate Indian Affairs Committee Holds Hearing on Wyden and Merkley's Bills to Support Oregon Tribes

Washington, D.C.
 – The U.S. Senate Committee on Indian Affairs yesterday held a hearing on the Western Tribal Water Infrastructure Act of 2019legislation introduced by U.S. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley to improve water quality and services for tribal communities in Oregon. 

The Committee also discussed legislation sponsored by Merkley and Wyden that seeks to correct an error made in a 1994 piece of legislation to correct an old survey error. This legislation would allow the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde to address any future survey errors discovered on their original reservation with the federal government. 

"This hearing is an important step toward making sure tribal governments in Oregon receive the federal resources necessary to end the cycle of temporary fixes and toward stable and reliable investments in water infrastructure. It also brings the Grand Ronde closer to justice after an egregious and serious surveying error made by the federal government," Wyden said. "I urge the Committee to swiftly pass these essential bills so they can be considered by the full Senate."

“Nearly three decades ago, the Grand Ronde sought to fix a surveying error within their reservation boundary only for the federal government to make another,” said Merkley. “This hearing is an important step forward in the Grand Ronde's fight to right that wrong, as well as helping build the high-quality water infrastructure all of our tribal communities need and deserve. I’m going to keep fighting until these bills make it across the finish line.”

“The United States made errors in surveying Grand Ronde lands, and it then took away from Grand Ronde its right to be compensated for these errors. That’s not fair. I‘d like to thank Senators Merkley and Wyden for working to correct this injustice,” said Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy.

“This legislation would throw a lifeline to tribes like Warm Springs that are in dire need of water infrastructure improvements to serve their tribal membership,” said Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Chairman Raymond Tsumpti.

“Climate change is threatening the water supply of many Oregon communities — even on the coast. Senator Wyden and Senator Merkley’s bill would help Oregon tribes access funds to avert those challenges,” said Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians Chairman Dee Pigsley.