Oregon Congress Fights for Restitution of Land Rights to Grand Ronde Tribes

Members of Oregon’s congressional delegation have proposed a bill to give the Grand Ronde Reservation in Oregon its land rights back. This would change a decision from decades ago that stopped the Tribe from making more land claims or getting paid for government survey mistakes.

U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas and Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-OR, want to change the Grand Ronde Reservation Act to give the Tribe back its right to make more land claims. It’s Salinas’s first bill since he was elected to represent Oregon’s 6th District.

Oregon Congress Fights for Restitution of Land Rights to Grand Ronde Tribes

β€œThe Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community were the original stewards of Oregon’s land and natural resources – and, like so many other Indigenous peoples, they have faced tremendous injustices at the hands of the federal government,” Salinas said in a statement.

The bill, introduced on March 22, would fix wrong laws because of a surveying mistake made by the Bureau of Land Management in 1871.

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The agency didn’t find out about the 84-acre mistake until 1988, and in exchange, they gave the Tribe 240 acres of land in a different area. But the bill that fixed the mistake said that the Tribes couldn’t make any more land claims if new mistakes were found.

It is the only Oregon reservation with these kinds of rules.

All of Oregon’s representatives in Congress favor the amendment, which would give the community back its rights to land claims and pay for survey mistakes.

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The Tribes still couldn’t claim more land on the 84-acre strip of land called the Thompson Strip.

A similar bill that Merkley and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-OR, put forward in 2021 did not pass through Congress.

β€œNearly three decades ago, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde sought to fix a historical surveying error within their reservation boundary, only for the federal government to make another error that relinquished the Tribe’s rights to future land claims and compensation,” Merkely said in a statement. β€œThis is just plain wrong.”

More than 30 tribes and bands from western Oregon, northern California, and southwest Washington are part of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community. According to the Tribes’ website, the 11,500-acre reservation is in Yamhill County and is home to about 5,400 tribal members.

Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle Kennedy said that the new law gives the community a chance to fix a mistake that has been bothering them for over a hundred years.

β€œWe’re grateful to Congresswoman Salinas for introducing the Grand Ronde Reservation Act Amendment,” Kennedy said. β€œFor the past 35 years the BLM has been aware of this mistake, but it remains. This bill allows us to finally address the issue once and for all.”

Source- Oregon Live

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