Northwest Tribes Noticeably Left Off U.S. Panel Renegotiating Columbia River Treaty With Canada
Federal officials were in Spokane April 25 to talk about the future of the Columbia River Treaty, an agreement between the U.S. and Canada that dates back to 1964. It governs hydropower and flood control measures along the upper reaches of the 1,200 mile Columbia River.
A six-member panel will represent the U.S. in negotiations to update the treaty – four men and two women. Noticeably absent were members of any of the numerous Native American tribes along the Columbia, which have been pushing to expand the treaty to include more emphasis on the environmental protections.
“I can’t actually say why they don’t have tribal representation on their panel,” said Norma Sanchez, who serves on the tribal council of the Colville Confederated Tribes, whose lands are in Washington state. She is also the vice president of the tribes’ Natural Resource Committee.
“The majority of the people on the panel either work for the federal government (or) the power companies,” Sanchez said.
The panel includes representatives from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corp of Engineers, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Bonneville Power Administration.
Many audience members pressed the panel’s lead negotiator, Jill Smail of the U.S. Department of State on why the U.S. negotiating team lacks a tribal representative.
“We thought that the best way to meet our objectives from a foreign policy point of view was to have a focused team,” Smail said.
Smail said she did not have clearance from the State Department to comment further.
Other audience members called on the negotiating team to widen the scope of the treaty to include restoring salmon runs to the river.
“We have an opportunity to return the salmon to the Columbia, which would be the greatest thing that has ever happened to the river since building Chief Joseph and Grand Coulee dams,” said Matt Wolohan, a resident of Northport, Washington, a small town on the Columbia River near the U.S.-Canada border.
Key provisions of the Columbia River Treaty expire in 2024. Last winter, the U.S. and Canada agreed to begin the renegotiation process.
The Colville Tribes Fish and Wildlife Department have found several chinook salmon under 1-year-old. Biologists had transported 100 fish above Grand Coulee Dam to see if the habitat made for good spawning spots. Continue Reading Colville Tribes Encouraged By Young Salmon Spawning Behind Grand Coulee Dam
Fifty years ago this week the federal government’s experiment with termination was crushed at the ballot box on the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation in Washington. Termination was a policy that was designed to end the United State government’s role in Indian affairs. It would have abrogated treaties, eliminated federal funding, and “freed the Indians” from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. And as a bonus, the wealth generated by millions of acres of land and the reward from rich natural resources would be up for grabs. Continue Reading 50 Years Ago, An Election For The Colville Ushered In A New Era For U.S. Tribes
COVID-19 cases are hitting record highs throughout the state. And the reservation’s borders are fluid, so even the tribe’s extensive precautions haven’t been enough to fully protect Colville members. About 300 people on the Colville Reservation have tested positive for the coronavirus. Continue Reading ‘Last Little Hurrah’ Thwarts Colville Tribes’ Effort To Keep COVID-19 Off Reservation