Nez Perce Chair: Responding to rumors about Oregon

"This May is the 130th anniversary of the forced removal of Nez Perce people from the Wallowa Valley. Nez Perce descendants today live and work across several Indian reservations and around the world. It is odd that, at this moment in history, there are rumors of the Nez Perce Tribe's 'intentions' in Northeast Oregon, and little recognition of the positive work of the tribe in this special homeland.

Please question rumors that portray the tribe in a hateful way and people who spread such rumors. The tribe has no intention whatsoever of building a casino in Wallowa County; none whatsoever to alter anyone's water rights; none whatsoever to 'evict' anyone from any land. Rumors so mean-spirited are generally ignored, rather than responded to; these comments are an exception.

The irony - and consider it a painful irony - is that it is our ancestors who were 'evicted' from this land, and that it is we who have come to accept the world as it is and are working to be neighbors regardless the past.

People ask, because of a recent court case, about 'tribal sovereignty' and 'sovereign immunity.' These are fundamental aspects of what it means to be a separate, self-ruling government. Indian tribes are not clubs or casual organizations; they are political governments. No one can sue the U.S. without its consent, nor a state without its consent. The same is true of Indian tribes. One way to grasp this is to consider that the Nez Perce Tribe, as a sovereign government, entered into a treaty with the U.S. in 1855, four years before the State of Oregon existed. It should not be surprising that the tribe is treated by federal and state governments and by courts today as a sovereign government possessing the attributes of other governments. These are not 'special rights' 'given' to tribes. Indian treaties are contracts that gave the United States the land that comprises this country today, and in turn retained political rights and powers that continue today."

Get the Story:
Nez Perce Chairwoman Rebecca J. Miles: Nez Perce Tribe won't build casino and won't take water rights in dam deal (The Wallowa County Chieftain 5/3)

Relevant Links:
Nez Perce Tribe -

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