Opinion: Tribal rights protected with Klamath Basin agreement

Molli Jane White and Frankie Joe Myers discuss tribal water rights and the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement:
Let's get it straight that this is NOT a termination of our individual or tribal rights. These statements do not apply to individual tribal members and cultural practitioners, nor do they apply to tribes litigating with their own legal counsel. Hoopa, or any other tribe, can sue today over water use in the Klamath and they can sue after Congress approves the agreements. The agreements do state that it is the position of the United States and signatory tribes that the agreement is consistent with U.S. tribal trust obligations.

This means that if it comes to litigation, the U.S. would act as legal counsel to signatory tribes and not to tribes wishing to block the agreement. After all, the U.S. cannot represent one tribe as litigant and another as defendant. Tribes have often sued the United States and used their own legal counsel.

Would the majority of tribal members on the river rather have billions of dollars in potential water rights claims or the restoration of a free flowing river and fisheries? Is potential litigation worth so much money we would be selling ourselves short if we negotiated a restoration plan? Remember those multi-billion dollar claims that the U.S. recently settled with tribes and tribal members for mismanaging our land and trust resources? Following decades of litigation the final settlement amount ended up being pennies on the dollar and came with no guaranteed changes in management. And each and every check that was distributed came with a waiver, saying that the individual tribal member would agree to release all future claims associated with that settlement. So is it OK to negotiate if the government is paying you, but not for the good of our river and our fisheries?

Get the Story:
Molli Jane White and Frankie Joe Myers: No tribal rights terminated by KBRA (The Eureka Times-Standard 6/18)

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