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Army Corps fails to complete housing for Northwest treaty tribes

The Columbia River treaty tribes dedicated the Dallesport Treaty Fishing Access Site on April 25, 2012. Photo from Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has yet to provide adequate housing units that were promised to the four Columbia River treaty tribes, The Oregonian reports.

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Yakama Nation lost prime fishing sites due to the construction of the dams along the river from the 1930s through the 1970s. Decades later, tribal members are still forced to endure squalid conditions, including shoddy housing, limited electricity and lack of running water, whenever they exercise their treaty-guaranteed rights.

"How we treat Indian Country is shameful," Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) told the paper. "We have cheated Native Americans out of their heritage."

In 1988, Congress enacted Public Law 100-581 in hopes of ensuring tribal members could continue to fish along the river. In April 2012, the Army Corps claimed that it finished the "31st and final access site" as required by the law.

But The Oregonian visited all 31 sites in Oregon and Washington and found that some are unsuitable because they are located in dangerous and inadequate locations along the river. Most others are overcrowded, the paper said.

The Army Corps is working on new study to determine how to address conditions at the sites. But it could take years for the agency to finish the report and for Congress to authorize funding.

"There's always enough money for these windsurfers and tourists," Klickitat Chief Wilbur Slockish Jr., who is a member of the Yakama Nation, told the paper. "But there's never enough for us."

During dam construction, the Army Corps spent $52 million to relocate seven non-Indian communities along the river, the paper said. Only $210,000 was spent on tribal members.

The Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission continues to press the Portland District to fulfill its promises to the treaty tribes.

Get the Story:
Decrepit fish camps built on broken promises (The Oregonian 3/11)

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