Bill would put $290M in tribe's fund
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SEPTEMBER 14, 2000

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe is closer to receiving $290 million for damages caused by the construction of a dam almost forty years ago.

The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe Equitable Compensation Act, which passed the US Senate unanimously last year, is now being considered in the House. It is the third piece of legislation that addresses the devastating effects the construction of dams had on tribes in South Dakota.

The Crow Creek Sioux, the Lower Brule Sioux, the Standing Rock Sioux, and the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation were the subject of three bills passed beginning in the early 1990s. The legislation addressed effects of the Pick-Sloan Plan, which resulted in the construction of five damns along the Missouri River.

But of the group, the amount being considered for the Cheyenne River Sioux is the largest. Trust funds for the Crow Creek Sioux and Lower Brule Sioux were capped at $27.5 million and $39.3 million, respectively, while economic recovery and development funds for the Three Affiliated Tribes and the Standing Rock Sioux were capped at $90 million each.

However, for sponsors Senator Tim Johnson and Tom Daschle, both of South Dakota, the amount is just compensation for damages suffered by the construction of the Oahe dam. While the Army Corps of Engineers estimates that the dam contributes an average of $1.27 billion a year to the national economy, Daschle says the tribe has suffered effects which far outweigh the benefits.

Some 104,000 acres of the tribe's reservation were flooded by the dam, represented 80 percent of the most fertile and viable acreage. Additionally, almost 30 percent of the population had to be involuntarily resettled as a result of flooding.

For the tribe, the act has been a long time coming. A little over 46 years ago, then Senator Karl Mundt of South Dakota promised that Congress would compensate the tribe as soon as possible.

Vice-Chairman Louis DuBray testified before the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs last year about the promise, and the bill's effects on the tribe.

"Some of the families [affected by the flooding] chose to move their cattle operations to the upper windswept lands the provided little or no shelter," said DuBray. "They were soon wiped out, and literally gave up. This was the beginning of the high unemployment rates that plague the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe today."

The $290 million earmarked in the bill would come from a small percentage of hydropower revenues. It would then go into an interest bearing trust fund. The tribe would then be able to use the interest from the fund for economic development and other purposes.

The bill is expected to be reported out of the House Committee on Resources this week.

Get the Bill:
A bill to provide for equitable compensation for the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, and for other purposes. (S.964)

Relevant Links:
The Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe -
The House Committee on Resources -
Senator Tom Daschle -
Senator Tim Johnson -