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Senator Doug Whitsett statements on Basin Alliance petitions

Source:  Senator Doug Whitsett, Oregon State Legislator
Author:  Senator Doug Whitsett, Oregon State Legislator
Date:  January 24, 2007

On November 16, 2006, The Klamath Basin Alliance presented to the Klamath County Commissioners over 1100 petitions requesting the commissioners to adopt a resolution opposing the return of more than 730,000 acres of land that is now part of the Fremont/Winema National Forest to The Klamath Tribes. Following the presentation of petitions, Doug Whitsett, Oregon State Legislator delivered the following statements:

“I am here this morning to comment on the resolution proposed by the Basin Alliance.

As I have previously stated on the record, I oppose re-establishing a sovereign tribal land base in Klamath County for a number of reasons.

I believe that establishing a sovereign Tribal land base will further segregate our Native American citizens from our national identity.

I believe that private property rights are the cornerstone of individual development and of a healthy, diverse population.

With few exceptions in our nation, wherever tribes hold ownership of a sovereign land base their people live in abject poverty with little hope for economic development.

They depend on their treaty based rights to receive sustenance from the federal government rather than developing their abilities for self support, and establishing their wealth through individual property ownership.

I see no reason to perpetuate this reality of intergenerational hopelessness in our County.

Further, I have read the Klamath Tribal Constitution—most recently last night.

Article IV states in part:

“’The sovereign powers, authority and jurisdiction of the Klamath Tribes extends to all the territory which formerly constituted the Klamath reservation, and to all property, airspace, natural resources, cultural resources and such other lands or interests that have been, or may thereafter be, added thereto by purchase, gift, act of Congress or otherwise.’”

“’All waters which originate in or flow through the Klamath Tribes jurisdiction, or which are stored within the Klamath Tribes jurisdiction, whether found on the surface or underground, are a valuable Tribal resource of the Klamath Tribes, and are protected for present and future use of the Klamath Tribes.’”

“Unquestionably, this document claims all surface and groundwater that originates or flows through Tribal sovereign land.

The land base that formerly constituted the Klamath Reservation contains the headwaters streams of virtually every tributary to Upper Klamath Lake as well as most of the aquifer recharge zones for all of our ground water resources.

Past and on going Tribal efforts to claim virtually all of these resources is further evidence of their constitutional intent.

Article V states in part:

“’The judicial power of the Klamath Judiciary shall extend to all cases in law and equity arising under this Constitution, and the laws, ordinances and customs of the Klamath Tribes.’”

“According to this document, re-establishing the identified sovereign land base would cede virtually all the water in Klamath County to a sovereign government that claims total jurisdiction over the control and use of that resource.

In my view, the creation of a sovereign land base for the Klamath Tribes is a losing proposition for the Tribes, a losing proposition for our non-tribal citizens, and a losing proposition for our County.

I urge you to oppose creating a sovereign land base within Klamath County.”

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