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Horse trek: Tribal members make case at capitol
Ride to Salem illustrates dissatisfaction with water pactAfter riding horses on and off for about 250 miles from Chiloquin to the state capitol, tribal members and allies demanded their voices be heard on Wednesday.
Protesters said they are speaking out against the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreements (KBRA), Senate Bill 133, and a proposed liquid natural gas pipeline. Traveling so far on horseback was a way to demonstrate their dedication to the cause, rally leaders said.On the steps of the capitol, Klamath Tribes members Quinten Bettles and Jay Nelson raised an Oregon flag in the air. The horses — Angel, Cookie, Donkey and Wocus — rested from their journey in the shade at the base of the stairs.
“Our family and tribal people have honored this flag for three generations,” said Bettles, one of the key organizers of the rally and horseback trek.He continued, “We want the governor to now honor the Treaty of 1864.”
The Treaty of 1864 promised that in return for the tribes’ ceding traditional territories — which included more than 20 million acres of south-central Oregon and northeastern California — the Modoc, Klamath and Yahooskin people were to inhabit less than 2 million acres on Klamath lands.Under the treaty, the land designated would be solely theirs — no whites were supposed to live there with the exception of Indian agency employees and Army troops — and the tribal people were to receive thousands of dollars worth of supplies to become self-supporting.
The supplies did not arrive for several years and tribal members said current policy is beginning to strip away other rights of the tribal people as well.They also said tribal leaders are not truly representing the people.
For example, the Senate water pact, introduced by Sen. Ron Wyden in 2014, includes a “broad set of measures designed to create robust conditions for fisheries restoration, as well as measures that provide greater stability for the Basin’s rural communities,” according to the KBRA’s web page.However, members of the affected tribes say the agreements actually hurt the fish populations and communities as the water is too low and fish can no longer spawn.
Additionally, Senate Bill 133 would grant the traditional territories back to the tribes, along with a significant amount of financial reparations; however, it would take away water rights of the tribal people, which rally leaders said is not a good solution.“Senate Bill 133 desecrates our water rights,” Nelson said. “It is the backdoor way of keeping our rights from us.”
Bettles said that he believes the bill promises immediate gratification, which tribal leaders want, but the tribal people want long-term solutions.“Throwing money at us and taking away our water rights is not a solution,” he said. “Oregon would be better served to honor the treaty so we can work on and improve the land in time.”
The Oregon flag they carried with them was originally given to Bettles’ mother by former Oregon Gov. Tom McCall during the Vietnam War. It was passed to brothers, sons, war comrades and more, carried on three war tours in Vietnam and Fallujah, Iraq, before making its way into the Capitol on Wednesday.They suggested the governor, though not in the office at the time, tour the land “before it’s gone forever.”
“We have a spiritual connection to the earth,” Bettles said. “We cannot separate ourselves from that.”Email npate@StatesmanJournal . com, call (503) 399-6745, or follow on Twitter @Nataliempate
Geneva Grill stands next to horse named, Wocus, as members of “Honor the Treaty of 1864” gathered at the Oregon State Captiol on Wednesday in Salem. Tribal members at the rally raised various issues including tribal water rights in the Klamath Basin, Senate Bill 133 and the LNG Pipeline.
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Page Updated: Tuesday June 30, 2015 01:59 PM Pacific
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