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Protesting the vote;
Klamath Tribal members demand a new vote
by LACEY JARRELL, Herald and News, posted to KBC 4/15/14
H&N photos by Lacey Jarrell

     Tribal members staged a protest Friday claiming a vote by the Klamath Tribes approving a water agreement gave up too much in water rights.

   About 24 protesters marched in front of the Klamath Tribal Health & Family Services building in Klamath Falls, holding signs that read, “Klamath water, Not 4 Sale, Ever,” and “Water is Life” and “Cultural Genocide.”

   A Klamath Tribes referendum approved the Proposed Upper Klamath Basin Comprehensive Agreement on   Wednesday. The vote was 564 to 419.

   Tribal approval brings stakeholders one step closer to introducing a comprehensive piece of legislation in Congress that may ensure upper Basin water needs are met, as well as water needs below the lake.

   Upper Basin irrigator groups, the state and tribal members have been working for several months as a subcommittee of the Klamath Basin Task Force appointed last July by Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. Irrigators in the Upper Basin must also approve the pact.
 Tribes want a revote because vote was so close

   Protester Ramona Mason, a Klamath-Western Shoshone who lives in Portland, said a primary concern among protesting tribal members is giving up senior water rights that have been awarded to the Tribes as a “time immemorial” right by state water adjudication law.

   “We want this water for our future generations. It’s not for sale today, it’s not for sale tomorrow,” Mason said. “We’ll fight for it forever. We’re never going to give it away.”

   Mason said because the vote results were so close, another vote should be held to provide members more time to review the 95-page agreement and allow more time to give feedback to the Tribal government.

   In a phone interview, Klamath Tribes Chairman Don Gentry said according to the Klamath Tribes’ constitution, once an independent election board certifies the results of a referendum tribal vote, it is final.  

   According to Gentry, 3,617 ballots were mailed to tribal members; of those, 353 were undeliverable. Thirty duplicate ballots were sent out at the request of members, he said.

   Gentry said 1,035 ballots were received, although 50 were ineligible because they did not have a roll number, a signature or contained another disqualifying element. Once the remaining 985 ballots were scanned, two ballots were deemed ineligible because the election board could not determine if the vote was yes or no. A final 983 qualified ballots were counted toward the vote.

   “I voted no because of the fact that there shouldn’t be an agreement because we have first water rights. I think it’s very unfair to our Indian people, because what benefits do we get?” said Barbara Miller, an elder of the Klamath Tribes.

   Miller said the agreement, which was released in March, was not an easy read. Miller said although she attended Tribal meetings to learn about the details of the agreement, she didn’t feel the extent of its contents were fully explained.

   “It’s not in layman’s terms; it’s not in Indian terms. Ours is common sense; it’s goodness; it’s honesty,” she said.   Mason expressed concerns about the length of   agreement conditions, which stipulate irrigators have   five years to retire the total 30,000 acre-feet for instream flows. She said the timeframe is too long and too many fish could be lost by continuing water management practices in use today.

   Gentry said he has received positive and negative feedback from tribal members about the vote. Since Wednesday, Gentry said he and other tribal council members have tried to meet individually with members to further discuss the agreement terms and what it means to the Tribes. Gentry pointed out that terms of the agreement are conditional, and the Tribes can still exercise their time immemorial water right.

   “There’s a potential risk for a call for water in extremely dry years,” Gentry said.

    ljarrell@heraldandnews.com  ; @LMJatHandN
  H&N photo by Lacey Jarrell

   Klamath Tribes members protested a recent water agreement vote Friday in front of the Klamath Tribal Health and Family Services Building on South Sixth Street.


   Klamath Tribes members protested Friday in front of the Klamath Tribal Health and Family Services Building on South Sixth Street.




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