This writing is based on an article from the Confederated Umatilla Journal of November 2017.
Back in the 1930’s, the construction of the Bonneville, The Dalles and John Day dams on the lower Columbia river flooded homes, villages and traditional hunting and fishing grounds of the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, the Nez Perce Tribe, and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation. The U.S. government in return promised to fully compensate them for their losses. And in the great tradition of the U.S. Government when it comes to honoring treaties, promises and commitments made to native Americans, they mostly ignored them. Some tribal members continued to live along the river in mobile homes and dilapidated temporary housing. Then earlier this year, Congress approved $3 million for the Army Corps of Engineers to begin planning new housing near the The Dalles Dam. The Corps had half the money in hand and in order to continue the work, needed White House’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to reprogram $1.5 million from elsewhere in the Army Corps’ budget. Unfortunately, you already know where this story is heading. The OMB staff said the money would not be forthcoming because the Army Corps should not be in the housing business. Sure. They are only in the business of flooding existing housing and forcing people to relocate at their own expense. The area Democrats from Oregon and Washington State, including Wyden, Merkley, Blumenauer, Murray and Cantwell sent a letter to OMB reminding them the federal government has a legal and moral responsibility to address the unmet obligations of the U.S. to the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes…for the loss of tribal homes and villages associated with the construction of the dams more than 65 years ago. And, no Greg Walden did not lend any support even though this falls right in the middle of his district.
The OMB responded, reminding the Democratic representatives that it is the great tradition of the U.S. Government to ignore promises and treaties made to Native Americans. Okay. I made that last part up. In reality, the OMB simply chose not to respond at all.
Charles Hudson, Director of Government Affairs for the Portland-based Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission, representing the interest of the four tribes, called the White House decision “disappointing”, saying now as the cold windy winter is about to set in, the timing could not have been worse to pull the plug on this program.
Here is how Tim White, Democratic candidate for the 2nd district would have phrased his response. Dear OMB, “Your decision to do nothing, after 65 years of doing nothing, is despicable. They needed a lousy $1.5 million to continue a program that should have been corrected 65 years ago when you flooded these people out of their homes. The U.S. Government spent more than $1.5 million last week just to fly Trump to Florida for a round of golf at his obscene rich white man’s playground. When you go to church this Sunday, ask God to forgive you. I sure as hell don’t.”
Tribal members, while I certainly applaud the efforts of the Oregon and Washington State Democrats on your behalf, it is not enough. Democrats must take back control of congress to ensure these programs are completed. Yes, this should have been done a long time ago. Help me help you by defeating Walden in November. That is a step in the right direction.
A Democratic Fighter for the 2nd District of Oregon