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Commentaries and editorials

Writer Differs with Nez Perce Chairman

by Gary Poole
Wallowa County Chieftain, May 17, 2007

There is nothing "mean spirited" or "hateful" or racially derogatory either implied or intended in the following opinions and comments, nor in those previous opinions regarding the recent suit over grazing rights on Joseph Creek, or concerns over water rights on the Wallowa Lake Dam.

The language of the dam bill is ambiguous and allows room for lawyers to claim rights, which may or may not have been intended. When the bill says, "Only the tribes shall own and operate fish passage facilities," the word "facilities" can mean anything from a headgate to a multitude of other devices, both natural and contrived. Is a stream or river not also a fish passage facility? If Ms. Miles were in our place, and we in hers, and we had just finished suing some of her neighbors over grazing and had also collected millions in a lawsuit over water, would she not think a bit of caution on her part was just being prudent instead of hateful or mean spirited?

I noticed that the Nez Perce recently settled its suit for claims on the water of the Snake River Basin for over $80 million, and 11,000 acres, which is now managed by the BLM, plus agreements on water releases for migrating fish, and stipulations for salmon conservation.

" . . .Nez Perce Tribal Chairwoman Rebecca A. Miles called the signing a key moment in tribal and state history because it involved water claims in an area 'that our people have inhabited for thousands of years.'"

Note that this settlement also gives the Nez Perce rights to decide when water is released from Dworshak Reservoir down the Snake River to help migrating salmon and steelhead - "water that might otherwise be used for irrigation."

Wasn't this suit contrary to The Indian Claims Commission Act of 1946? I believe all tribes filed claims and accepted settlements by 1971. That should have satisfied all claims past and present to that time and, according to the language of the claims act, should have ended further suits.

Tribal sovereignty and "Treatment Same as States" are examples of discrimination in favor of Indian Tribes over other citizen ethnic groups. See the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924 and The Civil Rights Act of 1964. The 1924 act declares Indians to be citizens and the civil rights act outlaws discrimination for reasons of race creed, color, etc.

The romantics, and those who want to feel guilty, are often influenced by the stories of an ancient utopian society, where the Indians lived "from time immemorial" in absolute harmony with nature and each other; However, I doubt that most of the ordinary tribal members would want to go back to living as their ancestors did 150 years ago. As to harmony with nature; one example, among many, regarding rituals inharmonious with nature, employed by some tribes, were "the great buffalo jumps" where herds of buffalo were herded over cliffs. Such practices testify to the fact that Indians were not always any more oriented toward conservation than many modern people are. Like all people, they have had, and do have, their good customs and their bad ones. To say they are human like the rest of us, and citizens like the rest of us, and should be treated the same, no worse and no better, is not mean spirited or hateful.

Reverence for one's customs, cultures, and origins is a good thing but needs to be tempered by common sense and the time in which we live.

No American citizen of today caused the world to be as it was from 1500 to 1900 and inflicting any sort of payback against the nation or any of its people now is not going to change past history.

Words or phrases that appeal to the sensitive nature of the public or our representatives, such as heritage, ancestry, archeology, or Geronimo slept here, have been used to gain political advantage for tribes. This needs to stop for the good of the average tribal member, as well as for the well-being of the rest of the nation.

As Lincoln said: "A nation divided against itself can not long endure." Sovereignty for 562 different tribes across 50 states IS dividing the nation against itself. In the long run, it will destroy the nation. If that happens, the Indians lose everything right along with the rest of us. That includes those for whom the present situation provides power and prestige.

The economy of the nation will not survive the proliferation of businesses and casinos that pay no taxes. Every state in the union is already feeling the negative economic effect.

I agree with "look for accuracy in what you hear" - or read. Trust, but be vigilant, and insist that our legislators, both state and federal, start honoring our national constitution for a change.

Gary Poole, Wallowa
Writer Differs with Nez Perce Chairman
Wallowa County Chieftain, May 17, 2007

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