Kamiah Man: Not All in Tribe Support SRBAby Patrick McGann
Lewiston Tribune, December 3, 2004
Owen Slickpoo says it would be a mistake to give away water rights
While the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee has yet to announce whether it will support the Snake River Basin Adjudication, some tribal members ardently oppose the agreement, calling it underhanded.
Tribal fishermen in particular, says Owen C. Slickpoo of Kamiah, a spokesman for the dissenters, are outraged that the executive committee may support the SRBA and that the committee negotiated the agreement behind closed doors.
"This whole thing has been underhanded and secretive since the beginning," Slickpoo says. "I want to see the decision go before a special General Council. This affects the people, so it should be up to the people, not NPTEC."
The General Council is the entire voting membership of the Nez Perce Tribe; the executive committee is the tribe's nine-member elected governing body.
Slickpoo says the agreement is history repeating itself.
"This is an outright assault on the Nez Perce. We've already given away too much. Why give it away then turn around and pay for it?"
In exchange for the tribe's agreement to drop its water-rights claims, the United States will provide more than $90 million in compensation to be used for sewer and water systems, habitat projects and some land acquisition.
If approved, the tribe will get 50,000 acre-feet of water rights per year, primarily from Clearwater River sources; salmon conservation agreements; management of the Kooskia National Fish Hatchery; and co-management of the Dwarshak National Fish Hatchery at Orofino.
But Slickpoo calls the SRBA "mere tokenism of what actually should be.
"The tribes downriver are going to get the last laugh," he says. "They're saying, 'Those Nez Perce can go ahead and sell their water rights and we'll catch their fish.' "
And, he says, if the tribe accepts the agreement, all nine executive committee members could be in violation of the oaths they took when elected to the committee.
"They are supposed to do as the people wish," Slickpoo says. "They are supposed to set an example, rather than be an example."
Slickpoo says surrounding tribes are excelling, while the executive committee is nothing but a federally funded "Mafia" intent on politically oppressing its people and denying them due process.
"If NPTEC passes (the SRBA) without the consent of the people, we are going to be earmarked as fools for the rest of our lives."
NPTEC Chairman Anthony D. Johnson could not be reached for comment.
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