Bill that would compensate Spokane Tribe for Grand Coulee Dam losses passes Senate

Bill that would compensate Spokane Tribe for Grand Coulee Dam losses passes Senate

Legislation sponsored by Washington senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray to pay the Spokane Tribe for losses incurred during construction of the Grand Coulee Dam.

The Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act (S.995) would provide the tribe with annual payments beginning in 2020 to compensate for lands taken to build the dam. The Spokane Tribe and the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation received initial payments, but the latter also negotiated further compensation in the 1990’s. The Spokane Tribe has of now, been unable to do so.

In a press release, Senator Cantwell said:

“Just and equitable compensation for the Spokane people is long overdue, and I’m glad my Senate colleagues agree. I am hopeful that our colleagues in the House will also pass this bill, finally resolving this long standing injustice.”

Senator Murray responded as well, saying, in part:

“Strengthening our partnership with our state’s indigenous communities is critical to Tribal members and the many families who rely on the energy produced through the use of Tribal lands. I look forward to fighting alongside Senator Cantwell to get this bill across the finish line.”

Both Cantwell and Murray have introduced similar legislation for years, but have never seen the bills pass both chambers of Congress.

Earlier this year, the tribe’s request received the attention of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. On a trip to Washington in March, the secretary met with the Tribal Business Council to discuss this, among other issues.

When asked then if he supported the legislation, Zinke did not respond with a yes or no, but he did say he has heightened responsibility, as Interior Secretary, to right the situation.

“Clearly the tribe, in my judgment, was wronged,” Zinke said. “My job is to meet with the leadership in the Senate and the House and emphasize that the Department of Interior stands by our duty of being the champion of the [tribal] nations,” he said.

The act will now be put before the House of Representatives.