Oregon Congressmen Are Trying to Return Grand Ronde Tribe Territory

Members of Congress from Oregon have sponsored a measure that would reverse a decades-old decision that prevented the Grand Ronde Tribe from making land claims or receiving compensation for government survey mistakes.

The U.S. To reinstate the Tribe’s rights to make new land claims, Representative Andrea Salinas and Senator Jeff Merkley, both Democrats from Oregon, are working on modifying the Grand Ronde Reservation Act. After being elected to represent Oregon’s 6th District, Salinas introduced this bill.

In a statement, Salinas said, “The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community were the original stewards of Oregon’s land and natural resources – and, like so many other Indigenous peoples, they have faced tremendous injustices at the hands of the federal government.”

Oregon Congressmen Are Trying to Return Grand Ronde Tribe Territory

This measure, presented on March 22nd, would fix a law that was enacted as a result of a surveying mistake made by the Bureau of Land Management in 1871. The government didn’t notice the omission of 84 acres until 1988, and in 1994 they provided the Tribe 240 acres elsewhere. However, the legislation that corrected the mistake forbade the Tribes from filing any more property claims if other errors were uncovered.

This is the only Oregon reserve with such regulations. Oregon’s congressional representatives support the proposal because it would restore the state’s citizens’ legal entitlement to land claims and compensation for surveying mistakes.

The Tribes would still be prohibited from taking any further claims to the Thompson Strip, an area of territory measuring 84 acres. The 2021 measure that Merkley and Democratic Representative Suzanne Bonamici from Oregon sponsored failed to make it through Congress.

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“Nearly three decades ago, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde sought to fix a historical surveying error within their reservation boundary, only for the federal government to make another error that relinquished the Tribe’s rights to future land claims and compensation,” Merkely said in a statement. “This is just plain wrong.”

Around 30 tribes and bands in western Oregon, northern California, and southwest Washington from the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde Community. According to the Tribes’ website, the 11,500-acre reservation is situated in Yamhill County and is home to around 5,400 enrolled tribe members.

Grand Ronde Chairperson Cheryle Kennedy has said that the new law provides a chance to rectify the error that has plagued the area for over a century.

“We’re grateful to Congresswoman Salinas for introducing the Grand Ronde Reservation Act Amendment,” Kennedy said. “For the past 35 years, the BLM has been aware of this mistake, but it remains. This bill allows us to finally address the issue once and for all.”

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