Merkley Sponsors Bills to Restore Indigenous Fishing, Hunting Rights

Senator Jeff Merkley recently sponsored two bills that would allow the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the Confederated Tribes of Siletz Indians to adjust federal restoration agreements of 1980, including renegotiating the hunting and fishing restrictions on Tribal lands.

The Siltez and Grand Ronde Tribes signed agreements to restore their federal status, but those agreements hinged on sacrificing their fishing and hunting rights through “consent decrees” that required a congressional petition to change.

Cheryle Kennedy, Grand Ronde Tribal Council Chairwoman, said to OPB, “The consent decree was thrust upon us and really had us in a stranglehold. A cultural practice that had been within our people since time immemorial has been restricted and misunderstood. Sometimes I don’t think it’s really misunderstood. It’s just that, that was the will of the ones who were in power at the time.”

“A lot of hunting and fishing organizations in Oregon believed that if we had our hunting and fishing rights that we would be taking away from them,” she added.

The Western Oregon Termination Act of 1954 dissolved federal trusteeship of Tribal lands. As Tribes were no longer federally recognized or protected, the law reallocated the land they owned in common — reservations — in the following ways: using a private trustee, disbursing to individual tribe members, incorporating, and selling outright.

The right to manage the hunting and fishing rights on about 12,000 acres of Tribal lands will now be negotiated with the state of Oregon.

By Grace Miller