Cantwell, McMorris Rodgers Secure Historic Win for Spokane Tribe
Spokane Tribe Equitable Compensation Act passes House of Representatives, heads to president's desk for signature into law
December 26, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C.-On Monday, Dec. 16, the U.S. House of Representatives passed bipartisan legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R, WA-05) to provide the Spokane Tribe of Indians equitable and just compensation for the lands taken by the United States as part of the Grand Coulee Dam development project in the 1930s and 1940s. Having previously passed through the Senate, the bill now heads to the president's desk to be signed into law.
"The Spokane Tribe of Indians has waited for almost 80 years to receive just and equitable compensation for the land, life, and culture they lost when the Grand Coulee Dam was constructed. This corrects a flawed adjudication process that left the Spokane out," Cantwell said. "Today, the Department of Interior, Republicans, and Democrats stand together to right this historic wrong, which will allow the Tribe to invest in regional economic development opportunities."
"The construction of the Grand Coulee Dam positively transformed our region in countless ways, but it also fundamentally changed the Spokane Tribe's way of life," said McMorris Rodgers. "This is long overdue, and I'm happy we are finally moving forward to get the Spokane Tribe the compensation they deserve and right this historical wrong."
The Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act would authorize annual payments to be made by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to the Spokane Tribe for past and continuing use of Tribal lands for the construction and operation of the Grand Coulee Dam. The compensation does not increase taxpayer obligation and is based on compensation received by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation through the 1994 Colville Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Settlement Act.
As the largest hydroelectric facility in the United States, Grand Coulee Dam has produced electricity for towns and cities across the western United States for more than 75 years. However, since the construction of the multipurpose project, the Spokane Tribe has yet to be compensated for the significant damages to its Tribal lands and livelihoods.