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Spokane Equitable Compensation Act would authorize annual payments to Spokane Tribe of Indians for past, continuing use of Tribal lands

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke supports legislation to right past wrongs

WASHINGTON, D.C.  – Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a former Chair of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, and U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) to provide the Spokane Tribe of Indians equitable compensation for the lands taken by the United States as part of the Grand Coulee Dam development project in the 1930s and 1940s passed the U.S. Senate.

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 Grand Coulee Dam.

Earlier this year, the effort won support from the Trump Administration. In a March visit to the Spokane Indian Reservation and Grand Coulee Dam, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke in support of righting historical wrongs and providing compensation to the Spokane Tribe.

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

“This legislation is a significant step toward ensuring the federal government is making good on its promises to tribes in Washington state,” Senator Murray said. “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.”

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.

Securing this compensation has been a long-time priority for Senators Cantwell and Murray. They have repeatedly introduced legislation to secure compensation and have continually advocated for its passage.

The Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, who were also impacted by Grand Coulee Dam, have previously received a compensation package from BPA.

After today’s passage in the U.S. Senate, the legislation now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration.