After lawmakers’ urging, federal agencies green light funding to complete plan to address housing needs decades after construction of dam took out tribes’ homes and villages on Columbia River
(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Sens. Patty Murray (D-WA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR), joined by Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), announced that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (Army Corps) has allocated $1.8 million to complete The Dalles Dam Tribal Housing Village Development Plan, following the lawmakers’ request in October 2018 to complete this critical plan. Congress already provided additional funding for the Army Corps, but needed agencies to allocate the funding to The Dalles Dam Tribal Housing Village Development Plan to allow the Army Corps to move forward. The plan is necessary to address the loss of tribal homes and villages in the 1950s due to construction of The Dalles Dam.
“This represents another welcome step in fulfilling the federal government’s long overdue obligation to restore tribal housing and access to the Columbia River,”said Sen. Murray, a senior member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.“Now that the latest investment is in place, we will continue holding federal agency officials accountable to ensure that the plan is not only completed, but also carried out so tribal members get the facilities and river access they were promised more than 65 years ago.”
“This is a critical step in righting a decades-long wrong,” said Sen. Merkley.“Displacing tribal nations and leaving them without safe, reliable housing is simply wrong. Ever since the construction of the Columbia River dams, the federal government has owed it to these tribes to provide the housing and infrastructure that was promised. This funding is one step closer to making good on our commitments.”
“Moving this process forward under the Trump administration has been like pulling teeth,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “I’m pleased we finally made progress on this fundamental step, but I won’t let up the pressure until the United States’ promises to the tribes have been fulfilled.”
Beginning in the 1930s, the construction of federal dams, including the The Dalles Dam, displaced ancestors of the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes: Nez Perce Tribe, Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation, and Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation, inundating tribal communities, houses, villages, and traditional hunting and fishing sites along the Columbia River. These tribes have a treaty-protected right to fish along the Columbia River in their usual and accustomed places.
Lawmakers representing Oregon and Washington have been fighting to address the urgent need for adequate housing and infrastructure at tribal fishing access sites constructed by the Army Corps and the federal government’s failure to replace the tribal homes and villages lost due to construction of The Dalles Dam. When Congress originally authorized construction of The Dalles Dam in 1950, it also authorized the construction of “a new Indian village,” which to date has not been built. The Senators and Representatives have worked with the Army Corps and other federal agencies for several years to right this wrong, beginning with The Dalles Dam Tribal Housing Village Development Plan. The $1.8 million in new funding will allow the Army Corps to complete this critical plan.