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By local, hysterical (not a misspell) records, the Montana Reserved Water Rights Commission, reverently referred to as the “Keystone Cops”, came to Pablo, MT to negotiate the seventh and final Federal Reserved Indian Water Rights Compact in the year 2000. After 3 years of completely stagnated negotiation, they tabled their task and endeavored to negotiate an “Interim Agreement” (which also failed after ~ two years of unfruitful negotiations). Under a new governor (with a new and improved commission membership), compact negotiations began again in 2005, to sunset in 2007 and then received new life in 2009 for another 4 year run. Sounds like a board game to me.
So, exactly what killed the 2000-2003 negotiation sessions? Maybe, just maybe, it was the CSKT terms that the State accept the tribal demands for ownership of ALL the water on and around the reservation (rather than those prescribed by the Winters Decision of 1908 – as in ALL other tribal water rights settlements throughout the northwest). Or maybe, it was their demand to administer the use of all the water (to be able to say who can use it). Gee, sounds a little extreme to me since the tribes didn’t own ALL the property on and around the reservation….. The tribes consistently refused to drop their demands/terms and allow the negotiations to continue.
So, what changed in the mind of the state commission between 2003 and 2005; besides the governor and the membership of the commission? Why would the state, after 20 years of successful negotiations with the other six tribes in MT, change their position and accept this tribe’s demands and terms?
I’m guessing that maybe the new governor was figuring on taking credit for completing this monumental undertaking that began back in 1979 and was maybe willing to “bend” the rules a little to make it happen. Anybody else want to venture a different guess? Why would the commission chairman, one Chris Tweeten, wonder, last August, 2012 if it was too soon to begin planning a victory celebration party that would include Hillary Clinton as the guest of honor? Hidden agenda’s – a guess; feather-in-the-cap politics, for certain.
So here we are, 7 years down the road (or up the creek) and no closer to an equitable division of waters in a “Head Water” state than 50 or 100 years ago. Why – politics, plain and simple. These shrewd fellows have woven an intricate patterned Indian blanket assuming that no mortal human being could unravel. They placed it in a room of mirrors to confuse detection, with their polished and practiced “talking points” meant to authoritatively overwhelm anyone who actually questioned or began to look for the blanket. They didn’t plan on some retired, ‘concerned citizens’ with time on their hands, suspicions of foul play and more than 2 brain cells still communicating with each other to come up on stage and join the show.
The more involved these citizens became, the more mirrors that were broken, the easier it was to find the blanket and begin the disassembly process to reveal the flaw; the lies, deceptions and attention diversions that had been created. The cover up began in earnest.
Why were no Environmental or Economic Impact Studies done? Answer from Mr. Jay Weiner = “we have a ‘Categorical Exclusion’….” Okay, show us the exclusion, in writing, as prescribed by law. Answer = “well, actually, nothing about this compact ‘triggers’ a NEPA or MEPA study”. Really, nothing? Answer = “nope, nothing”. Well, what about the ‘categorical exclusion’ you claimed twice before? Answer = “sorry, a mis-speak”. A mis-speak, really, or just a snow job?! All mis-speak’s were delivered with the authoritative assurance of a strong sensed lawyer to quiet the unwanted questions and divert attention back to the commission’s “talking points”. Well, we could not be lied to or ignored for long. The cover up game has gone on and on and on; we uncover, they scramble to cover – with claims to defame and marginalize us; not with any facts or truths.
No other tribe, within the boundaries of the United States, has received OFF-Reservation Instream Flow rights, by negotiation or litigation – NONE. They received the right to access their aboriginal fishing holes and a right to a portion of the fish harvested – but NO instream flow rights that would affect non-tribal landowners. Do not be fooled by verbal slight-of-hand! Our ‘state’ commission, under the direction of our previous governor, offered the CSKT co-ownership of off-reservation instream flow rights as a “feel good” act of placation to remain at the table and negotiate. Really, negotiate what? How does it feel to have YOUR water rights, off the reservation, made junior to tribal rights that by the nature of “aboriginal instream flow for little fishies”, gives them Time Immemorial Senior rights to the water?! A feel good that outright steals your water rights out from under you. And without one ounce of explanation to you!
So, when are the 350,000 impacted citizens of Western Montana going to get on the train and help those “concerned citizens of western Montana” fight off this dragon we allowed to grow from a tadpole? When will you all begin to realize you REALLY do have a dog in this fight, something to lose in this battle for our basic rights – water rights? When will you all decide that maybe you do have a moral line that can’t be crossed? If our little corner of the world can’t live and interact with a reasonable sense of honesty, integrity, common courtesy, community and personal morality – how can we possibly expect it to exist anywhere else? Why would you want to go on living in a world swimming in lies and deceit? How long can you dog paddle? This will affect the entire United States before it’s over. Think about it.

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