© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

Throughout the past year, we’ve heard many comments about the on again and off again negotiations for the Flathead Water Compact dating all the way back to the 1980’s.

The DNRC website for this compact has a few documents dating back to 2008, but does not provide anything close to a historical view of what’s taken place through the years.  With this in mind, we thought it would be helpful to look at older newspaper articles discussing the negotiations.

Upon doing some research at the University of Montana library, we came across a great article from the Char-Koosta News dated 11/21/2002.  It’s entitled:  WATER RIGHTS NEGOTIATIONS ON THE FLATHEAD INDIAN RESERVATION.  Gwen Lankford, the author does a great job of providing historical context to the negotiations.

To view the article, visit the University of Montana Library website (apologies but it requires a sign in and password to get in).  This article references the tribe’s JUNE 2001 PROPOSAL FOR NEGOTIATION OF RESERVED AND ABORIGINAL WATER RIGHTS IN MONTANA.  

From the article we get the following timeline:

    • 1973 Montana Water Use Act passed
    • 1979 Montana Reserved Water Rights Compact Commission created
    • 1979 Talks began with CSKT but dwindled when state focused on eastern Montana first
    • 1985 CSKT filed objection with DNRC concerning a non Indian water right claim within reservation boundaries
    • 1986-1987 tribes file more objections concerning non-Indian water rights filings
    • 1995 CSKT pushed the state to reinitiate negotiations (4 negotiation sessions held between 1995 and 2002)
    • 2001 The tribe submitted a proposal for negotiation of reserved water rights

A second Char-Koosta article, also found on the University of Montana Library website, entitled TRIBES’ WATER-RIGHTS PROPOSAL SEEKS TO PROTECT RESOURCE, RESIDENT’S INTERESTS 04/11/2002 by Patti Sessions lays out a three point framework taken directly from the 2001 proposal that includes:

  • All water on and under the Flathead Indian Reservation is owned by the United States in trust for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.
  • The negotiation process will focus on the development of a comprehensive reservation-wide tribal water administration ordinance, which will apply the seniority system and protect the unique federal attributes of Indian reserved and aboriginal rights.
  • The negotiations will also include other issues pertaining to the Tribes’ reserved and aboriginal water rights.

(Note:  Hmmmmmm.  These are the three legs of the stool, and they haven’t changed since 2001.   Interestingly enough, the 2013 proposed CSKT water compact looks very similar to the tribes’ 2001 proposal, only it is masked behind talking points and half hearted attempts pretending to protect non-Indian rights.  How did that happen? Persistence up to and including waiting for a governor like Brian Schweitzer does seem to pay off after all.)

The CSKT website has a 2008 presentation named TRIBAL RESERVED WATER RIGHTS NEGOTIATIONS mentions two proposals made by the tribes, one in 2001 that was rejected by the state, and one in 2007 that we assume was also rejected by the state (see John Tubb’s letter dated 02/21/2008).  A recent FOIA request by Concerned Citizens, uncovered a third tribal proposal dated 2010.

As of the posting of this article, we have been unable to find a copy of the 2007 proposal, but have copies of the 2001 and 2010 documents for your reference.

A Proposal for Negotiation of Reserved and Aboriginal Water Rights in Montana June 2001

Briefing Paper – Water Rights Settlement Proposal Presented by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes of the Flathead Indian Reservation July 2010

(Note:  these documents and many others can also be found on our LIBRARY / DOCUMENTS page. If anyone has a copy of the 2007 proposal, we’d appreciate it if you would forward it to us for posting.)