© 2013 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
In June, we posted an article titled “Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures“. It made the case that a very few compact proponents were trying to gain momentum for the water compact using questionable tactics, something those of us living on the reservation are all too familiar with.
The parties involved realize that if dissent or objections to the compact can’t be stifled using political correctness, there are other available means to threaten and intimidate people. And the hits just keep on coming, as was demonstrated by a recent mailing to irrigators from an ambiguous group “Concerned Flathead Irrigators”.
Rather than focusing on the dirty tactics being used by whoever is participating in, endorsing, and /or funding the intimidation of compact opponents, let’s focus instead on all that is positive and good that is going on in western Montana with respect to this compact. Let’s talk about those people who have committed themselves to fighting it, whatever the cost might be to them.
Those opposed to the compact are in the majority, and are far from being alone. The May 2013 Joint Board elections gave a mandate to the irrigation project to stop the run away train, a board of twelve men, the majority of which were intent on ramming the water use agreement through without any consensus of the irrigators.
There are many private citizens that have dedicated countless hours to researching the Flathead Water Compact and the history behind it. After decades of “so called” negotiations, people had forgotten much of its history. Thanks to these efforts, people are learning about the history of this reservation and the federal government’s intentions when opening the reservation up to allotment 100 years ago. They now understand about the land patents and water rights issued with the land. These same efforts also awakened legislators and county commissioners to the fact that these water compacts are not all they’re cracked up to be, and that people need to start paying attention to what’s going on.
There are many other friends and neighbors who have attended meeting after meeting after meeting to speak out against this federal government overreach for our water, power and control.
We have knowledgeable consultants who have given freely of their time and their expertise to give us our voice and to strengthen our arguments.
Don’t forget all those who wrote letters to the editor, to keep the debate in the forefront of the news. This was necessary because the local media was only interested in using commission talking points rather than telling both sides of the story.
There are some brave souls who have mortgaged their ranches and homes, or paid what they could to form an organization to work on the legal defense of their water rights on behalf of all western Montanans.
Keep in mind our spouses who have tolerated the long hours and given of themselves concerning this effort.
Some work quietly behind the scenes, making connections with people to discuss and inform them about the compact.
Others stand up publicly and take personal attacks from proponent bullies on behalf of the thousands who quietly stand behind them.
There are others who took great risk to go to Helena to testify against the compact who have since been demoted in their jobs and / or financially harmed due to the tribe’s policy of withholding leases from compact opponents.
Commissioners in Sanders, Ravalli, Flathead, and Mineral Counties have all come out against this compact.
There are hundreds, even thousands of people off the reservation who are now awakened to the details of this compact. Now that the details are out, it’s impossible to put them back in the box, or pretend they don’t exist. Many of our off reservation friends travelled great distances to Helena to speak out against this compact.
Don’t forget our legislators, those who took the time to listen and to make tough decisions in Montana’s best interest during this legislative session.
A hero is defined as somebody who commits an act of remarkable bravery or who has shown an admirable quality such as great courage or strength of character. I would say that each of these groups of people we mentioned are in fact HEROES. Let us all remember that as we renew our commitment to stand together against this compact, in a battle that we clearly are winning.
Let the bullies try what they will. It’s too late. Too many people now know and understand the truth about this compact. No amount of bullying or intimidation can put this very bad compact genie back into the bottle.