© 2014 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
On July 8th, 2014 the Water Policy Interim Committee (WPIC), chaired by Senator Chas Vincent, met in Helena. One of the afternoon agenda items was a discussion of the Unitary Management Ordinance. A busload and several carloads of people from western Montana went to the meeting to comment on their opposition to this document being included in the water compact.
As you read this, keep in mind that the Western Montana Water Users Association was formed in 2012 to oppose the compact and to prevent the water use agreement from being ratified as part of the compact. Irrigators sued the old FJBC board to keep them from voting away their project water rights. As a result of their efforts, the 20th District Court ruled the water use agreement to be an unconstitutional taking. Since then, the tribe has aggressively sought to stifle freedom of speech and association by instituting a policy of requiring tribal lease holders to distance themselves in a very public way from opposing the compact, a document that as it is written will cause them great financial harm.
The June 10th Tribal Council Minutes Senator Vincent refers to in the video below are distributed by the Chakoosta News, and include the following quote concerning the award of tribal leases:
“There are two bidders that are members of the Water Users Association. Prior council action required a member of the Water Users Association to publish an advertisement in the newspaper announcing that they are no longer a member of the association and go to the newspaper announcing they are no longer a member of the association and go to the courthouse and obtain an affidavit verifying the disassociation before the individual could be awarded a bid. Council would like to follow those same procedures. Tribal Lands Department will find out if one of the individuals filed the affidavit.”
Make no mistake, this IS the way the tribe does business on the reservation. Many instances of this kind of treatment have been documented during the past two to three years related specifically to this compact. In addition to those we have documented, there are a multitude of others where businesses and individuals refuse to allow us to use their information for fear of retribution.
Here is the video excerpt from the 07/08/14 WPIC hearing in Helena. There is no doubt that this is a glimpse into our future if Montana allows non-Indians to be placed under the jurisdiction of the tribe’s Unitary Management Ordinance:
A tribal member told us long ago, that if given the Unitary Management Board, there is no way that the tribe will administer water rights without prejudice. That person took the time to repeat the same statement twice. We have no doubt that this is a fact. When this tribal member’s comments were mentioned to the Compact Commission on August 2, 2012, an attorney for the commission said that they tried to write the bias out of the document by attempting to mirror state law.
It is unfortunate that the commission exceeded its authority and attempted to cavalierly bargain away our “guaranteed” protection of the state of Montana in exchange for a talking point that existing uses of water will be protected. They even gave it a name: THE GRAND BARGAIN. Listen to this one minute comment from Mr. Tweeten explaining the deal they made with the tribe that serves to violate the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. and Montana Constitutions:
As a dear friend has pointed out, if the tribe treats us this way now, how will they treat us after they are given all the water and control of its management for new and existing uses for all time? Excellent question to ponder and consider.
To learn more about the UMO, here is a pdf copy of a report about the UMO submitted on behalf of Concerned Citizens of Western Montana to the WPIC Committee.