© 2014 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana
Earlier this year, a class action lawsuit was filed on behalf of allottee tribal members living within the Crow Reservation in eastern Montana. Suit was filed against the United States and the Montana Water Court to prevent a final decree on the Crow water compact.
The lawsuit alleges that water rights of individual tribal members appurtenant to allotment lands were waived and released by the United States without the knowledge or consent of landowners. It also claims that no effort was made to ensure these individuals would receive enough water to irrigate allotted land, and that the due process rights of these individuals were violated.
Does any of this sound familiar? Every water abstract in the Flathead water compact is held in the name of the United States / CSKT, and the volume of water is for more water than exists. Nearly every drop of water included is for instream flows for fish, not individual tribal members.
While we have not seen a revised Flathead compact, Chris Tweeten publicly stated that “not a drop of water would change”. People should be asking who benefits from the compact? It appears that the only entities benefiting are the United States federal government and the CSKT.
It is far wiser to address these issues now than it will be to file a lawsuit after the fact. CSKT Tribal members should be alarmed at this oversight by their own government and that of the United States. And those members of the Water Policy Interim Committee who are Indians and who fully support Indians should think twice about voting for another compact that doesn’t protect Tribal members.
Get involved, and stop this compact in the legislature before the mutual defense clause kicks in and we will have to fight against the deep pockets of the United States, Montana and the CSKT.
For more information, see this testimony from one of the Crow Allottees concerning this issue.