© 2020 Concerned Citizens of Western Montana

During the summer of 1979, Congress held field hearings throughout Montana, in response to a series of lawsuits filed by the United States on behalf of the tribes and for other federal reserved water rights throughout the state.

The western Montana lawsuit, was United States v. Abell, No. CIV-79-33-M (filed April 5, 1979). The Abell lawsuit consisted of federal reserved water claims for the following entities:

    • Flathead Reservation / CSKT and Allottees
    • FIPP (Indian and Non-Indian ) Irrigation and Power, Reservoir Sites
    • Bison Range
    • Glacier National Park
    • Flathead Nat’l Forest
    • Reclamation Projects – Hungry Horse Dam and Reservoir
    • Lolo Nat’l Forest
    • Various Power Site Reserves and projects incl Kerr, and Tribal owned
    • Ninepipe Nat’l Wildlife Refuge
    • Pablo Wildlife Refuge
    • Creston Nat’l Fish Hachery
    • Lion Lake for Irrigation
    • Kalispell Air Force Station
    • Swan River Nat’l Wildlife Refuge
    • Various Post Offices

We have acquired copies of all of the lawsuits filed by the United States, and would like to note that in the Abell lawsuit, the feds filed NO CLAIMS EAST OF THE CONTINENTAL DIVIDE for the FLATHEAD RESERVATION / CSKT. 

We would also like to note that NO CLAIMS FOR THE FLATHEAD RESERVATION / CSKT were filed in any of the several other suits that were filed by the feds throughout the rest of the state.

The historic record shows that 250 defendants throughout western Montana were named in the Abell lawsuit.  The testimony of federal attorneys at the time indicated that another 1,200 people could possibly be named.

The lawsuits had their intended effect, and people throughout the state were angry and frightened.  Many found it necessary to hire attorneys at the time.

It would seem that even in 1979, it wasn’t beyond federal agencies and attorneys to use litigation as  a fear tactic to garner leverage for federal overreach concerning the water and property rights of citizens  throughout Montana.

But unlike the Daines push to cram his water compact down the throats of his Montana constituents in 2020, Congress actually went through the trouble of holding a field hearing in Ronan Montana on August 31, 1979.

Note:  We will include a link to the entirety of the hearing at the bottom of this post, but want to share with you an excerpt from it.

Statement of E.W. “Вill” Morigeau, Vice-Chairman of Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes before Senator Melcher on the Department of Justice Water Suits Against Montana and some water Users.

Mr. Chairman:

It is а pleasure to appear here today. I have three water related areas that I will advance my views on.

Each area is either related to Montana Senate 76 Water Right Bill, or the Justice Department Water Rights Suits.  I have been reading the papers about the thousands of water users that will have to appear and defend their water rights.

This Department of Justice law suit is а complaint that (Nо. 1) will, protect Indian water rights and (Nо. 2) will also protect federal reserved water rights.

The way the complaint is written it is mighty confusing, as after examining the complaint filed in April, I find there are only six water users within the entire Flathead Reservation named as defendants, using tribal water without а water right.  The other 243 named in the suit are from the Columbia Falls area, Kalispell area, Whitefish, Bigfork, Swan Lake area, etc., which are using federal reserved water without a federal water right. 

I would like to set the record straight.  The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Council has never claimed water or water rights outside of the border of the reservation. 

Federal reserved water rights in the complaint are identified as water for United States Post Offices, Federal Fish Hatcheries, U.S. Wildlife Reserves, Glacier Park, National Bison Range, two national forests and congressional appropriated water in Irrigation Projects to use the surface and ground water of the Flathead River Basin and recognizing the reserved and appropriated water rights ot the United States.

Four of the nine water users within the reservation named in the complaint were there by error and have been notified of such, leaving six and including the state of Montana.

The state of Montana is named as a defendant because of the passage of Senate Bill 76.  In my opinion, no individual should have been named in this law suit, only the state of Montana should have been named as the defendant.

The Tribe’s portion of the complaint within the Reservation does not involve over five individuals, including the state of Montana.  The Department of Justice acting as trustee, is asking that tribal members and the tribes has the right to use the water flowing through our under the Reservation in an amount sufficient to provide a homeland for the tribal members and to meet the present and future needs of their members.

Read the rest of Mr. Morigeau’s statement and testimony here.

What a Difference Forty Years Makes

In 1979 tribal leadership:  I would like to set the record straight.  The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Council has never claimed water or water rights outside of the border of the reservation.

In 2013: Montana agrees to give the tribe time immemorial claims to vast amounts of off reservation water throughout western Montana and ratifies the water compact in 2015.

In 2015: The CSKT and United States file 10,000 time immemorial claims to water covering 2/3 of the state, which also includes all of the aquifer water that exists below the reservation.

In 2020:   The S.3019 Daines Compact proposes to allow the tribes to keep all of the water in western Montana as per SB262, and using sleight of hand language will allow the 10,000 claims to be dismissed “without prejudice”,  establishing a pathway for future federal and tribal litigation over water uses and property rights over 2/3 of the state of Montana.

Cognitive Dissonance is defined as “a state of conflict occurring when beliefs or assumptions are contradicted by new information. Dissonance theory holds that the conflict produces feelings of discomfort which the individual seeks to relieve by reconciling the differences, by convincing himself they do not exist, or by adopting some other type of defensive maneuver.

So exactly how does Senator Daines reconcile any cognitive dissonance with respect to the tribe and US positions in 1979, with his 2020 federal / CSKT land and water grab legislation?

By all appearances, Daines feels no “discomfort” when confronted with the facts about his legislation, or the objections of his constituents to it.

Perhaps this is because in his “infinite knowledge and wisdom on all things Indian”, our ridiculous excuse of a “Senator” prefers to pretend that the history of the reservation, and its inconvenient opening and diminishment per the terms of the treaty, simply “never happened.”

Melcher Statement / US Senate Notice of Public Water Rights Hearings

Full document Congressional Hearings Montana Water Rights, Ronan Montana 1979