©2020 Montana Land and Water Alliance
Authors’ Note: This letter was written to the President of the United States and points out the complete corruption by the Department of the Interior, the State of Montana Executive Branch, and Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester in producing and advancing an unlawful CSKT Compact. No wonder the honest citizens of Montana, who were coming from a place of lawfulness, had no influence on their decisions and were simply overrun by politicians. They intended all along to deceive Montanans. We have received confirmation that the President has received our package and the issue is now on the radar. Would you be surprised to know that the Senator and his staff have presented this issue to these high level officials as a “local issue”? The letter was signed by more than 10 individuals and organizations, including legislators, and a supplemental signature page is being prepared. If you would like to endorse this letter, and work with us to ensure justice for all Montanans, please send us a note in the Contact form with the relevant contact and title information.
June 30, 2020
Dear Mr. President:
A freight train is barreling down the tracks directly aimed at the citizens of Montana, and we have run out of logs to throw on the tracks to stop it or slow it down. We will lose everything, so now we have nothing to lose by respectfully trying to elevate this issue to you.
In his 1977 dissent to the final report issued by the American Indian Policy Review Commission, Congressman Lloyd Meeds drew this line in the sand:
The United States is prepared to accommodate Indian interests, and to provide a substantial degree of self-determination. But there is a point beyond which it cannot go—our federal framework will not be compromised, nor will the rights of non-Indians be ignored. Where tribal aspirations collide with constitutional values, the tribe’s interests must yield. Nor can the rights of the non-Indian majority be compromised to support tribal aspirations. Doing justice by Indians does not require doing injustices to non-Indians.—Congressman Lloyd Meeds, D. WA, 1977.
In 2020, Senators Steve Daines and Jon Tester not only have crossed the Meeds line with their support of S.3019, the Montana Water Rights Protection Act, they have erased it just as surely as they will have erased the history of the Presidential opening and settlement of western Montana to non-Indians.
We write to advise you of an enormously difficult situation in Montana that involves:
- The deep and fatal corruption of federal Indian policy. Designed with the noble intention of promoting self-determination of the Indian people and self-governance through Tribal governments, it now instead fosters dependence of the Indian people, through their Tribal governments, on federal funding. The actual legal status of Tribes, and Tribal governments as self-governing political subdivisions of the United States, has been perverted into “Tribes as “sovereign nations”, or “nations within a nation” with federal funding at a level and for functions as if they had the same sovereign authority as individual states or the United States. This has resulted in the expansion of tribal jurisdiction over non-Indians that disrupts local governance, tax revenues, control over natural resources, and only benefits the Tribal corporation. Individual Indians have been left behind.
- The weaponization of an “Indian water settlement” against 975,000 people in Montana and future Indian water settlements against the western states. Through the corruption of key foundational laws of federal Indian policy, the Winters Doctrine regarding federal reserved water rights, and the Montana and U.S. constitutions, the water settlement for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) (CSKT Compact) in Montana has been weaponized to remove the citizens of Montana from the laws of protections of the Constitution and to take their water rights, lands, and future. The CSKT Compact rewrites 112 years of Congressional history and invents new water rights outside of the reservation across two-thirds of the state of Montana which were used to threaten the Montana legislature into passage of a settlement at the state level. The weaponization of this Indian water settlement was facilitated by federal agencies, our congressional delegation, and the state of Montana against its own citizens. In the future, this will allow the United States, through the Indian Tribes, to claim more water than the law permits, displacing vested water rights, undermining the certainty of land patents, destroying the ranching and agriculture industry, assuming ownership or control over critical infrastructure, and eliminating state constitutional protections for citizens.
- The re-election of Senator Steve Daines. The Senator, along with Jon Tester, has introduced this destructive and precedent-setting Indian water settlement to the Senate as S. 3019, the erroneously-named Montana Water Rights Protection Act, over the strong objections of Montana citizens and legislators, in defiance of existing law, and in a manner that has been rushed, deceptive, and non-transparent. By placing the power of his office with the Tribes, Montana citizens have been deprived of their representation. The bill remains wildly unpopular in Montana. If not for the Senator’s support of this water settlement, which acutely divided Montanans and the Montana republican party again, the Senator’s re-election would be easy. With the entry of Governor Steve Bullock into the race, the settled trend of Native Americans to vote Democrat, largely democrat urban areas, and the seething dislike of the Daines bill, an already close race could turn against the Senator.
The crucible is that to address any one of these issues necessarily involves the other two. They are urgent and ripe for action now because everything is at stake for our future, Montana, and our Country at this rarefied time in the 2020 election and our history.
We are acutely aware of the need for a Republican Senate to ensure an America First agenda but decry that this water settlement and accompanying corruption of federal Indian policy decidedly does not put America first and in fact jeopardizes her very foundation. Montana citizens have been given an unfair and untenable choice: vote for Senator Daines and keep the republican senate, but lose your water rights, land, and future.
The Daines bill will be welcomed by all democrats because it destroys your plans to Make America Great Again; directly contradicts your policies for agriculture, ranching, and rural America; and divisively places one class of American citizens above all others. If these issues are not addressed, the next 100 years will produce an unraveling of the American fabric, local governance, and our history by the hands of our own government under the guise of ‘federal Indian policy’. It could be called an ‘insurgency’ of a different kind than we face on our streets today, but its long term effects are more deadly. Nothing but the timely highest level intervention can avoid the catastrophe that awaits, and we pray to God for your assistance.
In the pages that follow, we describe the contours of the corruption of federal Indian policy and how this is reflected in the structure of the Daines bill. Underscored within that discussion is an urgency to arrest the development of this, and other Indian or other federal reserved water rights settlements before it is too late and takes hold as new federal policy.
We propose a pathway forward that builds upon celebrating the self-determination of Native Americans under the umbrella of the upcoming 100th anniversary of the American Indian Citizenship Act on June 2, 2024.  Since self-determination is at the core of both federal Indian policy and American citizenship, a door is opened to evaluate how well the federal agencies and tribal governments work to secure that goal, ensuring tribal members have the same protections and civil liberties afforded other American citizens.
 The CSKT Compact was unconstitutionally passed by the Montana legislature in 2015 and advanced to Congress by Governor Steve Bullock despite on-going litigation on the bill filed upon its “passage”. DV-15-73, Flathead Joint Board of Control v. State of Montana et al, April 20, 2015
 In a hearing on S. 3019 bill held on June 24, 2020 the Senator and the Department of the Interior continued to deceptively describe this proposed Indian water settlement as ‘constitutional’ again in contradiction to the facts of this bill (see, Synopsis of Richard A. Simms, in Legal Analysis of the CSKT Compact, prepared by the Montana Land and Water Alliance, January 2015). The bill and its title, which was written by the CSKT lawyers, is nothing more than “counting coup” on the citizens of Montana. The citizens of Montana wanted our rights protected; they were not. The title is an insult.
 43 Stat. 253 Also known as the Indian Freedom Citizenship Suffrage Act of 1924 and 1925, and the Snyder Act.