Washington in Brief

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SENATE COMMITTEE PASSES HANDFUL OF BILLS TO FULL SENATE

WASHINGTON - The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs tabled two
controversial bills to next week and made no mention of a subpoena motion
following a closed-door executive session June 16.

The executive session, attended by an unusually strong showing of committee
members, including Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., often mentioned as the next
committee chairman, kept more than 100 people waiting for 40 minutes in the
hallway outside room 485 of the Senate Russell building. When the room
opened for a scheduled business meeting and hearing, Sen. Ben Nighthorse
Campbell, R-Colo., said Senate Resolution 37, a proposed apology on behalf
of the United States to Indian people, as well as S. 1529, amending the
Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, would be taken up again next week.

The committee chairman made no mention of a "Motion to Authorize the
Chairman to Issue Subpoenas in Re Tribal Lobbying Matters," scheduled on
the committee Web site at http://indian.senate.gov. McCain, among others in
Congress, has been investigating large tribal lobbying fees paid to
Republican insider Jack Abramoff and others.

With the preliminaries out of the way, the committee moved on to a business
meeting that saw six bills head to the full Senate for consideration. They
were S. 297, the Federal Acknowledgment Process Reform Act of 2003; S.
1696, a bill to amend the Indian Self-Determination and Education
Assistance Act to provide further self-governance by Indian tribes; S.
1715, the Department of Interior Tribal Self Governance Act of 2004; S.
2172, a bill to make technical amendments to the provisions of the Indian
Self Determination and Education Assistance Act relating to contract
support costs, and for other purposes; S. 2277, a bill to amend the Act of
November 2, 1966 (80 Stat. 1112), to allow binding arbitration clauses to
be included in all contracts affecting the land within the Salt River
Pima-Maricopa Indian Reservation; and S. 2436, a bill to reauthorize the
Native American Programs Act of 1974.

Each bill has been reported on previously in Indian Country Today and each
is available on the SCIA Web site referenced above. The versions reported
out to the full Senate June 16 have been amended based on public feedback
and review.

Campbell noted that only 47 days remain on the Senate's working calendar in
the current election year. "We're running out of time here, and Senator
Inouye and I too are running out of time, Campbell said.

Campbell retires at the end of the current congressional session, and Sen.
Daniel K. Inouye, D-Hawaii, steps down as the committee's ranking Democrat
(though he maintains he will remain on the committee).

Campbell urged committee staff to work with Interior and other departments
to pass "this last raft of bills."

FINAL DAM SETTLEMENTS BILL GETS HEARING

WASHINGTON - The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs heard from an expert,
tribal leaders and Sen. Tom Daschle June 15 in an effort to bring about
final compensation for damages caused by federal damming of the Missouri
River 50 and 60 years ago.

The Tribal Parity Act, S. 1530 in the Senate, would provide additional
payments of $137 million to the Crow Creek Tribe and $73 million to the
Lower Brule, both in South Dakota. The funds would come from electricity
generated by the dams erected on the Missouri River under the Flood Control
Act of 1944 and the related Pick-Sloan Missouri River Basin Project. Both
are infamous among tribes for the flooding and relocations they caused. The
Pick-Sloan dams contribute $1.27 billion annually to the national economy,
according to U.S. Army Corps of Engineers estimates cited by Michael
Jandreau, the chairman at Lower Brule.

Lower Brule and Crow Creek have been compensated for monetary damages,
along with the Three Affiliated Tribes, the Cheyenne River, Standing Rock,
Yankton and Santee Sioux tribes. But Congress has resorted to different
methods of valuation, and Lower Brule and Crow Creek have been
short-changed in the process, according to Michael Lawson, author of the
book "Dammed Indians" and a recognized expert on the subject. Lawson
calculated the sums that would bring compensation for the two tribes up to
parity with the Three Affiliated, Cheyenne River Sioux and Standing Rock
tribes under the same method of valuation.

Ross Mooney, acting deputy director of trust services with the Bureau of
Indian Affairs, said the Bush administration cannot support the bill
because it is for Congress to decide whether compensation paid the Missouri
River tribes is fair.

BONNEVILLE POWER'S SUMMER SPILL PROPOSAL IS STILL A NON-STARTER

PORTLAND - Columbia River treaty tribes asked the Bonneville Power
Administration and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withdraw a dam
spill-water reduction proposal at a meeting June 14, according to a release
from the Columbia River Inter-Tribal Fish Commission.

The commission and tribal leaders contend the already-revised plan
continues an agency effort to cancel a summer spill program that helps
young salmon safely migrate over Columbia and Snake river dams while
heading out to sea.

BPA hopes to save electricity rate payers in the Northwest $31 million by
using water that would have been spilled under the program for power
generation instead. Reviving salmon runs have emboldened BPA to sacrifice
fish for cheaper electricity, according to Columbia River tribal leaders,
who also deride the savings figure as vastly optimistic. In fact, according
to CRITFC, rate payers would pocket about 10 cents a month per household
over the summer.

"This second proposal is strike two in a campaign to sell out salmon and
tribal treaty obligations in order to ship more electricity to power-hungry
California," said Ronald Suppah Sr., chairman of the Confederated Tribes of
the Warm Springs Reservation of Oregon.

Added Jerry Meninick, chairman of the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the
Yakama Nation, "The plan still lacks adequate measures to offset the salmon
and steelhead we would lose if BPA gets its way. We want this haphazard
plan off the table."

Tribal scientists estimate tens of thousands of adult fish - including some
populations listed under the Endangered Species Act - will perish if the
Corps and BPA suspend the summer program of spilling water over selected
Columbia and Snake river dams.

"We're now convinced it's time for BPA to stop proposing to end summer
spill. Their most recent proposal violates the Endangered Species Act,
violates a federal court order, violates the United States-Canada Salmon
Treaty and is a violation of our treaty rights," said Antone Minthorn, who
chairs the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation. "It's
time for BPA to admit that this proposal is a loser and take it off the
table. The new proposal doesn't satisfy the conditions set forth by the
governor of Oregon and our congressional delegation - the condition that
the spill proposal not continue the decades-long saga of killing salmon."

DASCHLE BILL TO RESTORE ANGOSTURA DAMAGES

WASHINGTON - The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs heard testimony June 16
on a bill that would restore damages caused the Oglala Sioux Tribe by
Angostura Dam, built in the 1940s. Eventual closure of the dam's floodgates
disrupted water flows of the Cheyenne River that had supported thriving
economic and cultural activity at Red Shirt Table, an Oglala community
located on the river.

President John Yellowbird Steele of the OST testified in behalf of S. 1696,
offered by Sens. Tom Daschle and Tim Johnson, D-S.D. According to Steele
and Daschle, the bill would mandate improvements in efficiency at the dam
that would maintain its off-reservation recreational and irrigational
advantages, while permitting increased water flows south to Red Shirt Table
and the rest of the Pine Ridge reservation, home to the Oglala.

In addition, it would authorize a tribal trust fund for economic
development, infrastructure improvements, education, health and social
welfare. By comparison with a similar Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe settlement
in 1990, S. 1696 would establish a trust of $92.5 million for the foregoing
purposes.