BIA, Recognize "Indian" Status and Rights of Oregon's Celilo Wy'am Tribe

  • by: Susan V
  • recipient: Stanley Speaks, US Bureau of Indian Affairs, Oregon

A small tribe of native Americans in Oregon has never been properly recognized by the US Government. Instead of honoring the Celilo Wy'am's native status and land rights, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, says a Truthout report, has worked to block those rights.

According to Truthout, the Celilo Wy'am are not the only indigenous people living within United States territory whose “Indian” status is unrecognized by the federal government. In fact, adds TO, there are millions who exist in this “legal limbo” because their treaties were never ratified or acknowledged.

What’s different about the Celilo Wy’am tribe is that its members have in their possession ancestral documents showing that the federal government had recognized them in the past - in the 1950s - and had given them rights to fish at the now submerged falls along with other recognized tribes. The Celilo Wy’am have shared these documents and stories, says Truth-Out, with the hope that this exposure will “help their years-long struggle to gain some semblance of sovereignty.”

Tribe member Lana Jacks has personally fought hard for this recognition. She says it’s important because even though members are in some ways treated like “Indians,” they have been deprived of essential rights and reparations. But BIA’s response to Jacks’ efforts has only added insult to injury. According to Truthout, BIA’s Stanley Speaks referred to Jacks’ pleas as “bitching and complaining.”

Sign this petition to complain to the BIA about Speaks’ attitude toward Jacks and its failure to honor the Celilo Wy’am tribe’s official “Indian” status.

To the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs and Mr. Stanley Speaks:

We, the undersigned, find Mr. Speaks response to tribe member Lana Jacks’ plea for legal recognition a slap in the face that is indicative of the overall attitude of the BIA towards this tribe and its rights.

According to Truthout’s report, members of the Celilo Wy'am are not just “bitching and complaining;” they “have a strong legal case to receive recognition.”

After reviewing the tribal documents, Truthout says:

the documents provided by Lana Jack, when Minnie Showaway was granted the . 47-acre "public domain allotment" that Jack inherited, she was recognized by the US Congress as a member of one of "those permanent resident Indian families" of the original village. These "individual Indians not enrolled in any recognized tribe," wrote Congress in 1955, two years before the flooding, "who through domicile at or in the immediate vicinity of the reservoir ... have an equitable interest in the fishery." Though unrecognized, the permanent families were given fishing rights.
Additionally, in the minutes of the 1855 Treaty Council, Stevens also promised "all the Bands of the Columbia below the Walla Walla down to White Salmon River ... fishing stations." This encompasses Celilo and the Wy'am.

Jacks told Truthout that the government going back on its word is just a continuation of the genocide that began centuries ago, and she adds that "The generational trauma that has come to the women of our family has been devastating."

Now, says Lana Jack, all the tribe is asking is that the government “authorize” their “existence” and keep its promises.

We enthusiastically support this tribe’s efforts and request that the BIA do as the tribe requests.

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