Rep. Salinas’ first bill passes in US house

U.S. Representative Andrea Salinas (Sixth District) successfully passed her first piece of legislation in early November. 

The bill, introduced by Salinas in March, amends the Grand Ronde Reservation Act to restore the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s right to pursue land claims and compensation. The legislation is co-led by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley and cosponsored by fellow Oregon U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (D-First District), Earl Blumenauer (D-Third District), Val Hoyle (D-Fourth District), and Lori Chavez- DeRemer (R-Fifth District). It now heads to the Senate for further consideration. 

“Oregon’s Indigenous peoples, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, have faced countless injustices at the hands of our government. Today, we took a historic step toward righting the wrongs of the past,” said Rep. Salinas. 

“I am very proud that my first bill to pass the House of Representatives would restore Grand Ronde’s ability to pursue land claims and compensation—a right already enjoyed by the rest of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes. I am hopeful that the Senate will swiftly pass this bill and send it to President Biden for his signature.” 

Salinas and Merkley’s bill to fix the Grand Ronde Reservation Act would correct a drafting error in a 1994 legislative amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act which authorized a land exchange requiring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to compensate the Grand Ronde Tribe for an 84-acre survey error by the federal government. The survey error occurred around 1871 and was not discovered by the Bureau of Land Management until 1988. In 1994, in pursuing federal legislation to rectify the error, an amendment was made to the bill at the time that further prohibited the Tribe from making any additional land claims if new errors were ever discovered. 

Salinas and Merkley’s bill will end this inequitable restriction on the Tribe so that they may pursue recourse if additional survey errors are found. Currently, no other tribe in the State of Oregon is bound by this type of legal restriction and removing it will restore equity to the Grand Ronde Tribe. 

In case additional survey errors are discovered, this bill to amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act would replace the phrase “lands within the State of Oregon” with the phrase “the 84 acres known as the Thompson Strip,” clarifying that they are only prohibited from making additional land claims to the area known as the Thompson Strip.