This article discusses a federal model or template for the taking away of water, energy and food production in the Western States. It is about the political and constitutional ruin of 30,000 Montanans and confiscation of 350,000 others’ property Interests. It is federal Executive Branch and tribal government overreaching on steroids, determined to replace State authority and jurisdiction over non-tribal property owners and citizens. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai (CSKT) Water Compact is the Ground Zero model being replicated across Western States from Colorado to California. All areas within or near Indian reservations are either already burdened or soon will be, with the struggle to maintain State authority and protections for citizens of the affected states.
TRIBAL GOVERNMENT “SOVEREIGNTY” IS THE PRIMARY TOOL
Tribal government “sovereignty” is the primary tool used to convert public waters, energy and lands into tribal sovereign assets, no longer required to serve the public at large. The CSKT Tribe resides on the Flathead Indian Reservation in Western Montana where this model is now being fully implemented. This same federal/tribal model has arrived or is coming soon to your states as well. When a State Governor, Attorney General and State Legislature caves to federal and tribal pressure, as has the State of Montana, citizens have no governmental support whatsoever.
Since 1998 and likely sooner, federal and tribal officials were coercing State leaders into submission to surrender natural resources, property, water, and Constitutional rights of Montanans. A 1998 Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed then by Chris Tweeten for the State, as well as tribal and federal officials created the poison potion for Flathead Reservation residents to consume. With the recipe in place, the instructions for administering the concoction were laid out by the CSKT Tribe in a 2001 Proposal for Negotiations. They were followed to the letter over the next 17 years. Within these two documents many years ago was the plan and path to silence those most directly impacted—property owners within the Flathead Reservation, 80% of whom are non-tribal citizens of the State.
Those directly harmed were entirely unaware that from 1998 to 2011 the federal jackboot was being crafted by numerous federal, state and tribal entities. A 13-year head start of multiple agencies that withheld public information for this period of time, certainly gave the feds, tribes and state profound leverage over a few courageous citizens asking questions or voicing concerns.
THE TRIBE HAS 100% CONTROL OF ACCESS TO WATER
It is 2016 now. Farmers, irrigators, landowners within the Flathead Reservation have lost control or any voice over everything necessary to produce life on land. The Tribe has 100% control of access to water. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) controls operation and maintenance of the irrigation districts. The federal government and tribe entirely control a large hydropower dam (former Kerr dam) with no reporting requirements, and no scrutiny of its public safety. The BIA owns the Mission Valley Power Company that provides electricity to everyone within the reservation and is operated by the tribe. Oh, and the tribe has no duty to non-tribal citizens or to keep America safe. An unaccountable federal monopoly now controls life on non-Indian lands, on and off the reservation, in Western Montana.
The Secretary of Interior has the last word on the Flathead Indian Reservation for water, power and irrigation. Not the Governor, not the State. Farmers and cattlemen fully know that life doesn’t happen on land without power and irrigation. And it’s the feds and tribes that will now arbitrarily set all rates for each—water and power, answering to no one, not the ratepayers or even the State’s Public Services Commission (PSC). The CSKT no longer contributes to county and school district economic needs, so a substantial tax burden shifts to the landowners as well. Water rates will go up; irrigation rates will go up; power rates will go up; taxes will go up. This final economic squeeze is a foregone conclusion—it is a dead certainty. The only things going down will be business income, household income, crop and livestock production, and land values. All of this is against the law. In the mid-80s a mission of the CSKT was to remove all non-Indians (approximately 30,000) from the reservation by 2030 “by any means necessary.” The stage is surely set.
RULE-CHANGING SHENANIGANS GOT THE DEAL DONE
The CSKT Water Compact was passed in the Montana State Legislature on April 11, 2015 with a simple majority vote, when the Montana Constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote. Rule-changing shenanigans got the deal done. Since April 2015 and long before the Compact is activated with ratification by Congress, “pre-implementation” games are being played on farmers and cattlemen. One example is a farmer with 200 acres of peas coming to peak during a heat wave in July. The BIA shut off the farmer’s water, scorching over 80% of his crop. Once the farmer salvaged perhaps 20% of his crop, the BIA turned his water back on. Likewise, a cattle rancher had to relocate hundreds of cattle off of his ranch because the BIA cut off his stock water. Once the cattle were completely relocated, the BIA turned the stock water back on. Ugly games are being played on the very folks that drive the economies of three counties within the Flathead Indian Reservation. Cattle and crop production is target Number One to drive off non-Indian landowners. This serves a dual purpose: tribal governments want non-Indians off of their reservations; 2) the Obama administration is drying up food production in the country.
For 17-years landowners have been bullied, demeaned and ignored. Montana has made no effort to protect its citizens and their collective rights. Public meetings were mere theater, feigned to pretend that any citizen voice mattered. The song sheets of the 1998 MOU and the 2001 CSKT Settlement Negotiation Protocols have been followed to the tune without missing a note or a beat.
THE FJBC AND EVERYONE MUST LOSE FOR THE CSKT WATER COMPACT TO SUCCEED
The Flathead Joint Board of Control (FJBC) is composed of farmers, cattlemen and irrigators to oversee four separate irrigation districts on the reservation: the Camas, Jocko, Mission and Flathead districts. Efforts by “advisors” to the FJBC, some suspected as federal “operatives,” have facilitated chronic divisiveness and dysfunction within the FJBC Board. These eleven fine Board members all deeply believe in the FJBC, are landowners and irrigators themselves, but pitted against each other could cause the collapse of the FJBC. A well-functioning FJBC is a direct obstacle to successful CSKT Water Compact implementation. The FJBC and everyone must lose for the CSKT Water Compact to succeed. The plan set twenty years ago has brought great fear and pain to truly fine Montanans. Taking down the FJBC or cause its internal collapse is essential to implement the tribe’s Water Compact.
To be blunt, the Interior Department and its Bureau of Indian Affairs now are pimps for federally recognized tribes, including the CSKT, who submit to the congressional and executive alters as “dependent” sovereigns, to then be rewarded with rapid expansion of their “sovereignty” and legal jurisdiction over non-tribal lands, waters and persons. The State is a willing and compliant customer, leaving an additional $55 million in State taxpayer dollars on the dresser. Indeed, while the State and Federal government lie comfortably together behind closed doors, Montana citizens have had their property and water rights pick-pocketed and transferred to others.
GOOD MONTANA PEOPLE WILL BE FORCED TO MOVE OUT AND MOVE ON
The State paid little heed to the Montana Constitution or federal Constitution. Abandoned by their State, good Montana people will be forced to move out and move on. Other Montana tribes will demand the remainder of the State’s water as Montana’s governing institutions become puppetry to federal directives for even greater tribal sovereignty and jurisdiction.
Want proof that this theft of property owners’ interests has been entirely orchestrated by the federal government and its operatives on the ground in Montana? One small group of citizens engaged legal counsel to get their voices heard by the courts and federal agencies, and to claim their rightful due process, equal protection and property rights. And these folks are now painted as Enemy Number One. How dare a few property owners seek to protect their interests and their livelihoods? Those unable or unwilling to support these landowners remind me of the beaten wife contacted by domestic abuse counseling services that offer to help, but she sees them as bringing more trouble to her door, until she’s found dead in her home.
Absent support from any government entity, and in spite of serious demeaning and intimidation, courageous property owners will have their day in court. That is a good and necessary thing if property rights and due process are to exist for citizens anywhere in Montana today or tomorrow.