A reminder to those who slept through the 10-plus years of the Flathead Reservation water rights negotiations: the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes negotiators never expected, asked for nor demanded off-reservation water rights; they demanded that the state of Montana agree that the tribe owned all the water within reservation boundaries and they demanded the state acquiesce to their demand to administer all water rights and distribution within the boundaries of their reservation – no matter the sovereignty of the peoples residing there nor the status of land ownership.
In the words of Jay Weiner, state Attorney General legal appointee to the compact commission: “The off-reservation water rights were ’offered’ to the tribe (by the Commission!) as a feel-good.“ In the words of Rhonda Sweeney, tribal lawyer: “We were thrown a bone with the off-reservation ’co-ownership’ water rights.“
Hello, anybody home? All of you non-reservation counties were thrown under the bus by the state Compact Commission – your representatives – not the tribes. And now you’re listening to those same people who are telling you that the tribes have every right to water – for “time immemorial” – in their “aboriginal” territory (that was ceded, conveyed and relinquished to the U.S. federal government) because it’s a spiritual and religious connection to the land they once inhabited.
You decide – are you willing to give up control of your water in exchange for what – you got nothing in exchange but “myth-information”? The wheels on the bus go ‘round and ‘round.