Cantwell Legislation to Right a Historical Wrong for the Spokane Tribe of Indians Passes U.S. Senate

Spokane Equitable Compensation Act would provide annual payments to Spokane Tribe of Indians for past, continuing use of Tribal lands

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Legislation introduced by U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA), a senior member of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, to provide the Spokane Tribe of Indians equitable compensation for the lands taken by the United States as part of the Grand Coulee Dam development project in the 1930s and 1940s passed the U.S. Senate. 

The Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act would authorize annual payments to be made by the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) to the Spokane Tribe for past and continuing use of Tribal lands for the construction and operation of Grand Coulee Dam. This is the third time the bill has passed the Senate since it was first introduced in 1999 and the first time it has passed with a Democratically-controlled House of Representatives, positioning the bill to be successfully passed out of the House and move to the president’s desk for signature. 

“Just and equitable compensation for the Spokane people is long overdue, and I’m glad my Senate colleagues agree,” Senator Cantwell said.  “I hope the House will take swift action.” 

Last year, Cantwell’s legislation won support from the Trump administration. In a March visit to the Spokane Indian Reservation and Grand Coulee Dam, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke spoke in support of righting historical wrongs and providing compensation to the Spokane Tribe. 

As the largest hydroelectric facility in the United States, Grand Coulee Dam has produced electricity for towns and cities across the western United States for more than 75 years. However, since the construction of the multipurpose project, the Spokane Tribe has yet to be compensated for the significant damages to its Tribal lands and livelihoods. 

Securing this compensation has been a long-time priority for Senator Cantwell. Since taking office, she has repeatedly introduced legislation to secure compensation and has continually advocated for its passage. 

“Lemlemts Senator Cantwell! The Spokane Tribal Business Council is very grateful for Senator Cantwell in seeing her move forward this long standing and important legislation. The Senator and her staff have been diligently working on this legislation for over 18 years and have always been a champion for the Spokane Tribe. We look forward to working with the Senator to see this legislation signed into law,” said the Spokane Tribal Business Council. 

After today’s passage in the U.S. Senate, the legislation now moves on to the House of Representatives for consideration.