Cantwell, Spokane Tribe Celebrate Historic Signing of Legislation Delivering Justice for Lost Land

Cantwell: “Because of the Spokane Tribe’s leadership, justice has finally prevailed”; Legislation provides long-overdue compensation to Spokane Tribe of Indians for past, continuing use of Tribal lands

WELLPINIT, WA – Today, U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined the Spokane Tribe of Indians in Wellpinit to celebrate historic legislation recently signed into law to provide the Tribe equitable and just compensation for the lands taken by the United States as part of the Grand Coulee Dam development project in the 1930s and 1940s. The legislation was signed into law in December after nearly 80 years of work by the Tribe. Senator Cantwell has worked tirelessly to enact the bill into law for over 18 years.

“We had to fight the Department of Justice, we had to fight the Department of the Interior, we had to fight staffers, we had to fight members, we had to fight ignorance – but because of the Spokane Tribe’s leadership, justice has finally prevailed,” Senator Cantwell said. “This is a compensation act that will help the Spokane Tribe grow in the future, and it recognizes the loss of culture, fishing grounds, and important economic contributors to the Spokane Tribe.”

The Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act authorizes 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 the Grand Coulee Dam. The compensation does not increase taxpayer obligation and is based on compensation received by the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation through the 1994 Colville Reservation Grand Coulee Dam Settlement Act.

“I would just like to thank the Tribal Elders for hanging onto this history, being truth tellers, and making today a reality,” Cantwell continued. “The sun is really shining on the Spokane Reservation today.”

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.

Senator Cantwell worked since 2003 to get legislation passed to secure just compensation for the Tribe. The bill passed in the Senate three times and the House of Representatives once, but it had never passed both chambers in the same Congress before. Throughout her time in the Senate, Senator Cantwell has repeatedly introduced the legislation and pushed for its passage.

Video of Senator Cantwell’s remarks is available HERE, and audio can be found HERE. The full event was streamed HERE, and photos can be found HERE.