Warm Springs on a winter’s day

(Click on each photo to see a larger picture on a separate picture page.)

I just passed through the Warms Springs Indian Reservation, which lies in northwest Oregon, on the east side of the Cascade range. It is managed by the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The bands that claimed ancestry in the region include the Paiutes, Warms Springs, and Wascoes.

The reservation was created by treaty in 1855, which ceded lands to the United States in exchange for rights and services. Those rights include fishing rights for salmon that remain today.

I will go back in the spring, when the weather is warmer. There is a lot I would like to see.

Today, the reservation has made a lot of news because of a tribal vote to allow cannabis cultivation. During the same election in December, there was a measure to remove lifetime members from the tribal council. The tribe reported this update in November that the petition needs to be submitted and approved for further review by the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

This measure to change the tribal constitution likely stemmed from news that broke earlier in 2015 that the tribes overspent $100 million over the last 10 years, which put at risk  pensions and distributions from a tribal trust, and also impacted essential services.

The tribes’ former treasurer, Jake Suppah, was put on leave after identifying the mismanagement. These findings and the treatment of Suppah led to the tribes contacting the office of the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of the Interior to investigate tribal finances in March 2015. Since that time, the fiscal mismanagement, the connection between the reporting of the mismanagement and the petition last month to amend the constitution, and the impacts of these findings have not been widely covered in Oregon. I still cannot find out how this petition process turned out, yet.

As the Bend Bulletin in March quoted council member Carlos Smith, also general manager of Kah-Nee-Ta Resort & Spa: “Our tribe was one of the richest tribes in the ’80s and now we’re broke. That’s why we brought Jake back, to figure out, ‘Why are we broke? What is this issue?’”

I am hoping the residents of Warm Springs have found answers to their questions about what went wrong. There are many reasons for silence in Indian country, but I think many on the reservation think otherwise with this matter.

 

 

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