Interior Secretary Listens to Concerns from Oregon’s Tribes

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior was in Oregon in March to sit down with leaders from Oregon’s nine federally recognized Tribes and discuss important issues.

Secretary Deb Haaland and Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley met with Oregon’s Tribal leaders at the High Desert Museum near Bend on March 17. Cow Creek Umpqua CEO Michael Rondeau attended the discussion and gave voice to concerns that affect Cow Creek Tribal Government and its citizens.

Some of the issues discussed included wildfire season and preparedness, as well as drought and water conservation. The Department of the Interior and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have both recently dedicated funding to Oregon, as well as other states, that will address some these issues.

But some of Oregon’s Tribal leaders also expressed their concern that not all funding for Tribes is equitable. Part of the meeting discussed new sources of federal funding for Tribal law enforcement for Oregon’s restored Tribes.

“The Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus Appropriations Act allocated $7 million to restored and newly recognized Tribes who didn’t previously receive law enforcement funding,” said Rondeau. “This is particularly important in our state where we have numerous restored Tribes.”

Secretary Haaland recognized the concern. Most Western Oregon Tribes, such as Cow Creek, are considered restored Tribes because they were terminated by the federal government and then re-recognized at a later time.

During the discussions with Sec. Haaland and Sen. Merkley, there were some disagreements, but overall all attendees understood there needs to be more funding to help facilitate equality.

Credit: Sen. Jeff Merkley (D, OR.) Facebook

Tribal leaders also presented the Secretary with traditional gifts. Rondeau presented Sec. Haaland with a rawhide and beaded necklace made by Cow Creek Tribal citizen and artist Linda Jackson. Chairwoman Cheryl Kennedy from the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde presented Sec. Haaland with a beaded badge in honor of missing and murdered indigenous women, an issue that the Secretary has made a priority during her tenure.

Senator Merkley sponsored the meeting. He is member of the U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, one of the most powerful committees in Congress, and is also Chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies, which has jurisdiction over Secretary Haaland’s department.

Secretary Haaland and Senator Merkley also visited Crater Lake National Park during their trip, which is set to receive $45 million in funding to upgrade roads around the park. They also traveled to Klamath Falls to view areas impacted by severe drought, and to Medford to get an overview of this summer’s wildfire outlook.