Merkley, Wyden, Walden Applaud House Passage of Legislation to Correct Historic Travesty Inflicted on the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, along with U.S. Representative Greg Walden, today applauded the House passage of the 1865 Treaty ification Act, legislation that would finally ify the fraudulent Treaty with Middle Oregon Tribes, which prohibited members of the Warm Springs Tribe from leaving their reservation and relinquished all of their off-reservation rights. The bill has already been passed by the Senate and is now headed to the president’s desk.

U.S. Representatives Peter DeFazio, Earl Blumenauer, Kurt Schrader, and Suzanne Bonamici cosponsored the House version of the legislation.

“The Treaty with Middle Oregon Tribes was one of many alarmingly devious moves undertaken by the United States federal government to undermine the rights and sovereignty of Native tribes—tribes that long preceded the establishment of the United States,” said Merkley, who picked up the mantle to address this issue in the Senate after a strong, but ultimately unsuccessful, attempt by former Oregon Senator Mark Hatfield. “We have a responsibility to do everything we can to right those morally reprehensible wrongs. I’m thrilled that the House has joined the Senate in moving to officially ify this Treaty, and I look forward to seeing this historical travesty officially acknowledged and righted when this bill is signed into law.”

“This awful 155-year-old betrayal of Tribal rights demanded a just resolution,” Wyden said. “I’m glad Congress has passed this bill to undo these deceitful practices by the federal government and will keep battling for the honorable and equitable treatment of all Native peoples in Oregon and throughout the country.”

“The Warm Springs Treaty of 1865 has long been recognized as a fraud and a sham,” said Walden. “The U.S. Government has not enforced the treaty and Federal Courts have also regarded it as fraudulent. I am pleased that today the House has passed this legislation to ify this unfair treaty, which will ensure that the tribes’ rights under the 1855 treaty are fully recognized. I am proud to have worked with Senators Wyden and Merkley to correct this historical anomaly and I look forward to President Trump signing this bill into law so that we can fully right this longstanding wrong.” 

“The ification of the 1865 Treaty is long-overdue victory for the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs. The legislation will finally rectify one of the many cruel injustices perpetuated by the federal government against Indigenous communities in Oregon,” said Bonamici. “We must continue to support Tribal sovereignty and address the historical wrongs suffered by our Tribes.”

In 1855, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and the United States federal government entered a treaty establishing the tribe’s reservation, and reserving off-reservation hunting, gathering, and fishing rights. Ten years later, the Superintendent of Indian Affairs for Oregon, J.W. Perit Huntington, crafted an additional treaty, known as the Treaty with the Tribes of Middle Oregon. The signatories of this new, fraudulent treaty did not read or speak English, and were clearly misled by the government into believing that they were establishing a pass system for off-reservation hunting and fishing. In reality, the treaty would be used to justify the stripping of off-reservation rights from Warm Springs members.

Oregon Governor Kate Brown has already issued a state policy deeming the 1865 Treaty and void. In addition, the Oregon Attorney General has legally precluded that the state cannot attempt to defend the 1865 Treaty, because the 1968 U.S. v Oregon decision ruled that the Warm Springs’ off-reservation rights are established by the 1855 Treaty.