Salinas Bill to Amend Grand Ronde Reservation Act Passes Senate, Will Become Law

Washington, DC – Today, U.S. Representative Andrea Salinas (OR-06) announced her legislation with U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act, which restores the right to pursue land claims and compensation for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde, has cleared both chambers of Congress. The legislation now heads to President Biden to be signed into law.

The bill was first introduced by Rep. Salinas in March as her first piece of legislation, and she ensured it passed the U.S. House of Representatives early last month. Senator Merkley has long championed the bill with success in the Senate, where it passed this week with unanimous support. The legislation is cosponsored by U.S. Representatives Suzanne Bonamici (OR-01), Earl Blumenauer (OR-03), Val Hoyle (OR-04), and Lori Chavez-DeRemer (OR-05), as well as U.S. Senator Ron Wyden (D-Ore.).

“I am deeply proud that my amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act has passed the Senate and will soon become law. This is a historic moment not only for the Grand Ronde Tribe, but for Indigenous peoples in Oregon and across the country,” said Rep. Salinas. “At long last, the Grand Ronde Tribe will finally have the right to pursue land claims and compensation once again. I am so grateful to Senator Merkley, my Oregon colleagues, and everyone who helped get this important legislation across the finish line, and I look forward to seeing it signed into law in the coming days.”

“A gross injustice against the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde is finally ending, and a new chapter of healing and justice for the Tribal community can begin,” said Sen. Merkley. “Nearly three decades ago, the Grand Ronde sought to fix a historical surveying error within their reservation boundary, only for the federal government to make another error that relinquished the Tribe’s rights to future land claims and compensation. I’ve long championed legislation to correct this egregious injustice. With the strong partnership of Representative Salinas, it is finally becoming a law that will ensure the Grand Ronde has the legal ability to restore its right to pursue land claims in Oregon—rights already available to other federally-recognized Tribes in Oregon.”

“Words cannot express what this means to us and the pure joy I had hearing the news,” said Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy. “This amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act is about correcting a historical wrong and restoring equity to the Tribe. We will forever be grateful to all those that worked to make this possible.”

Salinas and Merkley’s bill to fix the Grand Ronde Reservation Act corrects a drafting error in a 1994 legislative amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act, which authorized a land exchange requiring the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to compensate the Grand Ronde Tribe for an 84-acre survey error by the federal government. The survey error occurred around 1871 and was not discovered by the Bureau of Land Management until 1988. In 1994, in pursuing federal legislation to rectify the error, an amendment was made to the bill at the time that further prohibited the Tribe from making any additional land claims if new errors were ever discovered.

Salinas and Merkley’s bill will end this inequitable restriction on the Tribe so that they may pursue recourse if additional survey errors are found. Currently, no other tribe in the State of Oregon is bound by this type of legal restriction and removing it will restore equity to the Grand Ronde Tribe. In case additional survey errors are discovered, this bill to amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act would replace the phrase “lands within the State of Oregon” with the phrase “the 84 acres known as the Thompson Strip,” clarifying that they are only prohibited from making additional land claims to the area known as the Thompson Strip.

“I applaud and was pleased to strongly support this legislation correcting an injustice for the Grand Ronde Tribe,” said Sen. Wyden. “As a nation we must address past mistakes. I will fight for every Oregon Tribe to ensure the federal government is fully and equitably honoring its obligations and responsibilities to them.”     

“The Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde have been denied their land claim and compensation rights for too long. I’m grateful that this correction to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act will soon be signed into law to remedy this injustice,” said Rep. Bonamici. “I thank my colleagues in the House and Senate for their persistence in getting this important legislation over the finish line.”

“The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to correct the historic wrongs inflicted on Indigenous communities for centuries,” said Rep. Blumenauer. “That includes restoring the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde’s right to pursue land claims and revise surveying errors like the Thompson Strip. Just because it is the right thing to do and it seems obvious, doesn’t make it simple. I commend Congresswoman Salinas in her first year in Congress for zeroing in on critical legislation like this that will make a difference for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde and correct longstanding injustice.”

“I am thrilled to see this piece of legislation pass the Senate,” said Rep. Hoyle. “This bill will ensure the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde can pursue land claims and compensation, righting a historical wrong. It is an important step toward further committing to the rights of Oregon’s Indigenous communities.”

“I’m glad to see this overdue, commonsense fix for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde has now passed both chambers and is heading to the president’s desk,” said Rep. Chavez-DeRemer. “They never should’ve faced barriers that weren’t applied to other tribes in pursuing land claims, and that’s why I’ve been proud to support the Grand Ronde Reservation Act Amendment alongside my Oregon colleagues.”

To read the full bill text, click here.