Salinas, Merkley Bill to Amend the Grand Ronde Reservation Act Passes House

Washington, DC – On Wednesday, November 8, U.S. Representative Andrea Salinas (OR-06) successfully passed her first piece of legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives.

The bill, which was introduced by Rep. Salinas in March, amends the Grand Ronde Reservation Act to restore the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde’s right to pursue land claims and compensation. The legislation is co-led by U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and 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.). It now heads to the Senate for further consideration.

“Oregon’s Indigenous peoples, including the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, have faced countless injustices at the hands of our government. Today, we took a historic step toward righting the wrongs of the past,” said Rep. Salinas. “I am very proud that my first bill to pass the House of Representatives would restore Grand Ronde’s ability to pursue land claims and compensation—a right already enjoyed by the rest of Oregon’s federally recognized tribes. I am hopeful that the Senate will swiftly pass this bill and send it to President Biden for his signature. In the meantime, I am grateful for the continued support of Senator Merkley, my Oregon colleagues, and the many stakeholders who helped create the momentum we needed to make this legislation a reality.”

“Nearly three decades ago, the Confederated Tribes of 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. This is just plain wrong,” said Sen. Merkley. “I am thrilled the House passed the legislation I’ve been championing for years, which is a critical step forward in the Grand Ronde’s fight to restore its right to pursue land claims in Oregon—rights already available to other federally-recognized Tribes in Oregon. I will keep pressing for the Senate to do the same, so Congress can finally correct this historic injustice for the Grand Ronde.” 

“For generations, the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde have been working to restore its people’s rights on ancestral lands,” said Sen. Wyden. “This necessary bill is a critical step in correcting past injustices while protecting the rights of the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde and the terms of the land exchange that it negotiated in good faith free from unfair legal restrictions.”

“Today is a monumental day. We are grateful that the United States House of Representatives has helped pass legislation for the Grand Ronde Tribe that will help right a historic wrong,” said Grand Ronde Chairwoman Cheryle A. Kennedy. “Words cannot express what this means to us and the gratitude that we have for Senator Merkley and to Representative Salinas, who championed this legislation from the beginning.”

“It is fitting that during Native American Heritage Month we have moved a step further toward restoring a vital right held by members of the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde,” said Rep. Bonamici. “The passage of the Grand Ronde Reservation Act amendment in the House brings us closer to correcting historic wrongs, and I hope the Senate brings this needed legislation up for a vote soon.”

“The federal government has a legal and moral obligation to correct the historic wrongs unleashed 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. I’m delighted that this critically overdue legislation will see to that.”

“I’m proud to stand with the Oregon delegation in supporting this legislation to right a wrong, and I’m thrilled that it has passed the House,” said Rep. Hoyle. “This bill is not just a technical fix—it’s a step towards justice for the Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde by restoring their right to pursue land claims and compensation, which should not have been taken from them. I urge the Senate to swiftly pass this legislation as well so that it can be signed into law.”

“The Grand Ronde tribe shouldn’t face barriers that don’t apply to other tribes, and that’s why I’m honored to join my Oregon colleagues in support of amending the Grand Ronde Reservation Act,” said Rep. Chavez-DeRemer. “I’ll continue working with my colleagues and the Grand Ronde tribe to get this needed fix signed into law.”

Salinas and Merkley’s bill to fix the Grand Ronde Reservation Act would correct 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.

To read the full bill text, click here.