Where are our local legislators?

The Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) work extremely hard to address issues of mutual concerns with the State of Oregon. This government-to-government relationship ensures open and clear communication to ensure the needs of all of our citizens are being addressed through executive, legislative and judicial bodies.

To this end, the CTUIR regularly meets with elected members of the state Legislature: Senator Bill Hansell, Representative Greg Barreto, and Representative Greg Smith.

Over the years we have forged a strong working relationship and have counted on these representatives to forward the interests of the Tribes within the Oregon legislature. In general, the CTUIR does not play party politics or political games. We work to protect, preserve and enhance our treaty rights and the welfare of our Tribal members and the community at large.

During the current short session we have supported the Cap-and-Trade bill that was moving its way through the halls of Oregon’s capitol building.

The Tribes have expressed several concerns with the bill and have offered amendments to protect our economic interests.

The CTUIR championed the Oregon Indian Child Welfare Act bill that would align Oregon’s dependency code with the national Act to ensure protections for American Indian children and families.

We put hundreds of hours into working on the legislation with judges, legislators and staff from a number of state agencies. We were honored to have Senator Hansell sponsor this bill on our behalf.

Representatives Smith and Barreto voted for it in the House. It has had unanimous bipartisan support.

But it has yet to be considered on the floor of the Senate.

The recent floods have caused devastation along twenty-four miles of the Umatilla River on the Reservation.

Governor Kate Brown allocated National Guard air resources for rescue efforts on the Reservation and visited flood sites on February 14. The Governor made a pledge to propose funding to the Oregon legislature that would help with housing and infrastructure issues that have affected both Tribal and non-Indian home owners alike. These funds were proposed to meet critical needs of both the Tribes and the surrounding community.

We understand that Republican legislators have issues with the Cap-and-Trade bill – so does the CTUIR. Republican legislators, with two exceptions, walked out of Oregon’s short session in protest on February 24 and have yet to return to fulfill their oaths of office and duties to the citizens of Oregon.

With the absence of the Republicans in the legislature, there are no bills moving forward. The protections we need for our children and families will not move forward despite bipartisan support. The funding for flood recovery will not move forward despite the tremendous need. The legislature is set to end on March 8 and the people’s business will not have been completed.

This parliamentary game of not showing up when your party is not in the majority is childish at best.

Though now we will be witness to gross neglect in the face of a real crisis.

We are now facing a virus in our community. Will we be able to count on our state representatives to protect our interests and lives?

If they don’t return to the legislature, regardless of political party affi liation, we will all suffer the consequences of poor leadership.

The CTUIR leadership has requested Senator Hansell, Representative Barreto and Representative Smith
return to the legislature. We need them to fulfill their duties.