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One voice to fit all tribes at species act hearing


Published July 13, 2004

Single speaker slated to represent positions of both upstream and downstream tribes


H&N Staff Writer

Four American Indian tribes involved in the dispute over water in the Klamath Basin will be represented by one voice at a U.S. congressional field hearing Saturday in Klamath Falls.

Troy Fletcher, executive director of the Yurok Tribes, will speak on the behalf of his tribe and the Karuk, Hoopa Valley and Klamath tribes at the hearing, which is focused on the Endangered Species Act and the Klamath Reclamation Project. The meeting is being organized by members of the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee. It is set for 9 a.m. at the Ross Ragland Theater.

A full list of witnesses scheduled to testify was not available yet.

Officials from some of the tribes said they would prefer to have their own time to testify rather than have one spokesman for all four tribes.

"We meet on common issues, but each tribe is different," Fletcher said.

Each witness gets five minutes.

"Five minutes isn't enough for four tribes," said Ron Reed, cultural biologist with the Karuk Tribe. "This puts a taste of mistrust in our mouth once again."

Brian Kennedy, Committee communication director, said many groups have asked to testify, but they all can't make the final list.

"As much as we would like the four tribes to testify, there just isn't enough time," he said.

Members of the Klamath River Inter-Tribal Fish and Water Commission, made up of representatives from the four tribes, picked Fletcher after Committee Chairman Rep. Richard Pombo sent them a letter asking for them to send someone to testify.

"We think, frankly that the tribes are very well represented by this umbrella organization," Kennedy said.

Pombo, a Californian Republican, wrote:

"According to your Web site, one of the commission's goals is to 'educate, instruct and disseminate information concerning conditions in the Klamath and Trinity River Basin and accepting and sharing resources and technical information concerning the Basin's ecosystem.' Give the Commission's admirable mission and goals, it is only logical that the Resources Committee cordially invites you to testify at the hearing."

Like other groups, the individual tribes had asked to have their own time to testify.

Pombo wrote:

"I have been formally contacted through various congressional offices to have all four of the Klamath Basin tribes testify at this upcoming hearing. Other congressional offices have formally asked for numerous locally elected officials and various irrigations district to testify as well. Due to practical time considerations at the hearing, I am unfortunately not able to fulfill these requests."

Kennedy said the Committee does its best to accommodate everyone it can, but it is common for groups to get upset.

"Unfortunately, you can't please everyone all of the time," he said.

The Committee should have gone to the separate governments asking for testimony and not to the commission, said Allen Foreman, chairman of the Klamath Tribes.

"The commission is not the Tribes," he said.

He said the different governments oversee the commission, but it doesn't represent all of the tribes.

"We should have been invited," Foreman said.

Members of the Klamath Tribes plan to dance, drum and protest their way from the Klamath County Museum to the Ross Ragland starting at 7:30 a.m. Saturday.

Also at 7:30 a.m. water users and others have been asked to march to the theater from Veterans Park. At 8 a.m. they will rally in front of the theater and listen to invited speakers.

In his letter, Pombo said the different tribes could submit written testimony at the hearing.

But the tribes want the microphone also.

"It makes more of an impact when you are able to make oral testimony as well," said Merv George, administrator for the commission.

He said it was not proper protocol for the committee to invite the commission to send a witness, but not the individual tribes.

"That in itself was an insult to the tribal governments," he said.


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