Columbia River tribes fight for housing funds

Tribe members have been living in run-down housing for decades

Native Americans living along the Columbia River say they are stuck living in subpar housing because the federal government won't fund a new housing project. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Along the Columbia River, dozens of Native Americans live and work at Lone Pine, an inter-tribal fishing site.

Native Americans say when The Dalles Dam was built in the 1950s, the river flooded their homes. The US Army Corps of Engineers said they committed to rebuild their homes again, but the Office of Management and Budget under the Trump Administration won’t give them the funding they need.

Amanda Stahi with the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation is one of the approximately 60 to 80 people living at Lone Pine and she said it was never meant to be permanent housing.

“We don’t have enough power here,” Amanda told KOIN 6 News. “It’s kind of a struggle with propane and gas for generators and oil.”

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said they actually started talking about a plan to build homes for different tribes along the river last year. It was called The Dalles Lock and Dam Tribal House Village Development Plan, meant to rebuild what was lost when The Dalles Dam was built.

Tribal leaders say the Office of Management and Budget under the Trump Administration has blocked funding for the project.

“This is our homeland, from here on down that way,” said Wilbur Slockish Jr. of the Klickitat Tribe.

He said the government has a long history of taking advantage of Native Americans.

“In 1937 the promise was made by the Corps of Engineers that they would replace the living quarters and the dry shed of the people from the first dam,” he said. “That went by and they did this one in 1957, 20 years after they did Bonneville, and they did move some people but the majority never got compensated or anything.”

Oregon Representative Greg Walden said he has encouraged the Army Corps of Engineers to complete the project.

The decision by OMB on the transfer of funds for tribal housing along the Columbia River is disappointing. I have worked with my colleagues in recent years to encourage the Army Corps to complete the housing development plan and worked to get Celilo Village completed, providing housing and infrastructure for tribal families. Celilo Village was a small but important step forward toward permanent tribal housing that was promised to Columbia River Treaty Tribes. I will work with OMB Director Mulvaney and my congressional colleagues in the Northwest to ensure that promise is kept.”

Senators and representatives from Washington and Oregon sent a letter to the federal government demanding answers.

The federal government has a legal and moral responsibility to address the unmet obligations of the United States to the four Columbia River Treaty Tribes — the Nez Perce Tribe, the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation, the Confederated Tribes of the Warm Springs Reservation and the Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation — for the loss of tribal homes and villages associated with the construction of the The Dalles Dam more than 65 years ago”

The letter goes on to describe the cramped and outdated housing and urge the government to approve the Army Corps request for $1.536 million to complete its housing development plan.

Read the full letter: