Two Western Oregon tribes are a step closer to regaining some of the land they lost 150 years ago. U.S. Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden have drafted a bill that would return about 30,000 acres of forest to tribes living near Roseburg and Coos Bay.
For the Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Siuslaw Indians, this story begins in 1855 when they signed a treaty giving up more than a million acres of land in exchange for a reservation and other promises.
A wagon carried the treaty back to Washington D.C, but then the federal government misplaced it (the treaty was rediscovered again in 1916) and the tribes never received the reservation.
Tribal Chairman Bob Garcia said the new draft bill would return an historic village site to the tribes, along with several tracts of forestland with 30 to 70 year old timber.
“It feels absolutely wonderful. I hope that in the very near term, we’ll have some tribal forest, so that we can go out with tribal elders and look at traditional gathering. Spruce roots, and yew wood,” he said.
A second group, the Cow Creek Band of the Umpqua Tribe of Indians, would also receive land. The proposed land transfers make up about 1 percent of BLM O&C timberlands in Oregon, which in the past have provided significant logging revenue for 17 Western Oregon counties.
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