Tribal Government & News

Reservation Act amendment to fix Thompson strip error approved in House of Representatives

11.09.2023 Dean Rhodes Lands


By Dean Rhodes

Publications coordinator

WASHINGTON, D.C. – An amendment to the Grand Ronde Reservation Act that would fix a mistake incorporated into the act in 1994 was approved by the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday, Nov. 8.

The amendment now heads to the Senate for consideration.

The Bureau of Land Management discovered a survey error on the Grand Ronde Reservation that dated back to 1871. The error was discovered after passage of the Grand Ronde Reservation Act in 1988 that returned 9,811 acres to the Tribe.

Surveyor David Thompson had incorrectly surveyed the eastern boundary of the Reservation, leaving 84 acres unsurveyed. The land also was excluded from a 1904 sale of unallotted lands within the Reservation and Grand Ronde was not compensated for it.

Until the error was discovered, BLM treated the land as Oregon and California Railroad Grant Lands and permitted private companies to harvest timber on the acreage.

After being informed of the survey error, the Grand Ronde Tribe determined the parcel, called the Thompson Strip, was unmanageable because of narrow boundaries and divided ownership interests. The Tribe agreed to accept a 240-acre parcel of grant lands adjacent to the Grand Ronde Reservation in exchange and surrender its claims to the Thompson Strip.

However, the Department of the Interior in 1994 “developed broad language that relinquished any future claims of this type within the state of Oregon” by the Grand Ronde Tribe.

House Resolution 1722 replaces the phrase “state of Oregon” with the phrase “84 acres known as the Thompson Strip” in the Grand Ronde Reservation Act. It also would prohibit any property obtained by the Grand Ronde Tribe as part of a land claim settlement from being used for gaming activities.

Oregon Rep. Andrea Salinas introduced legislation to fix the mistake on March 22. Her bill was co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden, and Reps. Suzanne Bonamici, Earl Blumenauer, Val Hoyle and Lori Chavez-DeRemer.

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

The bill, if signed into law, would allow the Grand Ronde Tribe to pursue future fixes within the state if other errors are found.

In the House, the bill was referred to the Committee on Natural Resources, which passed it out of committee to the full House in September.

A companion bill also was introduced in the Senate in March by Merkley and heard by the Committee on Indian Affairs in July.

The Committee on Indian Affairs advanced similar legislation in July 2020 and it was approved by the entire Senate. However, it was not passed by the House of Representatives and the bill died at the end of the 117th Congress.