Senators Consider Returning Forest Land To Two Western Oregon Tribes

Mar 21, 2013

Two Western Oregon tribes are a step closer to regaining some of the land they lost 150 years ago. Senators 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.

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, and the tribes never received the reservation.

Bob Garcia is the tribal chairman. He says the new draft bill would return an historic village site to the tribes, and several tracts of young forest.

“It feels absolutely wonderful," Garcia says. "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.”

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 timberlands in Oregon.

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