The Klamath Tribes have revived a controversial plan to acquire 385 acres along Interstate 5 near Wilsonville — one of the largest available tracts in the Portland area — for undisclosed commercial development.
Tribal leaders say they have no plans for a casino but could use the site for manufacturing, retail or services, while providing jobs for the 500 Klamaths who live in the Willamette Valley.
“Those Klamath peoples who live in the Willamette Valley today have just as much a right as anyone else to a sustainable livelihood and a sustainable homeland,” Chairman Joseph Kirk wrote in a letter to tribal members.
What are trust lands?
Native American trust lands are areas that the United States holds title in trust for the benefit of a federally recognized Native American tribe. The land might be located on or off a reservation. Off-reservation activities require an express federal exemption to deny state taxing power. Native American-law experts say the Klamath Tribes face a high bar in persuading the federal government to take the Wilsonville-area land into trust, considering the distance from the tribe’s reservation in southern Oregon.
The proposal, which could face years of administrative scrutiny and possible court challenges, already is drawing withering blasts from other Oregon tribes.
“This is a prime example of reservation shopping gone overboard,” said Siobhan Taylor, public affairs director for the Confederated Tribes of the Grand Ronde, headquartered about 25 miles west of Salem. “If you look at the history of the Klamaths, they have traditionally been located in Southern Oregon. It’s really a stretch for them to come up to the Wilsonville area.”