by Senator Verdell Jackson, Kalispell, Montana
The Hell Gate Treaty for the Confederated Salish Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) secured the “right to take fish in common with the citizens of the Territory”, not a water right; otherwise, a group of Montana citizens could get a water right to protect their favorite place to fish.
The Tribes’ right is in common with the citizens of the Territory. Off-reservation claims do not meet the definition of a federal reserved water right which by law is restricted to the reservation land. No off reservation water rights have been previously transferred in a compact or case law.
Equal protection under the law is guaranteed in our Constitutional Republic by the Montana and U.S. Constitutions. This means that all the laws apply equally to citizens both on and off the Reservation. Montana manages river flows and administers water rights for the benefits of its citizens and is accountable to the rule of law developed by the legislature.
Montana cannot turn over its constitutional and statutory responsibilities to CSKT, a sovereign nation with its own constitution and different laws that have no accountability to the Montana legislature or its citizens. The Unitary Management Ordinance of the Compact violates the equal protection clauses of the U.S. and Montana Constitutions. [Read more…]