The Story of Montana’s Last Indian Water Compact

by Dr. Edwin Berry

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Water Compact may be the most important and controversial political issue in Montana’s history.

This Montana story is not just about the Compact. This story is about the split in the Republican Party.

Before November 2014, I opposed the Compact because I followed my conservative Republican peer group that opposed the Compact. But I realized I should study the Compact for myself. So, I read the arguments on both sides, spent weeks to put the pieces together, and a year to write this book. By December 2014, I realized my original conclusion was wrong.

In 1979, Montana’s legislature made Montana the only state able to negotiate rather than litigate Indian water-rights.

In 2015, after a bitter fight, Montana’s House ratified the Compact by only ONE vote. Why was this vote so close? What changed in 36 years? Who opposed the Compact?

Why would anyone oppose the Compact when it will resolve forever all Montana’s Indian water-rights issues, and its rejection would subject Montanans to a generation of the most-costly legal battles in Montana’s history?

Most Montana’s farmers and ranchers, city managers and business leaders supported the Compact. Democrat legislators supported the Compact. Republican legislators, who represent 80 percent of Republican voters, supported the Compact.

But far-right, tea party legislators, who represent only 20 percent of Republican voters, ten percent of all voters, opposed the Compact. Because of voter apathy, they controlled almost half of Montana’s 2015 House and they almost sent Montana to its grave.

Opponents believed the Compact was an Agenda 21 government conspiracy to steal Montana’s land and water. It was not. They let their fears drive their decisions.

I wrote this book because you must know what happened in Montana in 2015. To understand politics, you must understand the opposing faces of the Republican Party. There may be no better description of the opposing faces of the Republican Party than you will read in my book. All voters everywhere should realize the danger to themselves when they elect too many far-right, Evangelical candidates.

Here’s what the reviews say about my book:

Thanks for writing this, Ed. And for speaking truth.

Great summary of a complex topic 

My book “Montana’s Last Indian Water Compact: The Truth about the Compact and the Republican Party” tells the inside story that you will read nowhere else. On Amazon. 

In this very readable summary you can learn about modern Montana water. Ed summarizes relevant Indian history, Montana water law, court findings that establish precedent, the legislative process and the politics of the topic. He makes a tremendously complex issue accessible and outlines the major players related to this issue. He has identified significant quotes and pulled them together to tell the story in the words of those in the fight. Logic is applied to evaluate comments and claims in pursuit of the truth. Hard hitting and straight shooting.

Excellent insight into the both Water Compact and on American conservative politics 

Ed Berry is a speaker of truth. The opposition to the Water Compact is grounded in fear and ignorance of law.

In addition to covering the Water Compact, this book provides insight into American politics and the challenges facing conservative Americans, both within and external to the Republican Party.

Edwin Berry has been actively involved in the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes (CSKT) Water Compact since November 2014, and testified before the Montana House Judiciary Committee on April 11, 2015.

Ed devotes the first chapter to tracing Montana’s water back through the Ice Age, and the subsequent migration of the Iroquois Indians to the region. Chapter 2 covers the politics behind the eventual passage of SB 262, and the consequences had it not passed.

Chapter 3 details what the Compact provides to all affected parties, while Chapter 4 explains the many benefits to Montana, including how it assures sovereignty from Federal intervention. Chapter 7 provides “Fifteen dumb claims against the Compact,” following in Chapter 8 with analysis of the six invalid legal claims against the Compact.

Ed explains how the newly elected Tea Party Republican legislators took an extreme, illogical stance against the Compact, and how they nearly caused the Compact to fail.


  1. I fail to see how you can make an outrageous "claim" that it is invalid for the courts to determine whether or not the Legislature of Montana violated its own Constitution, by not subjecting their vote to prevent state liability by a simple majority vote and THEN not subject it to a vote of the people as REQUIRED by the Constitution when an amendment to extant law is violated. Your "anal lyses" of law are one of the reasons your email messages go to my spam filter's list.

    1. Dear Jim, You will not find any sentence in my 236 pages that is as long and as incomprehensible as your first sentence above. If you can restate your position clearly, perhaps we can have a useful conversation.

      You "fail to see" because you have likely not read my book. My book proves all the arguments by the Compact opponents completely fail They are all garbage like your first sentence above.

  2. Well Dr. Berry. the tribes said they would not sue anyone for their water if the compact was approved. I have already been served a paper stating that my water rights to a spring on my property have been denied and that the federal government was claiming the water for the tribes. You cannot see the forest for the trees. This is not about the tribes, this is about the federal government claiming all of the water in western Montana. What gives the federal government the power to hold in trust, the water for anybody? You have been fooled just like the democrats, the liberal republicans and the tribes. This is mothing more than a power grab by our out of control federal government.

    1. Dear Gerald, You believe the Compact is a government conspiracy to steal Montana's water. That was the core argument of Compact opponents. Some versions of that argument added that it was an "Agenda 21" government conspiracy.

      However, no Compact opponent ever presented any evidence to prove this claim. Nor have you. Opponents believe in things when they have no evidence. To them, politics is a religion.

      I answered all your legal questions in my book. Read my book before you comment.

      The Compact protects your water rights better than no Compact. There are no valid arguments that Compact rejection would have been better for Montana.

  3. Dr. Berry,

    Thank you for putting together a book on the CSKT water compact. It is a valuable resource for anyone who wants good information on the compact. It includes all the legal precedent and background to give a complete picture of a complicated issue.

    A must read for anyone who wants to see all arguments that were made and how the Montana legislature ratified the final compact.

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