Tribe asks to expand reservation; Hoh members testify in D.C.

By Tom Callis
Peninsula Daily News

Members of the Hoh tribe testified in Washington, D.C., on Thursday on Congressional legislation that would allow them to expand their reservation in West Jefferson County and move out of a floodplain.

"We have flooding every year and as long as I can remember," Jonette Reyes, Hoh vice chairwoman, told the U.S. Senate Indian Affairs Committee.

"There are times where we have had river boats pick us up to deliver us to higher ground."


'Brief but momentous'

The testimony was brief but momentous, Hoh Executive Director Alexis Barry told the Peninsula Daily News.

"I think it was really a historic moment for the tribe," she said.

Senate Bill 443 -- sponsored by Sen. Patty Murray, D-Freeland, and Sen. Maria Cantwell, D-Mountlake Terrace -- and House Bill 1061, introduced by Rep. Norm Dicks, D-Belfair, would both allow the Hoh to make 425 acres of land on higher ground it has acquired and 37 acres of Olympic National Park property part of its reservation, which is now 640 acres.

The Hoh tribe members want to use the land they have acquired to relocate their 300-plus residents out of a floodplain at the mouth of the Hoh River.


Contiguous land

The tribe wants the national park property to make the reservation one contiguous piece of land if it is expanded. The Hoh would not be able to develop the national park land, according to the legislation.

Reyes and Barry were accompanied on Thursday by Hoh Chairman Walter Ward, tribal member Katherine Ward and Tribal Council members Marie Riebe and Dawn Gomez.


In defense of home

"Members of the Hoh tribe traveled all the way across the country to speak up for this bill because they are tired of watching their homes and land wash away," Murray said in a written statement.

No action was taken on SB 443 on Thursday.

Matt McAlvanah, Sen. Murray's press secretary, expects the Senate Indian Affairs Committee to vote on the bill within the next 45 days.

HB 1061 has been referred to the House Committee on Natural Resources, but no date for a hearing has been set.

Barry said the tribe wants the additional land to be part of its reservation so that it could more easily acquire grant funding to relocate its village.

The Hoh also want to use the land to develop a fire station that would serve the reservation and nearby residents.

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Reporter Tom Callis can be reached at 360-417-3532 or at tom.callis@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 02. 2009 10:18PM
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