Nearly 80 years ago, the Spokane Tribe was paid just $4,700 for the land and resources that were taken and flooded by the U.S. government to build the Grand Coulee Dam.
From the 1930s to the '50s, the massive dam cost more than $270 million (about $2 billion when adjusted for inflation) to build and start generating power. In the process of helping Central Washington flourish with new irrigation and electricity, it destroyed many of the Spokane Tribe's traditional lands and eviscerated once-booming salmon runs.
Now, the tribe is finally going to receive payments for those lost resources, with the passage of the Spokane Tribe of Indians of the Spokane Reservation Equitable Compensation Act. After being approved by the Senate in June and then in the House on Dec. 16, the bill is headed to President Donald Trump's desk to be signed.
Structured in a similar way to an agreement that was previously reached with the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, the act requires the Bonneville Power Administration make payments to the tribe each year from its electricity revenues. The tribe will receive about $6 million per year, which will go up to about $8 million per year in 2030.
"This has been a long time coming to finally treat the Spokane Tribe honorably for the injury to our Tribal People and Reservation," says Carol Evans, chairwoman of the tribe's business council, in an email. "This important legislation will not bring back the salmon lost or lands flooded, however it will help the Spokane People move forward and heal."