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Shoalwaters will revive talks with Ridgefield
      on impasse

      The tribe wants to reach a deal for its development as it backs off
from challenging a rider on a federal bill

      Saturday, November 27, 1999
      By Rick Bella of The Oregonian staff

      RIDGEFIELD, Wash. -- Representatives of the Shoalwater Bay Indian Tribe and the 
city of Ridgefield have set another meeting in hopes of resolving their differences 
over a development the tribe proposes to build just east of the city.

Meanwhile, the 202-member tribe, one of Washington's smallest and poorest, has backed 
off from challenging a federal appropriations bill that the Shoalwaters call 
unconstitutional. The Shoalwaters say they don't have enough money for a legal 
challenge and are looking for broader support from the Native American community.

"I don't know if we're in a position to right that kind of wrong," said Herbert Madzu 
Whitish, Shoalwater tribal chairman. "We hate to see an appropriations bill like that 
go through. But to participate in the legal system, you have to have a big checkbook."

Last year, a Whatcom County dairy farmer deeded 170.8 acres at Ridgefield Junction to 
the tribe. The Shoalwaters then asked the federal government to place the land in 
trust so the tribe, which is based on the Washington coast, could develop a 
residential subdivision.

The tribe wants the development to provide revenue to pay for health care, education 
and economic development on its tiny reservation in Tokeland.

As a sovereign nation, the tribe is legally required to deal only with the federal 
government, Whitish said. But an amendment attached to the Interior appropriations 
bill by U.S. Sen. Slade Gorton, R-Wash., prohibits the federal Bureau of Indian 
Affairs from placing the Shoalwaters' land near Ridgefield into trust unless the tribe 
first reaches development agreements with Clark County.

"We believe it is unconstitutional," Whitish said Friday. "The Clinton administration 
opposed the rider. But in the end, the president didn't veto it."

At the same time, the Shoalwaters are seriously considering amending their plans for 
developing the land, which is just east of Interstate 5, on the Ridgefield city 
limits. Initially, the tribe said it wanted to build 1,580 town houses. But 
Ridgefield, Clark County and neighbors said such a dense development would strain 
services, overburden roads and threaten the semirural lifestyle enjoyed by area 
residents.

Since then, the Shoalwaters have said they would be willing to amend their plans and 
concentrate on light industrial development, which is favored by the county's 
long-range plans.

Whitish said he planned to meet with Ridgefield representatives on Monday in Kelso.

"The longer we get into this project, the more things seem to be stacked up against 
us," Whitish said. "But I hope we can develop the project so it provides us a 
grubstake and we can provide basic benefits for our people."




Reprinted under the Fair Use http://www4.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.html doctrine 
of international copyright law.
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