WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Brian Schatz (D-Hawai‘i), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, recently led a legislative hearing to receive testimony on S.648, Technical Correction to the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation Water Rights Settlement Act of 2021, and S.1911, Gros Ventre and Assiniboine Tribes of the Fort Belknap Indian Community Water Rights Settlement Act of 2021. The committee heard from Assistant Secretary-Indian Affairs Bryan Newland and Bureau of Reclamation Missouri Basin Regional Director Brent Esplin from the Department of the Interior, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes of the Duck Valley Reservation Chairman Brian Thomas, and Fort Belknap Indian Community President Andrew Werk.
Schatz opened the hearing by explaining the importance of Indian water rights settlements in helping tribes secure access to clean, reliable water and honoring the federal trust responsibility to ensure the general welfare of Native communities.
“As the Committee heard earlier this year, many Native communities still don’t have that access [to clean, reliable water] and continue to lack basic infrastructure for water delivery to homes and businesses on their lands,” said Chairman Schatz. “That’s why Indian water rights settlements are such a critical tool in the planning and management of water resources, particularly in the West. Indian water rights settlements not only resolve disputes among water users, but they also give tribes the tools to develop much needed water infrastructure, support their economies, and improve environmental and health conditions on their lands.”