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Lakes Basin


Current Tribal Lands in the Lakes Basin

In Oregon, only 1.3% of the land is under tribal ownership - but these lands are as diverse and historic as their residents. Five reservations exist within Oregon. The Grand Ronde Indian Reservation is located east of McMinnville on the edge of the Siuslaw National Forest. The Umatilla Indian Reservation borders the Umatilla National Forest in northeast Oregon. The largest reservation is home to the Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs, located near Madras in central Oregon. The reservations that fall within the Lakes Basin are the Fort McDermitt Paiute-Shoshone Reservation, which straddles the border of Oregon and Nevada in Oregon's southeastern corner, and the Burns Paiute Colony Indian Reservation, located north of Burns in northern Harney County. The tribes that are established on these lands have been living in the northwest U.S. for thousands of years and have witnessed many historic changes in politics, economics, and land use in the state of Oregon. This section highlights tribal lands in Oregon as they existed in the past and as they exist today.

Burns Paiute Tribe Today

In 1968, the Burns Paiute was legally recognized by the U.S. government, and adopted a constitution on May 16th of that year. This constitution delineates tribal objectives and membership, powers of the governing body, and a bill of rights. In 1988, the Constitution and Bylaws were revised to avoid conflict between two governing bodies, the Tribal Council and the General Council. Today, the General Council reports to the Tribal Council.

Today, the Burns Paiute tribe has created nine departments to oversee the management and well-being of tribal members and tribal lands. One department, the Natural Resources Department, was created to protect and enhance fish and wildlife, to prevent the loss of traditional land use, and to ensure environmental standards are met within reservation boundaries. The Department currently oversees five restoration and mitigation projects. These projects include wildlife management, native fish restoration, the evaluation of potential Chinook salmon habitat, and the suppression of invasive species.

For more information on the Burns Paiute tribe, visit the Burns Paiute Tribe Website.

Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes Today

In 1936, the Paiute and Shoshone Tribes at Fort McDermitt ratified a constitution and were formally recognized by the U.S. government. The constitution gave the tribe corporate powers enjoyed by other government bodies, such as the right to trade with the U.S., and new economic opportunities arose for tribal members. In 1940, a tribal cattle association was formed to oversee ranching on the reservation. Despite these economic advances, the Great Depression reduced employment opportunities on the reservation, and some tribal members took positions with the Civilian Conservation Corps or left the area to find work elsewhere.

Today, the Fort McDermitt area is dominated by mining, ranching, and farming, although these industries have provided only sporadic employment to tribal members. The area's population has been in decline due to lack of employment opportunities. However, the discovery of a rare mineral used to make semiconductors, gallium, may prove profitable in the future.

For more information about the Fort McDermitt Paiute and Shoshone Tribes, visit this site:

Authored by Caitlin Bell, Science Writer, Oregon Explorer