Bobbie Conner: The Extinguishing of Property Rights

Bobbie Conner (Cayuse/Nez Perce/Umatilla) talks about treaties and their impact on fishing and property rights.

Bio: Roberta “Bobbie” Conner is the executive director of the Tamástlikt Cultural Institute in Pendleton, Oregon and has been so since 1998. She is a 2007 recipient of the Ecotrust Indigenous Leadership Award and was inducted into University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication’s Hall of Apollute achievement in 2013. She was also the 2007 recipient of the Buffett Award for Leadership in Conservation.


“So what we experience now on the river sometimes is hard and I don’t think most white people understand that when the government went through the treaty process they said okay you people, you Cayuse, Umatilla, Walla Wallas and other Indians living in Southeast Washington and Northeast Oregon are now this confederate tribe and what you own, you own as a tribe and we’re extinguishing all your ownership of your fishing sites on the river, we’re extinguishing. It’s not in the treaty language but this is what they did by that treaty. They extinguished the individual property rights of all of our campsites in the hunting grounds, all of our campsites in the berry picking fields, all of our digging sites and all of our scaffolds. Those were no longer individually owned by families, they became collective ownership. So they extinguished that kind of structure, infrastructure in our families and then took the children away and put them in boarding schools where they had a loss of cultural transmission for a few years. And then in the ‘50s, through relocation and termination, continued to try to break down the fabric of our social structure. And now we’re trying to do things to put it back together. And I don’t know that we’ll ever be whole cloth. We may look different, we may sound different, but we’ll still be here.”

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