Fort Hall Business Council Secretary Claudia Washakie (left) and Treasurer Ladd Edmo at the Boise Capitol.
By ECHO MARSHALL
Tribal Public Affairs
BOISE — On Tuesday, February 5, Fort Hall Business Council Treasurer Ladd Edmo and Secretary Claudia Washakie met with Idaho Council on Indian Affairs (ICIA) members Sen. Phil Hart (R-Kellogg), Sen. James “Rick” Just (D-Boise), Rep. Brandon Mitchell (R-Moscow) and Rep. Nate Roberts (D-Pocatello) following the Tribes’ State Legislative Reception.
The first topic of discussion was an update on a Foreign Ownership Bill (House Bill 173), which passed during the 2023 legislative session. The purpose of the bill was to prohibit foreign governments from purchasing, acquiring or holding controlled interest in agricultural land, water rights, mining claims or mineral rights in the state of Idaho.
HB 173 has created some confusion for title companies and county clerks because it does not specifically define a foreign government as a government other than a federally recognized Indian tribe. The Tribes’ state lobbyist, Youde & Associates, have been working on the bill amendment since first presented to the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs in September 2023. The original bill sponsors have also been supportive of the amendment and it is scheduled to be presented during the 2024 legislative session.
Washakie then spoke about the Idaho Safe Haven Act. The Idaho Safe Haven Act was passed in 2001 to protect abandoned infants in response to the unsafe abandonment of newborns and resulting tragedies. The Act provides a safe alternative for parents who might otherwise abandon their baby. According to the Act, custodial parents may abandon their unwanted newborns not older than 30 days without fear of prosecution and the identity of the parent shall be kept confidential.
However, the Act states that the drop off location must be at an approved “Safe Haven” location such as a hospital, physician or first responder. Washakie expressed the Tribes would like to have the same standing as the Department of Health and Welfare to be able to take custody and arrange for placement of the infant if the infant is an Indian child. Washakie also stressed the importance of the Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) as it relates to these situations. “We really just want to ensure our native children stay with their families,” Washakie said. “It is important that the state is working with all Idaho tribes on these issues,” she said.
FHBC members with Rep. Brandon Mitchell and Sen. James "Rick" Just.
Council member Edmo spoke of the importance of revisiting Public Law 280, which was originally passed by Congress in 1953. It was a transfer of civil and criminal legal authority (jurisdiction) on tribal lands from the federal government to state governments, which significantly changed the division of legal authority among tribal, federal, and state governments. Idaho adopted Public Law 280 in 1963 assuming jurisdiction over seven specific areas.
“As tribal leaders, it is our responsibility to exercise our jurisdiction, sovereignty and become more self-governing,” he said. Edmo expressed the Fort Hall Business Council is concerned with where the funds go that are distributed to states for PL-280. “It has been really hard to find this information out,” he said.
Edmo also discussed economic development projects of the Tribes, including the Mountain Home Casino Resort Project and possible renewable energy projects. “These things are happening all around us. Any of the surrounding states could develop these same economic opportunities close to Idaho’s borders, and that potential revenue would be leaving Idaho,” said Edmo. “We have to remember that our children will be the recipients of what we do today,” he said.
According to Sen. Hart, the next ICIA meeting will be scheduled following the current legislative session in the spring. All four members expressed an interest in wanting to visit the Fort Hall Reservation following the session to learn more about the Tribes in person.