Fort Hall Business Council Vice Chairperson Donna Thompson and council member
By ECHO MARSHALL
Tribal Public Affairs
WASHINGTON D.C. — Fort Hall Business Council Vice-Chair Donna Thompson and council member Claudia Washakie recently traveled to Washington D.C. to testify in front of a congressional committee, meet with Idaho congregational delegation and with National Indian Education directors.
The American Indian and Alaska Native Witness Days are for Tribal leaders to offer direct testimony to congressional committees for appropriation requests. Chairman of the Interior Subcommittee for the 118th Congress Representative, Mike Simpson (R-Idaho), said he looked forward to “strengthening the committee’s efforts to increase the federal commitment to honor our treaties and trust responsibilities to American Indians and Alaskan Natives.”
Thompson provided the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes’ statement to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies on Wednesday, March 8. The statement included issues of importance to the Tribes including the need for increased funding for Johnson O’Malley program, BIA Road Maintenance, Wildlife Conservation, and Wildland Fire programs, and advance appropriations for Indian Health Service in fiscal year 2024.
The Tribes would like to lead a comprehensive strategic study to plan the reclamation of the Gay Mine Superfund Site located on the Fort Hall Reservation in order to utilize the area for future development purposes. “We ask for your help in reclaiming our Reservation land by directing the Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Indian Affairs to work with the Tribes to undertake a strategic reclamation study of Gay Mine,” Thompson said during her testimony.
For Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) Teacher salaries, current funding levels prevent competitive salaries for current and new qualified teachers at Shoshone-Bannock Jr./Sr. High School. Carryover funding has helped provide increased salaries, but this is a short-term fix. The school is not receiving enough funding to meet the BIE teacher salary schedule. Thompson said, “We urge the Subcommittee to hold an oversight hearing on the BIE and to increase funding for teacher salaries.”
Also included in the testimony was an urgent plea to the Subcommittee to help address the opioid epidemic that our community is facing. We lack a suitable detoxification center or resident treatment facility on the Reservation. Further, the lack of enforcement and prosecution of non-Indians on the Reservation by the federal government is making the Reservation a haven for drug dealers. There needs to be a more comprehensive approach to this problem.
In other meetings on Capitol Hill, Tribal representatives met with the Idaho congressional delegation (Rep. Simpson, Sen.Crapo and Risch), along with Sharice Davids, a key supporter of Indian Country, and attended a meeting with the White House Education Initiative on Education equality. Council member Claudia Washakie also attended the National Indian Education Association (NIEA) Hill Week.