Local community members attend the Idaho House resolution meeting on Wednesday,
March 11 in Boise.
By YVETTE TUELL
Tribal Public Affairs
BOISE — The Idaho Legislature established a policy statement that honors the lives of all missing and murdered indigenous people and affirms its commitment to the protection, the safety and wellbeing of all Idahoans, especially those most vulnerable by approving House Concurrent Resolution 33 on Idaho’s Missing and Murdered Indigenous People (MMIP) on March 18 when the Idaho Senate adopted the resolution by voice vote.
The House had also adopted the Concurrent Resolution the day before. Rep. Caroline Nilsson, R-Troy, from Genesee, introduced the bill, which was sponsored by Sen. Jim Guthrie, R-McCammon.
Shoshone-Bannock Tribal staff and tribal members showed in force to support Concurrent Resolution 33. Tribal representatives from “Carrying the Message” the recovery group from Fort Hall attended the House hearing on March 11, ready to testify about their personal experiences on missing and murdered Indigenous people. Unfortunately, the Senate Chair of the State Affairs Committee Patti Lodge scheduled highly controversial Senate bill 1384 that would have allowed school district employees to carry concealed weapons in school, which had an overflow of individuals who wanted to testify. Therefore, the Chairwoman Lodge limited testimony by tribe, and not allowing all the people who signed up to testify on the MMIP resolution.
For the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, Yvette Tuell, Policy Analyst, offered the verbal testimony on behalf of the Chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council. The written statement entered into the record indicated, “While there are stringent efforts on other Indian reservations in other states, and we are fortunate not to have the ominous numbers of missing and murdered people on our reservations, but one missing or murdered person is too many. We have identified many areas of missing information, which includes identification of tribal members who are missing or murdered outside the Fort Hall Reservation, which is outside of tribal jurisdiction, and of cases older than 2000. We also have found that there are inconsistent data categories, with different methodologies and definitions, which makes it difficult to see the full situation, when it comes to our missing people.”
Leslie St. Clair, Assistant Prosecutor for the Shoshone-Bannock Tribal Court also offered a verbal statement. “As a Tribal Prosecutor, I have seen firsthand how wrongful deaths at the hands of bad actors have impacts not only the victims and their immediate families, but our entire community. Our families suffer the loss and struggle through the trauma of these untimely deaths or absences of their loved one. With passage of this resolution there are issues that will be addressed and solutions offered such as training and awareness for dangerous situations, policies to address unwanted activities within the community, tip lines, and awareness of reporting and reliving the community fear of reporting such activities. We as a community should be promoting proactive efforts not reactive efforts.”
Tuell asked the Chair to allow those family members who are directly impacted by the Concurrent Resolution to speak, since they came a long distance to express their stories. However, Willeena George and Cinder Metz, were unable to provide their verbal testimony, because Chairwoman Lodge stated she wanted to ensure adequate time for the roomful of people who wanted to testify for S.1384. The Chair’s own committee members did ask to hear directly from the families about their personal narratives, but the Chair remain adamant against additional testimony from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. A few minutes later, the Committee voted to send the Concurrent resolution to the full Senate.
The concurrent resolution establishes May 5, as the state-wide Missing and Murdered Indigenous Day, raising awareness of MMIP, and working with various state, federal and tribal entities.
Tribal representatives attending the hearing was the Coeur d’Alene Tribes, Nez Perce Tribe, Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, and the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes, along with people enrolled in other tribes who reside in the greater Boise area.
Nationally, American Indian people, both women and men, have an increase number of missing and murdered people, with some reservations have dozens of missing people. Domestic violence is a major risk factor that directly leads to increased numbers of missing and murdered people. On the Fort Hall Reservation, in the past twenty years, 50% of the murdered individuals was directly related to domestic violence. The Governor’s Office will work directly with tribes, state agencies, the Idaho Coalition Against Sexual and Domestic Violence and the Idaho Council on Domestic Violence.