Audience at the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Annual Meeting Saturday, May 11.
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — A quorum of 150 tribal members was reached at the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Annual Meeting at around 11:30 a.m. May 11 where one resolution was approved to again place two tribal attorney contracts on the ballot.
Prior to Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Nathan Small calling the meeting to order, Norma Wadsworth briefly explained the Self Governance grant the Tribes received to plan whether they want to take over existing Indian Health Service programs or a portion. She had an information table set up and said the Tribal Health and Human Services is looking at focus groups to gather on June 17. They need ten volunteers from each reservation district to participate. When the report is complete they plan to go to districts in October to explain the results.
Small asked Tribal Financial officer Michelle Han to give a financial report as she went through a handout and there were numerous questions from the audience. Treasurer Tino Batt said the finance employees have to follow a manual and Han said the Tribes receive over 200 grants. BlueBird CPAs conduct the annual financial audit. The report explained the Tribes revenues and debt owed.
Small called the meeting to order at 12:05 p.m. The minutes from the May 13, 2017 Annual Meeting was read. A motion and second was made and there was discussion. Marina Fasthorse said she was speaking on behalf of her daughter Zannita who wasn’t able to attend because of sickness. She asked why the tribal attorney contracts have not been on the ballot when it was voted on twice and nothing happened? She said it’s the tribal people’s wishes and the Tribes Constitution and Bylaws affirm it.
FHBC Chairman Nathan Small stands to speak to the tribal members.
Sherwin Racehorse made a motion to put tribal attorneys Bill Bacon and Brandelle Whitworth’s contracts on the ballot to be voted on. Both Marina Fasthorse and Maxine Edmo seconded the motion. Discussion occurred. Mary Washakie said under Title 18 of the U.S. Code the council can hire tribal attorney but the salary has to be presented to the membership to be approved. Chairman Small said the council can hire attorneys with the approval of the membership with fees confirmed by the general membership.
The vote commenced with 106 in favor, 9 opposed and many not voting.
Sherwin Racehorse presented a resolution that would have created a Shoshone-Bannock Educational Investment Fund to be administered by an Educational Investment Commission. The Tribes would obligate three to five percent annually from the Gaming Distribution Plan to establish direct annual program use of dollars to benefit the tribal memberships educational need. He made the motion to approve with Nancy Eschief Murillo making the second. Discussion occurred.
Treasurer Batt said an education trust fund exists with funds provided from the interest for graduate students.
Belma Colter said she graduated from Idaho State University and believes the resolution is a duplication of what the Tribes already doing.
Wendy Farmer agreed with Colter, along with her sister Darla Morgan. She applauded Sherwin for bringing the resolution thinking about our kids. She asked how many of our kids are being labeled autistic, mentally challenged and affected by drugs? Education is key she said.
Fasthorse said in looking at the table in the information provided there are 114 tribal members with bachelor’s degrees and how many have obtained them without the help of the Tribes? She can’t get employment with the Tribes and is interested how many of the 114 are employed with the Tribes? “Us tribal members who have degrees can’t get hired and it should seriously be looked at. She questioned how many non Indians are hired and the Tribes need to be mindful on both sides of the coin.
Tribal elder Ramona Walema said she has a bachelor’s and Master’s degree but can’t get a job. She’s an elder and still gets put to the bottom of the list. She believes she’s put down because she’s a full blood Bannock and the only one on the rolls.
The vote commenced with 38 in favor, 48 against, 10 abstentions and many not voting so the resolution failed.
The quorum was lost at 1:50 p.m.
Pamela Gallegos, Shoshone-Bannock Casino Hotel CEO was next with updates. She’s focused on reduction in expenses and has negotiated a lot of contracts to increase revenue. She realizes parking is a problem and the walkway near the bingo entrance will be redone so it is handicapped accessible. The modular unit where Human Resources were located is being removed and the storage containers are being cleaned out because they are an additional cost of $190,000 a year. Additional parking will be in that area. Human Resources are now in the old casino in the non smoking area.
She explained the buffet cost has been lowered from $28 to $21 and they’re looking at food cost and waste. The Deka Gahni Deli and bingo concession are both doing well. She encouraged tribal elders to apply for the part-time ambassador positions. A game room has opened up in half of the fitness center.
Gallegos said they’ve opened a coffee kiosk in the hotel lobby that’s reduced waste and expense. Hotel patrons can now get a free cup of coffee at the kiosk so they no longer stock coffee makers in the rooms and it saves $60,000 in coffee costs. Customers can still ask for coffee makers however. The fire pit grand opening is May 19 when a Game of Thrones event is happening. They will be available for rent in the future. She also said they’re hoping to open a day care center by the end of the year. Security should have a bike patrol starting in June. In addition, they’re working on a tiered Players Club. There is a plan for refurbishment at Bannock Peak Casino. Refurbishment is also being planned for hotel rooms. Preventative maintenance issues are needed and they currently have to do work on the laundry machines, HVAC units and boilers. They’ve done a refresh/remodel at the spa to bring in more guests.
Concerning sales, they plan to hire an events coordinator that will be a personal consultant to increase bookings.
Tribal member Pauline Mosho-Tindore said she’s concerned about safety issues and whether supervisors are trained to deal with them. She cited an instance that is affecting her family. She would like to see supervisors written up for not doing their jobs especially if they’re paid salaries, not showing up to work but getting paid.
Gallegos said she wasn’t aware but would look into the matter. She encouraged tribal members with concerns to let her staff know that were present so the could document it. She added she’s requiring management staff to work on weekends and monitor throughout the property. She intends to hire satellite casino manager’s onsite instead of having roaming managers. She said they are improving.
Another tribal member questioned why some employees are required to sign a form preventing them to air complaints and Gallegos denied knowing about such form and no gag order exists. The tribal member said some supervisors are using scare tactics and Gallegos said she doesn’t approve of harassment. “We are breaking down walls – we have work to do,” she said.
Karen Osborne said she worked at the hotel previously but was told by a supervisor she was too slow but believes in being thorough in her work.
Lorraine Edmo asked about Gallegos background in management and the length of her contract? Gallegos said she’s in her fourth year of a five year contract, came from New Mexico, worked in health care management prior to going into casino finance. She is at her fourth property working as CEO. Her goal is to help, train and educate employees.
Terry Racehorse questioned why patrons are being stopped going into the casino and asked for identification? She gave an example involving her nephew and his wife that may have been considered a racial incident. Gallegos said she would look into it, provide training to not be offending people.
Tribal elder Lila Perdomo said Gallegos is doing a wonderful job and she’s happy to be working at the casino. She previously worked in the hostess department and believes more training should be done because customers are number one.
Darla Morgan asked whether tribal members who may have felonies in their background could be hired in possible maintenance positions? Gallegos said the FHBC just approved a resolution where tribal members with records can be hired for non-sensitive positions. Once the person establishes his or herself then they can apply for other jobs within the casino. Morgan also asked about the cleanliness of the casino and the need of the sani-wipes? Gallegos said she’s working on getting them back, along with additional trash cans.
Emma George asked how the casino security is dealing with people on drugs? Gallegos said they have more police officers on site and are doing more sting operations.
Chairman Small said they are doing as much as they can and it has slowed down. They entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Bingham County to arrest non-Indians.
Concerning 18-year-olds getting their trust funds, Lionel Boyer said training is needed for the youth to learn how to deal with it so they don’t go out and follow the crowd. People are looking at a means to get money and may take advantage. He’s concerned about the young people and a program needs to be set up. He believes if someone is dealing drugs on the reservation then disenroll them.
After the gaming report was complete, Bill Bacon, tribal attorney gave brief updates on legal cases the Tribes are involved in including U.S. v Oregon, Herrera case, FMC case that is being heard before the Ninth Circuit of Appeals, Ormond Builders that is in arbitration (bringing before a third party for resolution) and the railroad right-of-way.
Tribal Policy Analyst Yvette Tuell followed with a legislative update. The P.L. 280 bill in the Idaho Legislature that would have established a state retrocession process removing state concurrent jurisdiction was killed in committee because of opposition from Power County and Idaho Department of Transportation.
She said the Tribes successfully advocated for American Indian Education Fee for tribal member reduced tuition at Idaho State University technical, undergraduate and graduate school. The Tribes also have a legislative reception in Boise to provide information.
At the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs, P.L. 280, dental health aid therapy bill, Idaho Department of Health and Welfare effort to improve in complying with Indian Child Welfare Act, Idaho State Museum, along with Idaho Medicaid expansion impacts to American Indians. Tuell said a five Idaho tribes summit happens where they come together as tribes to engage in collaborative discussions with all tribal leaders to share information, seek intertribal support on state legislative matters. A representative of the Governor’s office attends along with four state legislators.
Tribal Enterprises report was next. There are six Enterprise retail properties including Donzia Gift Shop, Trading Post grocery store, TP Gas, Sage Hill Travel Center, Bannock Peak Truck Stop and the Blue Corner Store. A Board of Directors oversees the stores and they include: Donna Thompson, chairperson and tribal council liaison, Hank McArthur, Bill Snapp, Brad Yates and a fifth position is vacant that is being advertised.
Nancy Eschief Murillo asked after reading the report why only two stores are profitable? Retail manager Carlie Jim said the past year has been the most difficult as the Enterprises are no longer getting the Tribal Tobacco Tax rebate (about $200,000 according to Revenue department) however sales are up but the cost of sales is also up. She said the rewards program has grown but has been cut back from five percent to three percent. The acquisition of the Blue Corner Store has also added to increased expenses.
Sherwin Racehorse said he would like to see a management strategy to assure the other stores are making a profit. He said prices are high and substantial changes are needed to benefit the community. He didn’t see a vision on the organizational chart and it reflected more of a staffing organization rather than business.
Jim said she agreed and it’s been a year and half since the Board of Directors was implemented and looks forward to the benefits from it. She said they made a visit to Ho Chunk Inc. in Nebraska and hope to learn from their operations.
Delicia “Saucie” Dann expressed her concern about buying at the Donzia and how some tribal members are disrespected. The manager is very selective on whom she buys from. She believes a tribal elder needs to be present on buying days to help in selecting or buying beadwork. She doesn’t believe the manager should be judging tribal members on their beadwork.
Jim said it isn’t fair for any tribal member to be disrespected.
Tribal Agri-Business manager Mark Wadsworth was next to report. He showed the label utilized on the Tribes potatoes that are marketed. He said there’s 68,000 irrigated farmlands on the Fort Hall Reservation and 21,000 is what the Tribes own that consist of wheat, hay and potatoes.
He said there are 260 head of buffalo and there’s two areas they graze – Fort Hall Bottoms and the Miller property in Ross Fork. They do live animal sales, sell to guided hunt providers and also process buffalo for sale including hamburger, stew meat, etc.
Russell Haskett asked if the Tribes plan to grow hemp? Chairman Small said they’re not getting into it real soon because the state of Idaho has a problem with it and would need to own a processing plant because they can’t transport it.
Land Use report was next, Casper Appenay, Land Use commissioner said the current reservation size is 549,526 acres that includes 252,266 acres of tribal land and 242,987 acres of individual allotted land. Over 9,000 acres is owned off the reservation. There’s approximately 2 to 3 percent fee land that’s equivalent to 20,341 acres. The Tribes own over 900 acres of fee land. Land acquisitions include property on the confluence of the Pahsimeroi and Salmon River next to the hatchery that includes 117 acres open to fishing, gathering and camping. Stephen Miller property on Rapid Creek bordering the reservation and BLM land that is 625 acres of forest and rangeland. There were 12 purchases of tribal member land.
Appenay said they’re working to protect springs and banks on the Bottoms. They renewed assignments for Bottoms winter pastures and hay meadows. They’ve conducted horse roundups where the Tribes sold 142 horses or they were adopted. There were also some rounded up but not sold by tribal members. A vegetation assessment was conducted to look at the condition of the Bottoms as part of the Integrated Resource Management Plan.
He said they’ve been working with White Cloud Communications for internet on the reservation and they served two reservation districts in FY 18. They are now serving Lincoln Creek and parts of Bannock Creek. Ross Fork is last priority. There’s a 15 percent discount to tribal members.
Monte Gray, tribal attorney, talked about a $179,000 settlement the Air Quality program received from VW concerning air emissions. It will be used to purchase a Solid Waste Roll Off Truck and next year will be used for a fire truck.
A question was posed to Gray about the Verizon tower. He said the NEPA process was completed and the 196 foot tower will be constructed over the summer behind the Tribal Museum. It would take six to eight weeks.
Emaline George raised a question about land exchanges. She also is concerned about the lack of housing available on the reservation. “We need to build homes for our young people,” she said because they lose their hunting rights and voting when living off reservation. “Our young people need to be a part of the government.” She noted there’s a lot of young people who are homeless and why it takes so long for homesites?
Adam Hill, LUP commissioner said there is 320,034 acres of rangeland on the reservation and nearly two thirds is tribal land. There are 69 permittees with over 8,000 livestock of which 3,200 are tribal. Concerning the Powerline Fire, there is 40 miles of new and fixed fence, along with 900 acres of seeding. BLM/Forest Service grazing permits are in Topance Canyon. Regarding agriculture on the reservation today, there are 320,033 acres of rangeland, 90,000 acres in agriculture, 34,937 acres of land in dry farm and CRP (Conservation Reserve Program). Issues include chemical use, agricultural sustainability, rangeland sustainability and leasing procedures.
Prior to the end of the meeting, three FHBC council candidates spoke to the few tribal members remaining. Gary Watson said he previously served on the council and believes he can make common sense decisions. He worked as a security guard at the casino to learn more. Homes are needed for the young people. He lives by tribal teachings – dammen deniwape and if you follow them, they are hard rules to live by.
Hobby Hevewah asked a question of Watson wanting to know if a tribal department supervisor brought a gun to work to intimidate employees who work with him what should be done? Watson said if the person is a tribal employee something should be done to address it. Hevewah said nothing was done and asked what if she shoots someone noting the person should be excluded from the reservation.
Sherwin Racehorse said the person Hevewah is talking about threatened to kill him. It was brought to the council’s attention but they didn’t do anything.
Watson said if something happens such as the situation, council members needed to have a backbone to get rid of the alleged employee involved.
Melissa Hevewah said it needs to be investigated, “What kind of people we hiring here to do the most important jobs?”
Nancy Eschief Murillo said it sounds as if the “good old boy” system is in place and if lives are threatened, there should have been action taken, “I can see it’s very political.” She said when council people sit up here, they have to take action and assure policies are done correctly. She added drugs are killing us and there’s a need to look at the whole realm. There needs to be a commission for tribal elders and women, along with a minimum wage increase.
Darrell Shay said he’s been involved in tribal government a long time and worked with various elders on the council – most are not here anymore. He explained his family lineage and the various tribal jobs he’s worked in previously. He served three terms on the council from 1984 to 1986, 1997 to 1999 and 2016 to 2018. He earned a degree in political science from Idaho State University with an emphasis in public administration. He believes his most important work was in the Tribal Planning Department working on the comprehensive plan. He was also the Cultural Resources Director. He understands and speaks the Shoshone language noting he’s fairly fluent. He wants to make sure culture is represented, “It’s what kept us alive for thousands of years – don’t forget your roots.” He said Gary mentioned deniwape – if you don’t follow it, it can hurt you – be careful. “Know language, pray, show respect for it.” He’s fortunate to serve with older tribal leaders.
The meeting concluded at 6:45 p.m.