Fort Hall Business Council with Idaho Governor Brad Little and Idaho Army National Guard officials.
By ROSELYNN YAZZIE
FORT HALL — State of Idaho Governor Brad Little met with the Fort Hall Business Council on Wednesday, May 8 to discuss a number of issues to good dialogue and establish a relationship and better understanding in the future.
Chairman Small expressed to Governor Little that the Tribes really appreciate his visit.
Small suggested quarterly meetings with the Tribes in order to see how things are going.
Small talked about how the Tribes economic impact statement shows how agriculture is a strong source of revenue, in addition to gaming.
Small told the Governor about the treaty rights that allow tribal members to go outside the boundaries of the reservation to do hunting, fishing and gathering. Therefore, he said the Tribes are a player with the state of Idaho in the concerning of a lot of the federal lands. He would like to continue further discussion about natural resources and what can be done to further protect them with the state.
In regards to the Public Law 280 retrocession he said the Tribes wanted to look at the articles further and clear up misconceptions, specifically when it comes to road maintenance on Highway 91, Interstate 15 and Interstate 86/84. Small recognized there are many non-tribal members living on the reservation and said they do not only look out for the membership, but all residents of reservation.
They discussed the Lower Four Snake River Dam Statewide Working group and Fish & Wildlife Director Chad Colter said they have been working with Bonneville Power and the other action agencies for a number of years on the fish and wildlife mitigation since the mid 80s and they now run a $5 million dollar a year program. They are a cooperating agency with Columbia River Systems Operation (CRSO) Environmental Impact Statement (EIS). He said the tribes are very supportive of an alternative for removal of the lower four Snake River Dam. He said he knows it’s controversial but it’s one way to increase anadromy in the state.
Governor Little said through the Office of Species Conservation they are committing to put together a statewide salmon plan and they are doing everything they can to increase fish survival. He said he’s not advocating for breaching the dams, particularly if there’s other things that they can do. He said obviously the Tribes need to be a part of that process.
Small said he understands there are a number of vacancies on the State Board of Education and was wondering if there was a chance the governor would support appointing a tribal member to it, not necessarily from the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, but someone within the tribes of the state. Governor Little said they would take it under consideration.
They talked about the Medicaid expansion bill and how the Tribes were in support of it, however concern grew once they started to learn more about it. The governor said they still have a little work to do and sign up will start in the fall. FHBC Treasurer Tino Batt asked for further tribal input to issues like these. He also thanked the governor for filing with other states on defending ICWA to protect Indian children and to make sure those kids are returned and identified in who they are.
When talking about the State Attorney General office seeking to improve state/tribal relations Chairman Small said he has always had an uneasy feeling in how the state of Idaho was treating the tribes and how it often felt like they were against them. Governor Otter said unlike the tribes he doesn’t get to hire his own lawyer. Small also mentioned they were waiting on the decision of the Herrera Case. He expressed now he’s getting a better feeling the state may now be working with the tribes.
Small talked about free access to state parks and said they are already working those things out. Colter said they have some passes that tribal members can receive at his office. Governor Little said his costs $20. Small responded that a lot of the state parks are situated in what are considered sacred areas to the people and reminded him the people have been in the area for thousands of years.
Councilman Lee Juan Tyler said they have to protect the areas because of the animals, medicinal plants, water and ceremonial areas.
They talked about the cultural burial site located on Little’s family ranch for Chief Eagle Eye. Little said he didn’t know about it and his sons run the ranch and he is a minority investor. Cultural Resource Director Louise Dixey talked about the significance of Chief Eagle Eye and how it’s a sacred area. She asked for the opportunity to say prayer there as well as to take some of the elders there. Little said he would give her the contact information.
They talked about Idaho’s high school mascots and Small said it felt like a downgrade to the tribes although the school’s felt it expressed school pride. He talked about incident between Sho-Ban and Salmon River High School and how they faced racist taunts during the state tournament. The council expressed how they felt about Native American mascots and how they would like it addressed. FHBC Secretary Donna Thomson said what are we teaching our kids? They also talked about racist terms for places such as Squaw Creek and it’s negative meaning for tribal people. Tyler said Idaho can make moves to change names like this and suggested it can be the governor’s legacy.
Small talked about tribal flags at the capitol and asked where they were at with that. Governor Little said it was under the authority of the capitol commission who are the ones who make the decision. One of the challenges to it was not all tribes agree about it.
The Tribes are also still examining tribal energy and solar power and they would come back to it at a later date.
When it comes to the future of hemp in Idaho Governor Little said there was a bill in the legislature that would have been fine but they couldn’t get an agreement between the house and senate so noting happened. The governor said he had no problem with hemp he just doesn’t want help to be camouflaged for recreational marijuana. Small talked about how the tribes have discussed getting involved with it. Small asked if he thinks it would be brought up again and the governor responded almost certainly.
Small talked about the state tax commission and how they want to tax online purchasing and the Tribes would like an exemption to that since there are no sales taxes paid to the state for goods and services within the reservation. It would be further look into it and see how other states are dealing with it.
Louise Dixey talked about the renaming of Quarry View Park to Eagle Rock Park and Castle Rock Reserve to Chief Eagle Eye Reserve and requested if the governor would be present at the time.
The governor was also supposed to visit Chief Tahgee Elementary Academy, Justice Center and the Fort Hall Casino but his visit was cut short due to time constraints. The students at CTEA presented him with a picture and a banner.
Governor Little said there has been a lot said about communication and with the help of his senior staff; he hopes they continue to build a relationship on the issues important to the Tribes.
“A lot of the issues you bring up are issues that are relative to the legislature, they’re issues with the federal delegation,” he said. “I look forward to more productive meetings.”
The last time he visited the council he was asked about redoing the Exit 80 overpass and when he left he made a call and it was done. Chairman Small said extra thanks on that.