Northwest Band of Shoshone hunting map. (Submitted photo)
By LORI ANN EDMO
FORT HALL — Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG) officers cited two Northwest Band of Shoshone tribal members for unlawful take of mule deer during a closed season in November 2017 in Bear Lake County and they are claiming they have treaty rights under the Fort Bridger Treaty.
The Fort Bridger Treaty was signed between the Eastern Shoshone and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes on July 3, 1868.
The case involves Wyatt R. Athay of Bennington, Idaho who is charged with taking one mule deer buck and one mule deer doe out of season. Shanelle Long of Pocatello is charged with taking one mule deer buck out of season. They are considered misdemeanor charges.
Both entered not guilty pleas on December 8, 2017. Attorney Mark Echo Hawk, who also is on contract with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, represented them at a pre trial hearing but has since withdrawn because of a potential conflict. The court did a 90-day stay at a pre trial hearing in January.
In addition, Attorney Mark Echo Hawk wrote a letter to Utah Lieutenant Governor Spencer J. Cox in January of 2016 asserting the Northwest Band of Shoshones off reservation Treaty hunting and fishing rights under the Fort Bridger Treaty. The letter said the tribe’s treaty grants them the right to hunt and fish in the State of Utah on unoccupied federal lands. He said the Northwestern Band asked him to help them get out of a Memorandum of Understanding with the state of Utah because they were reducing their tags and seasons so he worked with Utah officials to say they couldn’t tell the tribe how to exercise the treaty hunting right that Utah had already been recognizing for years. He said he then followed up with Utah officials after getting the Northwest Band of Shoshones out of the MOU to let the state of Utah officials know the Northwestern Band was regulating its own members in Utah. Echo Hawk said the FHBC was aware of the letter.
Northwest Band of Shoshone Chairman Darren Parry said when his tribe signed the Box Elder Treaty the federal government ascended them to being parties of the Fort Bridger Treaty, along with other Shoshone tribes. He also said they have a solicitor’s opinion from the Department of Justice saying they are parties to the Fort Bridger Treaty.
Northwest Band of Shoshone tribal members had previously claimed Fort Bridger Treaty rights in a case involving Shane Warner and Wayde Warner when IDF&G officers cited them in 1997 for killing a bull elk out of season in Fremont County. The trial was November 15, 1999 when the Warner’s asserted they had Fort Bridger Treaty hunting rights. The magistrate court found them guilty. They appealed the decision to District Court of Idaho but also lost.
In October 2000, U.S. District Judge Brent J. Moss ruled the Northwest Band has neither aboriginal hunting rights nor valid treaty rights under the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868. The Northwest Bands aboriginal rights or “Indian title” to their homelands was extinguished by Washakie in the Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868. The Warner’s did not pursue a further appeal. Greg Wooten, IDFG Chief of Enforcement said as a result of the Warner case, the IDFG views the Warner to be controlling the law. “Nothing in the intervening years has changed IDFG’s understanding as to the NW Band’s rights in Idaho and members of the NW band who do not comply with Idaho state licensing, seasons and rules are subject to prosecution.”
Fort Hall Business Council Chairman Nathan Small said he doesn’t agree with the Northwest Band of Shoshones trying to use the Fort Bridger Treaty to hunt. “It’s putting jeopardy to our standing to what we’ve had since 150 years ago.”
FHBC Vice Chairman Darrell Shay agreed, “They don’t have no rights, they can’t enjoy the Fort Bridger Treaty rights.”
Northwest Band Chairman Parry said the Warner case was tried in front of a Justice of the Peace, which is hardly a court that can be taken serious. “We do recognize the Sho-Ban presence in testifying against us and it hasn’t been forgotten.” He said they intend to take the case all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court if necessary and they fully expect the Shoshone-Bannock Tribe to once again testify against them. “I am not sure why, but it will be expected.”