Skip to main content
Updated:
Original:

News from the Northern Plate

Author:

KOOTENAI TRIBE PROPOSES INCREASING NUTRIENT LEVELS IN KOOTENAI RIVER

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho - The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho and the Idaho Department
of Fish and Game are proposing to add liquid nitrogen and phosphorus to the
Kootenai River from June through September each year to increase nutrient
levels. Public response is being accepted through Jan. 28, 2005.

Nutrient levels have been low for about 25 years and low levels are
responsible for decreased productivity in the river and a reason fish
populations are failing. Libby Dam in Montana now traps much of the
nutrient load plus the flooding which occurred downstream before the dam
was constructed no longer occurs, also reducing nutrient levels.

Nutrients would be added via steel pipes through a gravity-fed system. It's
hoped that fish productivity will rise to a level that would have existed
if the dam had not been built. The tribe is the lead agency with funding
provided by Bonneville Power Administration.

WORKING TO RESTORE KOKANEE SALMON

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho - Three million kokanee salmon eggs were recently
placed in four streams, tributaries of the Kootenai River, in a joint
restoration program involving the Kootenai Tribe of Idaho.

Kokanee had virtually disappeared from the river in recent years, the
combination of low levels of nutrients reaching the river after Libby Dam
was built plus overgrazing of river banks by cattle and construction work
along the river. The fish reach maturity in Canada's Kootenay Lake but move
upriver into the tributaries to spawn. The Canadian government is working
to improve conditions in the lake and is seeing significant improvement and
the tribe is working with landowners to rehabilitate spawning beds in Idaho
streams. Stream banks were bare from overgrazing so for the past three
years tribal members helped develop responsible grazing practices, planted
trees and shrubs and placed logs in streams to create pools. Good spawning
habitat is now available.

The Kootenai people have always been river people and fish were once a
major food source for the tribe. This makes the reintroduction of kokanee
very important to them. Sue Ireland, Fish and Wildlife director for the
Kootenai Tribe, said "We should see thick runs of kokanee back into Idaho
streams within 10 years."

NEZ PERCE TRIBE PAIR WITH MAYA LIN

CLARKSTON, Wash. - Artist Maya Lin designed the Vietnam Veterans Memorial
in Washington, D.C. Now she's working with the Nez Perce Tribe to design a
memorial at Chief Timothy Park, eight miles west of Clarkston.

It will be one of seven art projects along the route taken by the Lewis and
Clark expedition between Clarkston and the Pacific and all are slated for
completion in the next two years. The artist met with several tribal
members earlier this fall to gain insight on their perspectives to help her
in designing the project. "She's very inquisitive. She wanted to know what
we saw, how we felt," Tribal Executive Committee member Wilfred Scott said.
"From what I've seen and heard of her plans and the site she chose, it
seems like a good project. She doesn't arrive at any decisions hastily."

Maya Lin is internationally recognized but this will be her first project
involving a number of sites. Dave Yewman, spokesman for the Confluence
Project, said of Lin, "she's very respectful of different cultures. She
also says she tries to create places to think without dictating what to
think."

The tribe played a pivotal role in assisting the Lewis and Clark
expedition. Lin's work will help tell the history of the Nimiipuu (Nez
Perce). The memorial will be in a large oval depression, what Lin calls a
"Sky Bowl" in an area nearly surrounded by water. Exact details of the
memorial at Chief Timothy Park have not yet been fully determined.

NEZ PERCE CONSIDER WATER RIGHTS

LAPWAI, Idaho - The Idaho Legislature will begin meeting in January
concerning two major water issues needing settlement, one of which
dramatically affects the Nez Perce Tribe. The outcome could be a monumental
decision in state and tribal history.

The tribe had made a claim for virtually all the water in the Snake River
and under Idaho law the tribe would have precedence since its water rights
are older than other users of Idaho water. Voluntary negotiations began
many years ago and more formal negotiations occurred after a mediator was
named in 1999. An agreement was approved by the U.S. Congress in
mid-November, just four months after it was first introduced. It still
needs ratification by both the tribe and the legislature for final
approval. The two parties have agreed in principal but both parties are
planning public informational meetings to get details to tribal members and
the general public.

The details are complex. The proposal calls for the tribe to receive 50,000
acre feet of water and the state the larger balance. In exchange, the tribe
would receive a $60 million trust fund that could be used for restoration
of fish habitat, agricultural development, cultural preservation and other
projects. Another trust of $23 million would have more limited uses
including water and sewer systems and a testing lab. The tribe would also
receive another $13 million for fisheries habitat work on the Clearwater
and Salmon rivers.

A transfer of land is also proposed. The BLM owns land within reservation
boundaries and some of that would go to the tribe in trust. Eleven thousand
acres are being appraised with appraisal values expected by the end of the
month. A cap of $7 million will determine the final acreage.

It's hoped the final decision will be in place by March 31, 2005, about the
time the legislative session ends.

COEUR D'ALENES GET $2.8 MILLION FOR COMPUTER CENTER

PLUMMER, Idaho - The title "Turbocharged Broadband Geek Project" alone
should dispel any myths about lacking a sense of humor, but the project is
one of major importance to the Coeur d'Alene Tribe. A grant of $2.8 million
was received from the USDA Rural Utility Service, plus another half million
from the tribe, to construct a Community Technology Center (CTC) with 40
computers.

The CTC will provide a place where people, who don't have a knowledge of
computers or the funds to have one in their home, can come and use
computers for no charge. The CTC will also host technical classes and work
with North Idaho College for additional classes. It will also be the center
of a wireless broadband ISP, providing high-speed wireless service to
people living on or near the reservation for a moderate fee, something not
available at this time.

The funds were received last January, ground was broken in June and it's
anticipated the two-story building will open in March 2005. "Just as the
horse brought about a revolutionary change in the way our ancestors lived,
so will broadband technology change our lives in the new millennium," said
Valerie Fast Horse, director of the program. She sees immense benefits
possible through such things as information exchange between tribes,
greater access to education, improved medical activities, preservation of
Indian history and culture and revival of Native languages.

MATT ELECTED TO LEAD COUNCIL

PABLO, Mont. - Donald "Fred" Matt of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai
Tribes (CSKT) will serve as chairman of the Montana-Wyoming Tribal Leaders
Council for a two-year term. Matt is a lifelong resident of the Flathead
Reservation and presently serves as council chairman for the CSKT.

"The Tribal Leaders Council is an effective forum to collectively unite and
support tribes on issues that benefit the first peoples of Montana and
Wyoming. We are stronger when we work together on the many challenges we
face today as sovereign Indian nations," Matt said.

The council started in 1994 and includes members from 10 organizations in
the two states. Part of the mission of the council is to work for
preservation of tribal homelands, upholding treaty rights and uniformly
promoting the common welfare of American Indians in both states.