News from the Northern Plateau

Horace Axtell to receive National Heritage Award

LEWISTON, Idaho - Nez Perce spiritual leader Horace Axtell was recently notified he was a National Heritage Award winner for preserving the folk arts and would receive that award, along with a check for $20,000, this fall in Washington, D.C.

He has long been the spiritual leader at many ceremonies, blessings, memorial services and reburials. In addition, he helps conduct a pipe ceremony every year at some of the 14 battle sites where many tribal members died during the Nez Perce War of 1877. ;'We'll never forget our people,'' he said.

Axtell was raised speaking the Nez Perce language and has devoted himself to learning the culture and teaching the language, stressing the need to retain the language and to have an Indian name in addition to an English name.

Along with his wife, he is a member of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society Council of Elders and White Bison Inc., an American Indian organization that provides a variety of sobriety, recovery and addiction prevention resources to Indian country.

He began making drums in the 1980s for use in tribal ceremonies, pointing out that the tribe has always worshiped with drums and songs that have been handed down for generations. The combination of being a spiritual leader for his people, preserving the language, making drums and singing all contributed to his selection for the award.

Coeur D'Alene Casino receives bomb threat

WORLEY, Idaho - The Coeur d'Alene Casino was recently shut down for several hours after receiving a phone call saying that bombs were set to go off in about 20 minutes.

Both the casino and hotel were evacuated quickly and smoothly. Tribal police and bomb sniffing dogs then searched the premises but no bombs were found.

A woman, likely in her late teens or early 20s, made the call from the Benewah Market in nearby Plummer. No arrests were made by press time, but tribal police said they had good evidence and were confident the caller would be apprehended. The tribe is offering a reward of $5,000 for information that leads to an arrest and conviction.

The motel and casino were evacuated in an orderly way, with guests and employees being taken to Circling Raven Golf Course nearby with emergency procedures carried out as planned. Everything returned to normal about three and a half hours later.

If arrested and convicted, the charge will be threatening to destroy an occupied building, a federal crime that could bring prison time and fines to the perpetrator and damage payments to the casino.

Circling Raven named Best indian Casino Golf Course

WORLEY, Idaho - Native American Casino Magazine recently named the Coeur d'Alene Tribe's Circling Raven Golf Club as the best Indian casino golf course of the roughly 70 tribal courses in the nation for the second consecutive year. Now in its fifth year, the course has previously received various recognitions from nearly all the major golf magazines as well.

The magazine highlighted the top 20 tribal courses nationwide. Considering the quality of golf courses throughout Indian country, selection as No. 1 is truly an accomplishment.

''The whole country is becoming more aware of the quality of golf offered at tribal courses,'' said Tom Davidson, director of golf at Circling Raven. ''Tribes everywhere have shown great leadership and vision with their developments, none greater than what the Coeur d'Alene Tribe has done right here.''

Midnite Mine ruling to aid Spokane tribe

SPOKANE, Wash. - A recent U.S. District Court ruling regarding the cleanup of Midnite Mine on the Spokane Reservation should lead to restoration of damaged forests and waterways. The judge ruled that Newmont Mining Corp. is liable for its share of the cleanup. Newmont holds a majority interest in Dawn Mining Co., which - along with the U.S. government - had been found liable for its portion of the cleanup in earlier rulings.

The tribe has been seeking a complete cleanup of the Midnite Mine, from which uranium was extracted until the mine's closure in 1981, since the 1980s, but a legal decision regarding responsibility has been slow to be resolved. It's hoped that with these legal decisions those responsible for cleanup will step up and soon begin the much-needed work to restore the land and waterways.

Uranium was extracted from the site, located about eight miles from Wellpinit, from an open pit. Six pits were excavated; two are still open. Several waste rock piles are on the site, through which groundwater runs and eventually reaches Roosevelt Lake. Samples have shown the water to be contaminated with heavy metals and radionuclides.

Greg Abrahamson, chairman of the tribal business council, said the tribe's primary concern is the protection of tribal members from mine-related pollution ''so that the land and waterways can be used as intended by our ancestors.''