News from the northern plateau



MOSCOW, Idaho - The 2nd annual Indian Law Conference was held recently at
the University of Idaho School of Law. Don Burnett, dean of the school, and
professor Doug Nash, Nez Perce attorney, hosted Indian law attorneys and
tribal leaders from throughout the Northwest. Sponsors included several law
firms, the Indian Land Tenure Foundation, the National Native American Bar
Association and the Indian Land Working Group.

Agenda items included a discussion about the possibility of Idaho joining
New Mexico and Washington to require Indian law on the state bar exam. Pros
and cons were considered with no firm recommendation being made.

A nationwide review of recent significant developments in legislation
affecting Indian country was presented by David Cummings, an attorney
working with the Nez Perce Tribe.

Rob Roy Smith, chair of the Idaho State Bar Indian Law Section, described
litigation of state taxation of fuel sold by tribes to non-Indians with
suggestions on reducing the possibility of problems.

The majority of the two-day meeting dealt with Indian probate ranging from
a report on its history and current efforts to improve estate planning to
extensive discussions on the Indian Probate Reform Act.


PLUMMER, Idaho - Chief Allan has been elected as council chairman for the
Coeur d'Alene Tribe, replacing Ernie Stensgar who had served in that
position for nearly 20 years. Stensgar ran unsuccessfully for the position
of president of the National Congress of American Indians in 2003.

Stensgar's defeat surprised many, as he has helped lead the tribe through a
tremendous growth spurt. When first elected, the tribe employed fewer than
75 people; today, it employs nearly 1,400; is the second-largest employer
in northern Idaho and has an economic impact approaching $100 million

The Coeur d'Alene Casino, Benewah Medical and Wellness Center and the
Circling Raven Golf Club are but three major projects in which he played a
prominent role. Stensgar was the first tribal leader named to the Idaho
Hall of Fame.

Stensgar will remain on the tribal council and has voiced his support of
Chief Allen, pledging whatever help his experience can provide. Francis
Silohn will replace Allan as council vice chairman. Leta Campbell was also
re-elected to the council.


LAPWAI, Idaho - The Safe Schools Healthy Student Initiative has provided a
$3 million grant to the Nez Perce Tribe for use in the Students for Success
Program, according to project director Joyce McFarland.

This program strives to meet two primary objectives: prevention education
and the case management, with a focus on the mental health needs in three
school districts on the reservation in the towns of Kooskia, Kamiah and
Lapwai. Tribal and non-tribal youth will be eligible to participate.

The program allows work from preschool through high school, which is more
liberal than many programs. Alcohol, tobacco and other drugs will all be
included, along with violence prevention and healthy childhood development,
to reduce risk factors to young people. Violence prevention will be
stressed for the younger students to reduce such things as bullying.
Mid-level students will learn life skills including the detriments of
alcohol and drugs, while project success at the high school level will also
focus on those issues.


NESPELEM, Wash. - Twenty sharp-tailed grouse were recently released near
Nespelem on the Colville Reservation, part of a release of 60 birds around
the state intended to augment the species in Washington. These 20 came from
British Columbia, which also provided another 20 for an off-reservation
release; 20 others came from Idaho.

Before these releases, the total population of this species - at one time
likely the most abundant upland bird in the region - was estimated at only
300 throughout the state and limited to a few locales.

While this reservation contains the largest population of Columbian
sharp-tailed grouse in Washington, tribal biologists have recorded a severe
downward trend in recent years. Only eight of 36 known leks are still
active and are so separated that genetic isolation is occurring, which may
lead to further problems. Leks are the strutting grounds where males dance
each spring to attract females, a dance well-known to various tribes who
traditionally perform ritualistic dances mimicking the birds. Tribal
wildlife personnel are also working to protect and restore habitat for
grouse on the Colville Reservation.


SPOKANE, Wash. - Spokane's Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture is exhibiting
a collection of plateau tribal objects relating to children.

Titled "From Where the Sun Rises: Children of the Plateau Tribes," it will
be featured through July 10. Cultural objects and photos from the museum's
collection document the history of plateau children and "highlighting
through their objects, the honor and pride instilled in their young,"
according to the brochure.

Baby boards are prominently featured, with eight full-sized ones dating
from the mid-1880s through the early 20th century and examples from a
number of tribes. Another nine are toy-sized that young girls would have
played with and learned from; these also date to the late 1800s.

A quote by Pauline Flett, a Spokane elder, helps explain to visitors their
importance: "The baby board is symbolic of the mother's womb, when the
newborn is wrapped up snugly, whether with a little blanket or laced into
the baby board, the baby feels warm, safe and secure."

The exhibit includes a number of infant-sized moccasins, cornhusk bags,
various articles of clothing and a group of dolls, mostly from the early
20th century. Nearly 50 photos from that same era show families and
children, many in elaborately beaded baby boards.


TYGH VALLEY, Ore. - The all-Indian rodeo at Tygh Ridge recently concluded
after two days in which about 150 contestants competed for prize money.
Inclement weather held viewer participation down but even so, about 400
showed up to watch nine events for adults and five for youngsters. Most
competitors came from either the Warm Springs or Yakama reservations,
although others came from Canada, Idaho, Nevada and California.

This was once one of the largest all-Indian rodeos in the Northwest, but it
was discontinued for about three years when the original organizers dropped
the rodeo. Mike and Kitty Filbin restarted it on their own ranch. The
Filbins are rodeo stock producers who supplying stock to various rodeos.
Now in its eighth consecutive year, the rodeo is sanctioned by the Columbia
River Indian Rodeo Cowboy Association.

The Tygh Ridge rodeo is held the second weekend of May each year.