Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho


A month after Kamiah Chamber of Commerce president Linda Thomas condemned the North Central Idaho Jurisdictional Alliance over an inflammatory report involving the tribe, she and three other board members resigned their positions. Pressure from local officials involved in the alliance and other alliance supporters was the main factor contributing to the resignations, said Lillian Pethtel, a chamber member. "Rather than encounter the snot-nosed arrogance, they resigned," Pethtel said The alliance is a group of 23 governmental entities which combined efforts to oppose tribal claims to legal authority over non-Indian residents and property within the designated area of an 1863 treaty. Thomas and others were offended by the information presented, which included a public information document written by Rick Laam, Orofino city administrator, which concluded, "if issues keep escalating between the Tribe and non-Tribal members on the Reservation, and we are unable to sit down at the table and openly discuss these differences in order to resolve these conflicts, eventual bloodshed is inevitable." That document elicited strong reactions from all sides of the jurisdictional issue. Pethtel said board members who resigned are relatively new to the Kamiah area. She blamed the "aristocracy" of the town for pressuring the chamber to support the alliance and retract statements made after the chamber meeting. The Tribal Executive Committee is asking the U.S. Attorney's office and the Department of Justice to investigate potential civil rights threats against the tribe in connection with the Laam document. "We are writing to request you to investigate all potential avenues to address the growing atmosphere of animosity and hostility against members of the Nez Perce Tribe and the threats of violence that may cause them to fear for their personal safety," Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Samuel Penney wrote in a letter to the agencies. In the letter, Penney refers to a document written by the Orofino City Administrator that is supported by the North Central Idaho Jurisdictional Alliance. "It is especially troubling that city and county government officials are rallying behind a document that predicts 'bloodshed' between the Tribe's neighbors and the Tribe," Penney wrote. He also wrote the number of "extremists" is small, but the threats are real.