Nez Perce Tribe of Idaho


The Nimiipuu (The People in Nez Perce) Longhouse invited the community to its April 16 Root Feast, an ancient celebration honoring the arrival of spring foods. The religious ceremony was conducted at the Pi-Nee-Waus Community Center in Lapwai, in the Walasat (translated as Seven Drum) religion. The ceremony is the people's version of Thanksgiving, honoring the water, fish, wild game, roots and berries, and is conducted on several reservations throughout Idaho, Oregon and Washington. Horace Axtell is the leader of the longhouse. Andrea Axtell and Patsy Higheagle are head cooks.

Students at Salmon River High School in Riggins are expected to vote on changing the Savages mascot and logo next month. There has been no protest of the Savages name in Riggins. But Nez Perce tribal officials have said schools that use mascots that are degrading to Indian people should consider replacing them. Principal Marilyn Giddings said April 10 students are entering a contest to create new names and logos. When all the submissions are in, students will vote. "We're voting on two different issues," Giddings said. "One is the Savages name. The other is the actual logo that will represent us. Currently, we have an Indian, but we don't use it on uniforms, not on our letterhead, only on the gym wall. So it's not been a real beloved symbol." The school decided to consider changing the name and logo after the school district in Salmon decided to drop its Savages identity rather than face a lawsuit.

A parents group accuses a coalition of local governments of being racially motivated. School officials see no reason to leave the North Central Idaho Jurisdictional Alliance, a group of 23 entities that oppose the tribe's claims of legal authority over non-Indian residents and property within the designated area of the treaty of 1863. Members of the Indian Education Parents Committee fear the district's involvement, but school board chairwoman Merry Leach contends the coalition is only confronting issues of jurisdiction. "We think it sends the wrong message to the kids of this town," said Parents Committee member Tom Keefe. "That spirit of cooperation that was kindled in this town 200 years ago needs to be renewed before the Lewis and Clark bicentennial celebration or else Kamiah is going to be the laughing stock." Recently, the alliance accepted a public statement written by a member which warns that unless the conflict is resolved, "eventual bloodshed is inevitable." That acceptance prompted the parents to get active again. The panel works with the school board to administer more than $100,000 the district receives in lieu of tax revenue for Indian children. Keefe said the parents will again appeal to the board to discontinue alliance membership, including $2,000 dues. ?There are 100 good things they could be doing with the money."

Chairman Samuel N. Penney has challenged an Idaho Division of Environmental Quality letter ostensibly commenting on two lumber mill applications to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for clean air permits as ?a thinly veiled attack on recognition of the jurisdictional boundaries? of the reservation. Involved are permits for Empire Lumber, a planing mill in Kamiah, and Clearwater Forest Industries, a finished lumber manufacturer in Kooskia. They are the first permits EPA Region 10 will issue in Indian country. Penney said essentially the state's letter, commenting on the applications, asserts that the reservation is diminished and argues the state should be given some role in issuing the permits. He said it is a an attack on the federal government's long-standing recognition of the boundaries where the United States clearly has jurisdiction. The U.S. Attorney for the District of Idaho has written to the EPA confirming that her office exercises criminal jurisdiction within the boundaries of the 1863 Nez Perce Reservation, Penney said.