Tiller's Guide to Indian Country - Second Edition

542 LOCATION AND LAND STATUS The Kootenai Reservation is located in the northern tip of the Idaho panhandle, about 30 miles from the Canadian border. The reservation has 250 acres in federal trust, with approximately 2,000 additional acres allotted to individual tribal members. The Kootenais refused to participate in the 1855 Hellgate Council called by Washington Territorial Governor Isaac Stevens. Throughout the next decade, the tribe resisted all attempts to move it to the Flathead Reservation in Montana. In the early 1900s, the federal government finally set aside 8,000 acres for the Kootenais, with each recognized tribal member receiving a plot of 160 acres. Having little experience with farming, however, most tribal members failed to cultivate the land, and the majority of it was eventually leased to white settlers. Today, the Kootenais still have a very small community land base, consisting of little more than the tract upon which their tribal headquarters, community center, and a tribal housing project are situated. CLIMATE Annual rainfall on the Kootenai Reservation is 24.5 inches. The average temperatures range between 26ºF and 68ºF. CULTURE AND HISTORY The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is one of six bands of the greater Kootenai Nation. Aside from the Idaho band, the Kootenai people may be found in British Columbia and northwestern Montana. The Kootenais traditionally relied on the region's rivers, lakes, prairies, and mountain forests for their sustenance. Fur traders were the first Euro-Americans to appear on Kootenai lands, arriving in the 1830s. Within a decade, Jesuit missionaries began arriving, and shortly thereafter, homesteaders began to appear, crossing through or settling on Kootenai lands. The ambitious Washington territorial governor, Isaac Stevens, was determined to open the Northwest to the railroad and agricultural development. This ambition spurred him to call for the 1855 Council at Hellgate, Montana. At the council, Stevens offered reserved lands and protection from further encroachment to the various bands of Salish and Kootenai in attendance. Several of the bands agreed and were placed on the Flathead Reservation, but the Idaho Kootenais had refused to even participate in or attend the council. After losing its land to allotment, the tribe was dealt a further series of blows. First, in 1930 the Grand Coulee Dam was constructed, destroying the salmon runs upon which the tribe had depended for centuries. Then in the 1940s, non-Indian landowners refused to allow the tribe to work its traditional fishing areas along the Kootenai River. The third strike came later in that decade when the Idaho Department of Fish and Game forbade the Kootenais to hunt in their traditional areas. This decision was revised three decades later when in 1976 the Idaho Supreme Court ruled that the Hellgate Treaty of 1855 guaranteed the tribe's hunting rights on state and federal lands. In 1947, the tribe established its own government, though they had essentially no land base. In 1974, after decades of frustration, the tribe declared war on the U.S. government in an attempt to force the BIA to fulfill its trust responsibilities and provide a reservation. Tribal members turned the road through the minuscule reservation into a toll road, charging vehicles 10 cents each, and demanded that the U.S. Kootenai Kootenai Reservation Federal reservation Kootenai Kootenai Boundary County, Idaho Kootenai Tribe of Idaho County Road 38A P.O. Box 1269 Bonners Ferry, ID 83805 208-267-3519 208-267-2960 Fax Total area (BIA realty, 2004) 1,974.77 acres Tribally owned (BIA realty, 2004) 72.66 acres Individually owned (BIA realty, 2004) 1,902.11 Population 2000 census 71 Tribal enrollment (Tribal source, 2004) 165 Tribal enrollment (BIA labor report, 2001) 121 Total labor force 2000 census 32 Total labor force (BIA labor report, 2001) 289 High school graduate or higher 2000 census 90.7% Bachelor's degree or higher 2000 census 20.9% Unemployment rate 2000 census 3.13% Unemployment rate (BIA labor report, 2001) 11% Per capita income 2000 census $16,291 enter negotiations with them. Hostilities ceased when the tribe received assurances that negotiations would be forthcoming. The federal government finally fulfilled their obligations and deeded the tribe 12.5 acres. Today the tribe is actively engaged in preserving its traditions and heritage, which have been so integral to its survival. Elders continue to speak the Native language, with some informal teaching it to the young people. The Kootenais remain a small, tenacious band that continues to hold fast to its sovereignty and pursue its goal of expanding its land base. GOVERNMENT Historically, the Kootenai Tribe was governed by a hereditary chief. The tribe's existing constitution was ratified on July 16, 1947, and structured according to the provisions of the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act, which established the tribal council as the tribe's governing body. The five-member tribal council consists of a chief (elected for life), and a chairman, a vicechairman, a secretary, and a treasurer, all elected to staggered three-year terms. The general membership meets annually, while the tribal council meets weekly or as needed. Voting membership can legislate by initiative or referendum. The tribal government oversees health, housing, job training, environmental, fish and wildlife, health, and education programs for the Kootenai people. The Kootenai Tribe has its own tribal court, which is overseen by the tribal council. The tribal court has exclusive jurisdiction over all judicial matters occurring on the reservation involving Indians and non-Indians to the full extent allowed by federal law. ECONOMY Tribal government, agriculture, gaming, and tourism are the major components of the Kootenai economy. The tribe is actively pursuing additional economic development projects and tax incentive programs to attract new industries to the reservation. Government as Employer. The numerous departments and programs of the Kootenai tribal government provide employment opportunities for approximately 32 tribal members. Four people are employed by the environmental program and eight are employed in the administration and finance division. Economic Development Projects. The Kootenai Tribe of Idaho is a member of the Panhandle Lakes Resource Conservation and Development (RC&D) Area. A USDA project, the RC&D program facilitates community involvement in resolving environmental and economic problems. To date, over 300 projects have been completed in the area, with the emphasis shifting from traditional conservation practices to extensive involvement in rural economic development. Agriculture and Livestock. Most of the 250 acres of tribal lands are under agricultural use, primarily in wheat and barley cultivation. Additionally, a number of individual tribal members lease land to outside agricultural interests. The tribe realizes approximately $20,000 annually from agriculture. Forestry. There is a fair amount of forested acreage on tribally affiliated land, though very little is presently under commercial development.