Na­tive Amer­i­cans are wad­ing into pol­i­tics. For years, pol­i­tics have tram­pled over them

The Idaho Statesman (Sunday) - - OPINION - BY DICK RUSH

In 2018 there is in­creased at­ten­tion to Na­tive Amer­i­can po­lit­i­cal can­di­dates, such as Paulette Jor­dan, re­mind­ing me of my ex­pe­ri­ence with the Coeur d’alene Tribe. In 1976, I took a po­si­tion as gen­eral man­ager of the busi­nesses owned by the Tribe, head­quar­tered near Plum­mer, Idaho. The Tribal Coun­cil was mov­ing quickly to take ad­van­tage of new fed­eral poli­cies de­signed to pro­mote tribal man­age­ment of their own eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment. Prior to this time, the govern­ment had tried many dif­fer­ent schemes such as re­lo­cat­ing tribal mem­bers from reser­va­tions to large cities, or en­cour­ag­ing large com­pa­nies to move to reser­va­tions.

The Coeur d’alene Tribal his­tory is full of sto­ries of great lead­ers such as Chief Seltice, who ne­go­ti­ated for the Tribe dur­ing treaty dis­cus­sions from 1850 to 1873. He also op­er­ated a 1,000acre farm. Part of the treaty dis­cus­sions cen­tered around Hang­man Basin and Hang­man Creek. The Hang­man des­ig­na­tion came from the hang­ing of eight Tribal Chiefs. Al­though the U.S. govern­ment at­tempted to change the Hang­man des­ig­na­tion be­cause of bad con­no­ta­tions, Hang­man Creek still ex­ists to­day.

Af­ter years of ne­go­ti­a­tion, on June 14, 1867, Pres­i­dent An­drew John­son wrote, “let these lands be set apart for the (Coeur d’alene) In­di­ans.” Seven years later, the Sec­re­tary of In­te­rior can­celed the reser­va­tion agree­ment with­out in­form­ing Chief Seltice. The Tribe had given up much of their abo­rig­i­nal land in the treaty in or­der to keep a share of their valu­able agri­cul­tural land. Now, they had nei­ther the agri­cul­tural land nor claim to their orig­i­nal abo­rig­i­nal land. Later, Seltice wrote, “Are we squir­rels or treated like an­i­mals thus to drive us into the wilder­ness, where noth­ing can be raised to sup­port peo­ple?”

In 1887 the Coeur d’alenes again agreed to cede 3,500,000 acres to the United States for pay­ment of $150,000 and to ac­cept the Coeur d’alene Reser­va­tion pre­vi­ously ne­go­ti­ated. Chief Seltice pleaded that “we want these lands pre­served for­ever.” Govern­ment agents re­sponded, “The Govern­ment will pro­tect you and your lands.” Seltice re­sponded, “We have put away your words in a safe place ... we shall not for­get you nor your words.” In 1889, the Tribe ceded an­other 240,000 acres in the north­ern min­ing area of the reser­va­tion. This land in­cluded some of the most pro­duc­tive gold and sil­ver de­posits in the world. The govern­ment de­ter­mined that the Tribe only needed agri­cul­tural lands, not min­er­als.

In 1887, Congress passed the Al­lot­ment Act, which di­vided the In­dian land into 160-acre al­lot­ments even though some in­di­vid­ual In­di­ans al­ready farmed larger acreages un­der Tribal ar­range­ments. Once in­di­vid­ual In­dian landown­ers ob­tained ti­tle, much of the land was sold to white farm­ers. Then, in 1909, the east­ern part of the reser­va­tion was opened for home­steading by white farm­ers.

When I started work for the Tribe in 1976, of the 540,000 acres of the orig­i­nal Couer d’alene Reser­va­tion, only 70,000 acres re­mained in In­dian own­er­ship. In the en­su­ing 40 years, the Coeur d’alene Tribe has grown its busi­nesses and added so­cial and med­i­cal ser­vices used by In­di­ans and whites alike.

Dick Rush, of Moscow, has worked with the Tribe. He has also served as Direc­tor of the Idaho De­part­ment of Agri­cul­ture, State Direc­tor of the USDA Farm Ser­vice Agency, Ad­min­is­tra­tor of the Idaho Wheat Com­mis­sion, and sales and man­age­ment po­si­tions with Boise Cas­cade Corp. in Cal­i­for­nia and Ore­gon. He holds BS and MS de­grees in Agri­cul­tural Eco­nom­ics from the Uni­ver­sity of Idaho and UC Davis.

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