Special Features & Articles
NCRSM Call To Action! - Salmon Savages High School, Salmon, ID (Current mascot issue)
Research may lead to formal tribal recognition
By Ted McDonough
Research by a Washington State University professor suggests a group of Idaho Indians were improperly stripped of formal tribal recognition by the United States government. Associate history Professor Orlan Svingen hopes his work, coupled with the upcoming bicentennial of the Lewis and Clark expedition, will help the Lemhi people become one of a handful of American Indian groups to have restored federal recognition as a distinct tribe. Representatives of the Lemhi Shoshone -- who claim Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery member Sacajawea as an ancestor -- were invited to the White House May 4 for a Sacajawea coin reception ceremony. Rod Ariwite, head of the Lemhi community, was scheduled to deliver to Hillary Clinton a letter formally requesting tribal recognition. In 1995, the Lemhi people formed the Fort Lemhi Indian Community to put together a petition for formal recognition from the Bureau of Indian Affairs. With part of a $65,000 federal grant obtained for the effort, Svingen was hired to research Lemhi history. Svingen made the Lemhi recognition project, begun in 1995, the focus of his graduate public history seminar. Svingen is nearing completion of an 450-page legal and historical treatment of the Lemhi. A draft of the work, which Svingen anticipates publishing, has already been sent to the Lemhi.
Svingen's research suggests the Lemhi forcibly were removed from ancestral land, stripped of federal recognition and denied monitory compensation despite a treaty. After immersing himself in the history Svingen said it was difficult to watch news accounts of the White House reception. "How can you celebrate Sacajawea's role with the Lewis and Clark expedition when recognition of Sacajawea's people has been removed?" he asked, calling the treatment of the Lemhi "something of a historical scandal." Svingen said he "admits to being politicized" about the issue, "because I understand how (the Lemhi's) identity has been taken away from them." Given the merits of the Lemhi's case and the timing of the Lewis and Clark celebration, Svingen gives the Lemhi "a strong chance" to regain recognition. To win their bid to have tribal status reinstated, the Lemhi must meet a many part test that includes demonstrating political leadership, a continuous culture and association with a homeland. Initially, graduate students John Mann and Shirley Stephens, who worked on the recognition project with Svingen, thought demonstrating a homeland for the Lemhi would be difficult. The Lemhi had signed papers in 1905 giving up their reservation in Salmon, Idaho, and were removed to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation near Pocatello where they were absorbed into the Fort Hall Shoshone-Bannock. Researching the history of the removal of the Lemhi, the WSU researchers found evidence that cast doubt on the official history.
The Lemhi consistently resisted leaving Salmon, said Stephens, a doctoral candidate. Removal had been initially proposed in 1870 and in 1880 the federal government negotiated a removal agreement with Chief Tendoy, the last Lemhi chief. But the agreement required ratification by two-thirds of the adult male Lemhi population, which the federal government was unable to obtain for 25 years, Stephens said. When the Lemhi were removed to Fort Hall after 1905, they began returning almost immediately, Stephens said. A population of Lemhi remained in Salmon for decades afterward and Lemhi from Fort Hall returned to Salmon frequently to hunt or to tend grave sites. By 1880, most hunting areas on the Lemhi Reservation in Salmon had been taken over by non-Indians. The Indian population wasn't supposed to leave the reservation to hunt, said Stephens. "They were literally starving on that reservation, but they still did not want to leave it," she said. Examining papers of the federal negotiator who succeeded in winning Lemhi ratification of the removal agreement, Stephens and Mann were unable to find solid evidence the Indians had signed onto the plan. The graduate students found documents containing signatures of people who supposedly had witnessed the signatures of male tribal members.
There was no record of the Lemhi signatures themselves. Perhaps the most significant finding of the WSU team was that a Lemhi chief appears to have been a signatory to a 1868 treaty with the U.S. government. Being a signatory to a treaty is the "gold standard" of tribal status from the perspective of the U.S. government, Svingen said. In the early 1970s the federal Indian Claims Commission, formed after World War II to determine compensation for aboriginal lands, researched a claim filed by the Lemhi with other Idaho tribes. The commission apparently failed to discover the Lemhi were signatories to the Fort Bridger treaty of 1868, according to the WSU researchers. Since a treaty between a tribe and the federal government only can be overturned by an act of Congress, being a part of the treaty should have given the Lemhi open-ended fishing and hunting rights, said Mann. The tribe also should have been entitled to control of much of the reparation money granted by the commission. Because the Lemhi were not recognized as a tribe, they had to piggyback their claim on that of recognized tribes. Money was awarded for the Lemhi's traditional land, but shared with all groups filing the claim.
"Being in a minority, (the Lemhi) did not have a say on how those moneys were spent," Mann said. In 1911, the U.S. government folded the Lemhi population into other tribal rolls. Mann said. Even after that decision was made, an official Lemhi census continued to be kept as late as 1939, Svingen said. Mann said he could not discover in his research any particular reason the Lemhi census stopped. He infers "it was just too much trouble." Folding the Lemhi with other tribes "just would make the system work better and make it cheaper for the federal government." www.dnews.com
Sacajawea's people seek a homecoming
October 26, 1999 - By Timothy Egan - The New York Times
SALMON, Idaho - Here in the valley where the Shoshone teen-ager Sacajawea led Lewis and Clark to one of the most serendipitous encounters in the annals of discovery, the stores are full of Indian art, the pastures are grazed by Indian-bred horses, and the land itself is imprinted with Indian names. But there are no American Indians here. The Lemhi Shoshone, living links to the teen-age girl who was instrumental in leading the Corps of Discovery over the Continental Divide in 1805, have been all but erased from this place they have called home for hundreds of years.
The 400 or so Lemhi live on a reservation 200 miles south of here, on desert land set aside for two much bigger tribes. Orphans in an arid land, the Lemhi say they have been down so long that they use an ironic phrase to describe their current status. "Basically, we are the Indians to the other Indians," said Rod Ariwite, a leader of the Lemhi Shoshone. But the tribe's luck may be about to change. Spurred on by an extraordinary surge of interest in the journey of Lewis and Clark, hoopla over a new dollar coin honoring Sacajawea and recent scholarly finds that bolster Lemhi legal claims, the Indians from the west side of the Continental Divide are stirred by their last best hope for a homeland.
The Lemhi have asked President Clinton to carve out a small piece of federal land in the Salmon River country on the Idaho-Montana border as a place where the tribe can tell its story to the hordes of Lewis and Clark history buffs, honor their dead and try to stitch some of the past to the present. As it is, the only visible Indian in this valley is the Salmon High School mascot, a chieftain who represents "the Home of the Savages," as the school sign says. "They have Sacajawea heritage days, they have Sacajawea arts and crafts, they have everything but the real Indians who are Sacajawea's people in the valley," said Ariwite, an Air Force veteran and high school principal who grew up in Salmon but now lives in New Mexico and in Fort Hall, Idaho. "The feeling we get is, "We don't want you here, but we want your Sacajawea heritage." (Visit http://salmonchamber.com/ )
The white leaders of this community say they revere the most famous native of the valley but are ambiguous about any land being set aside for the Indians. "We all believe Sacajawea is not only the most famous Indian, but the most famous woman in America," said Stan Davis, mayor of this town of 3,000, set in an isolated Rocky Mountain valley of heart-stopping beauty. "And the way things are going now, with our timber, mining and fishing in trouble, it's almost like we've come full circle. We know what the Indians went through." Even late in this century, a small group of Lemhi, Ariwite among them, continued to live in shacks by the river at the edge of town here. But that tumbledown village was destroyed by the local authorities more than 10 years ago. It is now a small park covered with gravel. "It was our home," Ariwite said. "But I guess everyone else thought it was an eyesore." For a man who has an encyclopedic knowledge of the many slights dealt the Lemhi, Ariwite betrays only a trace of bitterness. My kids come up here with me to fish and camp in the summer, and they say, "Dad, how could you ever give this land up?" he said. "But we haven't given up. The Lewis and Clark bicentennial is going to be our last fight." "In 1805, the Americans asked for our help. Now we're asking for theirs."
Sho-Ban News - Interviews with Lemhi descendants - Summer 2005
TENDOY, ID — A group of Shoshone-Bannock tribal members conducted a prayer ceremony Friday at the Chief Tendoy monument to bless all living things such as the sagebrush, berries and other living things. Prayer leaders Lee Juan Tyler and Snookins Honena addressed their feelings about how disheartening it was to see historical markers (Nez Perce trail markers-below) giving territorial claim to a different tribe. “We got to respect our territory, even with somebody else. We care about us and the animals,” said Tyler at the cemetery site. He talked about how the people learn from the beaver, ants, everything, the butterfly. And right now tribes are fighting over water. “We’re fortunate we still have the language, the culture. Many people are new age around here. They want our medicine way. They want our eagle feathers. That’s where we could only show so much because it will get in the wrong hands,” continued Tyler.
Honena said the area is sacred, that a lot of things happened here, a lot of people destroyed the signs in the area. The plaque dedicated in 1990 to the existing monument was not there. He explained the smudging is to have the bad thoughts and feelings about certain people and the area to clear your mind. “Don’t do things. This area is sacred to the people, for you non-Indian is to understand the purpose of this monument, my great grandfather is buried here, Chief Tendoy,” said Honena, “All this area this way — all the way to Dillon, where people used to go hunting shopping, used this trail in the past.” Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Cultural Resource committee member Claudeo Broncho and Tribal Land Use Commissioner Tony Shay were also present. They sang prayer songs with Tyler and Honena. All four are descendents of Lemhi Valley residents who were removed from the area to Fort Hall. Also in attendance were Bureau of Land Management employees Steve Wright and Scott Feldhausen, along with tribal elder Lucy Diaz, her husband Joe and their daughter Barbara Edmo.
Honena explained that a lot of history is behind the location at Tendoy and his great grandfather Chief Tendoy didn’t want to go to Fort Hall. He resisted in his heart because he wanted to live in his homeland. After Chief Tendoy passed away and the Shoshones were moved to Fort Hall, Honena’s grandfather Topompey was made the leader. The white people gave him the name John Tendoy. Honena’s sister Lucy knew John as the Chief in Fort Hall from 1907-1929 when he passed away. “I’m kind of surprised to be looking at this Nez Perce trail coming down the road. Just because the Nez Perce was on the run through here,” said Honena, “the Fort Hall Council didn’t want them tied in at one time but the state of Idaho says that’s it. What can you say, the government you know. We’re still resisting a lot of things that’s happened here.” He said here’s where we want our prayers for good thoughts and everything to be all right. “Seems like just a memory now,” said Honena, “What I’m saying is the prayer is felt, you may not see or hear it, but it’s all around here, still they can see us. When I come here in my way when you go into different country you always give offerings, like cedar or something, give and pray, I do that when I come here in the mountains, I give offerings and pray. Here to the people, the Agai Dika.”
Honena wants the residents of the Tendoy and Lemhi Valley area to understand this is ancestral country and the Guards of the Rockies lived here. In history, it has been changed, as Honena explained the Natives live under the government now but deep in the heart “were still here and in prayers.” And with those words went into prayer. In 1914 a letter was delivered to the Citizens National Bank of Salmon requesting a monument be put in place for Chief Tendoy, at the head of his grave to mark his resting place. The marker was a tribute to the Chief who was held in high regard by his fellow band members and from his white friends. The Lemhi Valley Indian Reservation came into existence by an executive order for a mixture of Shoshone, Bannocks, and Sheepeater Indians, which was rescinded in 1905 and in 1907. “Lemhi Trail of Tears” was referred to by those who were forced away from their ancestral homeland to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. “We had an agreement, Nena Tendoy Tissidimit she said at one time. The Chinese people lived here. The white people didn’t like them digging for gold so I guess they wanted to get rid of them.
So later on they wanted to get rid of the Native people too,” said Lucy Diaz, Honena’s sister and Chief Tendoy descendent. Since the band was removed from the Lemhi Reservation in 1907 members return “annually to visit the area and Topompey visited his father’s grave, whose friendship for the whites during the settlement of the Lemhi Country saved them from serious trouble with other warring tribes, and as evidence of the high regard which he was held, his white friends subscribed a fund ($100,000) and placed a monument at the head of his grave to mark his last resting place,” the letter read and was signed by M.M. McPherson. The letter was officially stamped by “Headquarters Official Copy Fort Douglas, Utah.” A wooden memorial designed by BLM painted with the dates of 1905-1907 is at the entrance of the cemetery and reads: Dedicated to the Lemhi Indians who were forced to move from their homeland in the Lemhi Valley to the Fort Hall Reservation. Below that wording is a list of the people who forcibly walked the trail to Fort Hall. As Diaz viewed the names she talked of the people and the last names that she knew.
Diaz said the name Woodayogo, Roger is her great granddad, Elmira Beaversack is also one of their aunts. The Woodayogo name was changed three times, Leland changed his to Bear. And Robert changed his to Wooda. “A lot of people think we’re related to Bear’s but we’re not,” said Diaz, “A lot of people are gone. Majorie Yellowstone, I’m related to the Yellowstone too.” Lucy and Joe have been married for 62 years and Joe says he heard Lucy’s grandmother Nena talk about a lot of the oral history. “We heard it from Cora George and Fannie Silver,” said Lucy, “My grandmother was young when she married Topompey (John Tendoy).” There are many names on the wooden memorial at the cemetery entrance. The Sho-Ban News will publish the names in the near future, also with more information regarding this visit and the meeting with BLM officials and the City of Salmon. Clarifications: The feature story “A prayer for Agai Dika ancestors” information regarding Lucy Diaz was inaccurately reported in the Sho-Ban News May 5 edition. •Honena’s sister Lucy knew John as the Chief in Fort Hall from 1907-1927 when he passed away.
The right date should of read 1907-1929. •”We had an agreement, Nina Tendoy Tissidimit she said at one time, the Chinesex” Nina’s name should of read Nena. Nena is Lucy’s grandmother. •Lucy and Joe have been married for 62 years and Joes says he heard Lucy’s mother talk a lot about the oral history. It was not Lucy’s mother but was her grandmother, Nena. •”We heard it from Cora George and Fannie Baker,” said Lucy, “My grandmother was youngx” It was not Fannie Baker but Fannie Silver who related oral information to Lucy. Pohipes are of Shoshone descent and not Bannock as stated in the article.