American Indians

The rugged coastline of the Pacific Northwest is dotted with historic cities and sea ports. But today’s well-established metropolises belie the imagination and tenacity that it took to settle this wild and remote region.

In 1809, John Jacob Astor -- a young, ambitious New York businessman -- saw the potential of the Northwest coast as a great trading emporium for the western half of the United States. Astor dispatched a land and sea party that he hoped would arrive at what is now Astoria, Oregon. The plan was to set up a Jamestown-like colony and establish a fur trading empire.

It took Edward Curtis just a few years after arriving in the small town of Seattle in 1887 to establish a reputation as one of its finest portrait photographers. Uneducated and self-taught, he quickly became one of the most respected lensmen in America and was summoned to capture images of President Theodore Roosevelt and even the president’s daughter’s wedding.

The mysterious Clovis culture, which appeared in North America about 13,000 years ago, appears to be the forerunner of Native Americans throughout the Americas, according to a study in Nature. Scientists have read the genetic sequence of a baby from a Clovis burial site in Montana to help fill out the story of the earliest Americans.

Leaders of three Native American tribes say they should have the first option if any of Idaho's 32 million acres of federal land are ever transferred to state control.

Tribal leaders were one of several interest groups to testify Monday before the Legislature's Federal Lands Interim Committee meeting. Others included ranchers, timber industry executives, environmentalists and sportsmen.

A red pickup rolls into a 1,000-acre pasture of dry grassland on the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation in northern Montana. Mark Azure, director of the reservation's fish and wildlife department, is out looking for buffalo when he spots about two dozen of the furry beasts gathering around a watering hole.

The animals are "grazing, wallowing, drinking, checking us out," Azure explains. He says the tribes have been working to see these bison here for years.

"This is their home, this is where they came from," he says.

Adam Cotterell / Boise State Public Radio

American Indian tribes have more than access to National Parks on the line with the government shutdown, as federal funding has been cut off for crucial services including foster care payments, nutrition programs and financial assistance for the needy.

Some tribes say they'll try to fill the gap themselves, risking deficits to cushion communities with chronic high unemployment and poverty against effects of the budget battle in Washington, D.C.

Imagine running power lines through a cathedral. That's how archaeologists describe what the Bonneville Power Administration proposes doing in the Columbia River Gorge in Washington state. The federal electricity provider is trying to string a new transmission line near a cave that contains ancient paintings, a site considered sacred by Native Americans.

Tribal casinos are trying to appeal to a new kind of customer – one who may not even gamble at all. 

Courtesy Shoshone-Bannock Tribe | Miss Indian Nations

A 25-year-old Idaho State University student is the new Miss Indian Nations.

Alexandria Alvarez, of Fort Hall, Idaho, was crowned over the weekend during the United Tribes International Powwow, which draws thousands of people each year to the North Dakota capital of Bismarck.

The Miss Indian Nations scholarship pageant is open to all Native American women who are at least one-fourth Indian and are between the ages of 18 and 26. The winner serves as an ambassador for all Indian nations.

cigarette, tobacco
SuperFantastic / Flickr Creative Commons

State Supreme Court justices bolstered Idaho's power to regulate cigarettes shipped to Indian-owned businesses in a ruling that touched not only on Native American sovereignty but also public health.

Justices wrote Thursday that Idaho could prevent Canadian-made cigarettes — ones that hadn't been taxed in the U.S. to help cover tobacco-related illness costs — from being shipped to a Coeur d'Alene Indian Reservation-based retailer.

Courtesy of the Idaho Statesman

It’s been more than a month since the federal budget cuts took effect. The across-the-board spending cuts impact federal agencies including the Pentagon and the FAA. American Indian tribes in Idaho are now beginning to see the impact of those cuts.

Amber Ebarb is a policy analyst at the National Congress of American Indians. She says for many tribes, the sequester could not have come at a worse time. She says there are nearly 18,000 American Indians eligible for services in Idaho.

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Idaho tribes want the Legislature to tell counties to quit taxing tribal government land on the state's reservations.

Helo Hancock, a lobbyist for the Coeur d'Alene Tribe in northern Idaho, told the House Revenue and Taxation Committee Monday the issue first arose in 2006.

Then, Idaho tribes received a "flurry of assessments" on land that had once been homesteaded, but later re-acquired by tribal governments.

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — U.S. government officials are rolling out a Native American land buyback program as part of a $3.4 billion settlement over mismanaged royalties.

The 10-year, $1.9 billion program is meant to purchase individual allotments from willing Indians and turn over the consolidated parcels to tribes.

Program manager John McClanahan said Tuesday it could be up to a year before the first land sales are completed.

Thomas Hawk / Flickr

Close to 6,000 American Indians in Idaho will get a check this week for $1,000. It’s part of a landmark settlement with the federal government over the mismanagement of American Indian land.

Just in time for the holidays, about 300,000 American Indians nationally will receive checks from the $3.4 billion settlement. The settlement is the result of a lawsuit started by Montana Blackfeet woman Elouise Cobell in 1996. Cobell died of cancer during the appeals process in 2011.  

Jason Karsh 2012 / Flickr

The first payouts from a historic class-action suit against the federal government will be sent to American Indians within the week. The settlement will be split by 500,000 American Indians, including many in the Northwest.

Lead plaintiff Elouise Cobell sued the federal government 16 years ago. As treasurer of the Blackfoot Tribe in Montana, she discovered the government had mismanaged individual Indian land held in trust. A settlement was reached in 2009, but a two-year appeals process held up disbursements. Cobell died during that time.