December 23, 2013

Honoring Native American Heritage

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

The five Native American tribes of Idaho-the Coeur d'Alene, Kootenai, Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone-Paiute-contribute to Idaho's rich culture and are intrinsic to Idaho's history and development. 

In recognition of their important role in our communities, for the past five years, I have supported legislation to celebrate the heritages of Native Americans and their contributions to the United States.  The resolution I co-sponsored, which was passed by the Senate by Unanimous Consent on November 20, 2013, recognizes a number of contributions of Native Americans to our nation.  S.Res. 305 was introduced by Senator Maria Cantwell (D-Washington) and co-sponsored by a bipartisan group of 25 senators.  The resolution includes the following recognitions:

  • Native Americans maintain vibrant cultures and traditions and hold a deeply rooted sense of community;
  • Native Americans have moving stories of tragedy, triumph and perseverance that need to be shared with future generations;
  • Native Americans have made distinct and important contributions to the United States and the rest of the world in many fields, including the fields of agriculture, medicine, music language, and art;
  • Native Americans have distinguished themselves as inventors, entrepreneurs, spiritual leaders and scholars;
  • Native Americans have served with honor and distinction in the Armed Forces of the United States, and continue to serve in the Armed Forces in greater numbers per capita than any other group in the United States.

In addition to designating November as national Native American Month and the day after Thanksgiving as Native American Heritage Day to honor the great achievements of Native Americans and their ancestors, the resolution emphasizes Congress' reaffirmation of tribal self-governance and its commitment to "improving the lives of all Native Americans by enhancing health care and law enforcement resources, improving the housing and socioeconomic status of Native Americans, and approving settlement litigation involving Indian tribes and the United States." 

The tribes' significant role in our economy is reflected in a report by Steven Peterson, Research Economist and Instructor, Department of Business, University of Idaho titled "The Economic Impacts of the Five Tribes of Idaho."  This 2010 report that was jointly sponsored by the five tribes indicates that collectively the Idaho tribes are among the top ten employers in Idaho.  The report indicates that the tribes are responsible for 6,258 jobs when taking into account various tribal governmental, enterprise and contracting activities.  Further, the report specifies that the tribes contributed approximately $877.9 million in economic activity in 2009 alone and generated $24.7 million in state and local tax revenues. 

The Native American Tribes in Idaho have contributed much to our state`s complex history, our culture and our economy and will continue to do so.

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