the film
Commentaries and editorials

Orofino Chamber Fights Indians in the Name of Water

by Ron Hanes
Lewiston Tribune, February 22, 2005

On Jan. 24, the Orofino Chamber of Commerce took a giant step in the wrong direction regarding Indian-white relations on the Nez Perce Indian Reservation. Choosing to urge elected representatives to vote against the Snake River Basin Adjudication (SRBA) settlement and hiring Chuck Cuddy as lobbyist come as no surprise. It is apparent the chamber is listening to the same old Indian fighters.

Being against the SRBA settlement is not the issue I have with the chamber. These people are so outnumbered statewide that they'll appear as whiners and the settlement will carry by a large majority of state legislators, as it should.

What really bothers me here is Mr. Cuddy's and the chamber's casual use of the phrase "former Nez Perce Reservation." Those are inflammatory words. This stoops to the level of name calling; why would anyone choose to take this position in a disagreement?

Again, when discussing fin- clipping of hatchery fish, the Indians are stereotyped and assigned the label of "if not dishonest at least unreliable." According to Cuddy and the chamber, the transfer of operations at local hatcheries is bad, bad, bad. However, if Cuddy or the chamber had taken the time to inquire with Dworshak Hatchery management, which they did not, they would find that the ongoing coho salmon project, in conjunction with the tribe, is progressing along rather smoothly and will provide a model for future cooperation.

In addition, they have a multitude of technical facts right down to prescribed fin-clipping ratios, etc. The hatchery folks gave me the impression that the changes at the hatchery will require some extra effort, the transfer will work, and unless you're employed there you'll not even know the change is happening.

Regarding the Department of Lands' role in the SRBA settlement, Chuck Cuddy and his Water Rights Coalition again give us the low down. What caught my eye was this statement: "enrollees will be required to allow Idaho Department of Lands to enter their property for monitoring purposes."

Some of that scary stuff again. Has anybody heard of the Forest Practices Act? That's the current law. It's not an opinion. The law requires you, me or anybody else to allow the Idaho Department of Lands to enter your property for monitoring purposes whenever you harvest, particularly in the vicinity of Class I streams or "stream segments of concern."

I'm glad someone is watching when you or I harvest timber from our land. I wish someone had been watching closer when a lot of the timber was harvested from this area.

I personally have found the Department of Lands a welcome partner in managing my wood lot. People like Roland Craft and Mary Fritz have provided a reliable source of training and information through workshops, seminars and visits to my property to help with management decisions that have assured me a healthy and productive forest while providing wildlife habitat, clean water and a people-friendly environment.

Six months ago, Cuddy labeled himself "friend of the environment." Now he expresses resentment for government intrusion. Which is it going to be?

Had Cuddy or the chamber contacted the Department of Lands, locally or at the state level, they would be told, as I was, that the proposed forest management changes portion of the SRBA settlement is something that was coming anyway. It's just going to happen a little faster. Regulations in regard to "no-cut" zones, road building and culvert sizes are good measures that will afford additional protection for sensitive areas. Like the others, these changes will transpire with little effect on us.

By their association with the Indian fighters, the chamber has certainly left itself vulnerable. By the very nature of the name "Chamber of Commerce," they represent businesses, and these businesses can be sanctioned for their actions. As an example, if I was a Nez Perce Indian I certainly would withdraw my business from any members of the Orofino Chamber of Commerce. I will personally take a new look at who I am doing business with.

All of us have a choice to make. If we sit by quietly and do nothing, we send the message that we all share the fears and hateful feelings expressed by the Orofino chamber. So as to not be counted among you, I must speak out against you.

The future is in working together, Indians and whites, and the things that have been said only cripple this effort and ensure that it will not work.

Ron Hanes
Orofino Chamber Fights Indians in the Name of Water
Lewiston Tribune, February 22, 2005

See what you can learn

learn more on topics covered in the film
see the video
read the script
learn the songs
discussion forum
salmon animation