Published May 1, 2016
Pocatello, Idaho prohibits doing business with Tribe
FORT HALL, IDAHO – The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes (Tribes) expose discriminatory contract provisions in an agreement between the City of Pocatello (City) and at least one of its tenants, Pocatello Solar I, LLC, at the City of Pocatello airport within the exterior boundaries of the Fort Hall Reservation. The City’s contract provisions expressly state the company renting land from the City at the airport shall “not enter into any written agreement with the Tribes” without the City’s approval. Further, the agreement provides if the City’s tenant receives communications from the Tribes, the tenant must “immediately provide” the City “with a copy of any written correspondence or material” received from the Tribes.
The Tribes discovered the existence of the inflammatory contract provisions when speaking with the tenant regarding a proposed construction development within reservation boundaries near the City’s airport. The developers informed the Tribes they were unable to put anything in writing with the Tribes or they would be in breach of their contract. Upon further investigation, the Tribes obtained the lease with the developer which contained the improper provisions.
The Tribes believe such provisions are included in the lease provisions in an attempt to avoid the Tribe’s ability to regulate activities that occur within its reservation boundaries. Such regulation is deemed vital to the Tribes existence, since it has already had another business operation which contaminated an area of the reservation to such a degree that it was declared a Superfund site by the federal government in 1990. A Superfund site is any land in the United States that has been contaminated by hazardous waste and identified by the federal government for cleanup because it poses a risk to human health and/or the environment.
On April 26, 2016, the City’s Mayor, Brian Blad, issued a press release stating “we know and love and embrace all who live in and visit our city.” The Tribes are optimistic that the City’s attention to the discrimination issue may result in progress for the community. The people of the Tribes share the concerns of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia governments regarding negative racial attitudes that still exist in the community. They also hope the City’s attention to this issue comes from a desire to overcome racism and not from the fear of losing the Middle Eastern monies derived from the students’ presence. The Tribes submit that a good faith first step in embracing diversity would be to address discrimination as to “all” minorities in the community. The Tribes also suggest the City remove such racially charged provisions in their City contracts, since actions speak louder than words.
Negative attitudes poison our society. According to the Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, at least 70% of the violent victimizations experienced by American Indians are committed by persons not of the same race, which is a substantially higher rate of interracial violence than experienced by white or black victims. As the cities neighbor, the Tribes hope to create a new era of cooperation and acceptance where attitudes are changed and business interaction is promoted with the Tribes instead of prohibited. According to a economic study the Tribes contribute $400 million to the regional economy. We are friendly neighbors and potential business partners that only want the best for southeast Idaho.