July 9, 1995 in Idaho

Chenoweth Remarks Called Racist Sen. Reed Says Republican Sullied Idaho’s Rights Image

Associated Press

U.S. Rep. Helen Chenoweth’s anti-Indian remarks are smudging human rights laws enacted to show Idaho is not a home for racists, state Sen. Mary Lou Reed says.

The assistant Senate Democratic leader said Friday she decided to speak out because Chenoweth “is getting away with something she shouldn’t get away with. I think she has some racist feelings and that isn’t the Idaho way.”

But Chenoweth spokeswoman Khris Bershers said the Republican congresswoman is simply questioning the confusing relationship with the Indian tribes under their treaties.

“Helen isn’t a whites-only bigot,” Bershers said. “She believes in equal opportunity for everyone, including Indians.”

Chenoweth opposed an agreement with the Bonneville Power Administration that gave $3 million to the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and $7.1 million to the Nez Perce Tribe in compensation for wildlife habitat lost when Dworshak Reservoir was built. Chenoweth cited concerns about the impact on the local economy and private property rights.

Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee Chairman Samuel Penney last week charged Chenoweth does not have a clue about the treaties because she mixed up the tribe’s bid for water rights through the Snake River Basin Adjudication with the Bonneville deal.

Chenoweth denied his charges and countered the federal government needs to clarify its policies about dealing with tribes because they are creating confusion.

“After all,” she said earlier, “the federal government hasn’t treated all Americans equally because it has limited the rights of the white person to hunt and fish.”

“While there was little ethnic diversity when the treaties with the Indian tribes were signed, I understand I made a poor choice of words in using the phrase ‘white people,”’ Chenoweth said Friday.

Bershers said Chenoweth does not want to exclude Indian tribes from Idaho.

“Her position is the water belongs to the states, not the tribes,” she said.

“Helen Chenoweth’s after-the-fact comments only serve to trouble the waters for no apparent positive reason,” Reed said. “Idaho has enacted strong human rights legislation to show the rest of the world Idaho is not a haven for whites-only bigots. Chenoweth’s divisive words do damage to that hard-fought state policy.”

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