Three Shoshone-Bannock hunters charged with violating Idaho’s game laws will present the state its second legal test of tribal hunting rights at trial.
Three Sho-Ban hunters were cited for killing big game on state-owned land last month. They carried valid tribal hunting permits that state officials agree entitled them to hunt on federal property but not on state lands.
Idaho Fish and Game conservation officer Joe Curry cited Rick Yellowhair, 34, of Blackfoot, for killing an elk on state lands west of St. Anthony. He later cited Noah Fred, 24, and Ricky Ray Dann, 25, both of Fort Hall, for killing one deer each in the same area.
In a similar 1984 case, the U.S. Supreme Court decided Idaho could regulate Sho-Ban hunting on state lands.
“Had they killed these animals on Forest Service or (Bureau of Land Management) land, they would have been within their treaty rights,” Curry said.
The Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868, which ordered the tribes to live at the Fort Hall Reservation, entitled them to regulate their own hunting on lands not withdrawn for specific uses such as national parks.
An 1896 U.S. Supreme Court decision in the Ward vs. Race Horse case interpreted such treaties to allow tribal subsistence hunting only on unreserved federal lands, and not on state lands.
That decision was cited in court as recently as last year when a federal judge allowed the Wyoming Game and Fish Department to regulate Montana’s Crow Indians hunting in Wyoming.
The 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals determined Ward vs. Race Horse meant the Crows had surrendered their hunting rights even on federal lands in Wyoming when they signed a treaty designating their reservation in southern Montana.
The case and ensuing citations throughout the West have angered Indian-rights activists. Crow Nation Executive Assistant Arlo Dawes posted an alert on the Internet urging viewers to contact President Clinton, Attorney General Janet Reno and Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt with their concerns.
All three defendants in the Idaho case have pleaded innocent, court records show. Yellowhair is scheduled to go to trial Jan. 8; Fred and Dann are scheduled for trial Jan. 22.