The Benewah County prosecutor was incorrect to say the Coeur d’Alene Tribe in North Idaho does not have the right to hunt or fish on reservation land owned by non-tribal members, tribal officials say.
“Any explanation or advice to people that tribal members can’t hunt and fish anywhere on the reservation is wrong, and potentially dangerous,” said Helo Hancock, tribe spokesman. “I think it misleads people and could lead to people getting into a conflict situation.”
Hancock said the tribe owns about 3,500 acres in the reservation, or about 25 percent of the land. He told the Coeur d’Alene Press that the rest is state, federal or privately owned.
Doug Payne, the county’s prosecutor, said a 1960 opinion by the Solicitor General of the Department of the Interior said the executive order that created the reservation didn’t reserve to tribal members the right to hunt and fish on the land.
But Hancock said that the opinion Payne referred to had been overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1968.
He also said he’s never heard of conflicts between tribal hunters and private property owners, which include The Golf Club at Black Rock.
“I think there’s mutual respect,” he said. “For example, Black Rock is located within reservation boundaries. But you don’t hear about instances of elk being shot on the ninth hole.”
Payne disagreed, saying, “I’ve averaged for the last 10 years probably half a dozen complaints a year from landowners who say, ‘They came right in my yard and they shot at elk.”
A public meeting with U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson was planned for Tuesday to discuss the legal matter.