Tribal Leaders Participate in Idaho Council on Indian Affairs Meeting


Boise, Idaho – On Tuesday, June 6, 2023 the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs meeting was held in Boise at the State Capitol. Former Fort Hall Business Council (FHBC) Chairman Nathan Small and Sgt.-Of-Arms Gaylen Edmo attended on behalf of the Tribes. Other Idaho Tribal leaders attended from the Coeur d’Alene, Shoshone-Paiute and Nez Perce Tribes.

 Committee members include: Senator Phil Hart, Chair; Representative Brandon Mitchell; Senator James Just; Representative Nate Roberts; Bobbi-Jo Meuleman, Office of the Governor; Shannon Wheeler, Nez Perce Tribe; Chief Allan, Coeur d’Alene Tribe; Brian Mason, Shoshone-Paiute Tribes; Jennifer Porter, Kootenai Tribe and former FHBC Chairman Nathan Small.  

Chair Hart explained that it wasn’t a regular or a special meeting, rather a reconstitution of the Council on Indian Affairs because all of the legislative members are new. Hart called the meeting to order and allowed everyone to give introductions. Following introductions each Tribal leader gave an update on their elections and any leadership changes.

The agenda consisted of an introduction by Fred Martin, the new Tribal Relations Manager for the Department of Health and Welfare; a presentation by Nicole Irwin the Regional CEO for the American Red Cross of Idaho, Montana and East Oregon; an update on Tribal outreach and Tribal tudent learning achievements by Superintendent Debbie Critchfield, Idaho Superintendent of Public Instruction; an update from the Idaho State Historical Society Director Gallimore on Tribal relations; followed by discussion and remarks from audience members.

In response to Superintendent Critchfield’s update, Shoshone-Paiute Vice Chair, Arnold Thomas gave an update on their lobbying efforts to get a new school and their need of fiber optic cable for the school. He challenged the state of Idaho to contribute funding towards their efforts. He also said that he believed that Tribal history should be taught in schools with true facts and that there should be testing that is relevant to our true culture. “It’s a horrific, terrible history we have and it should be told, and we have documentation to prove that so there can be some type of reconciliation as well,” stated Thomas.

Hart commented that he has written a book on the history of taxes that he has been to the National Archives and Library of Congress a number of times. He said that if you want the history written accurately, you have to do it yourself. “That’s a challenge I guess to you and if you want to get it out there you have to roll up your sleeves and make it happen,” said Hart. Coeur d’Alene Chairman Allen responded that we will write it, but the school has to be agreeable to teach it.

Councilman Edmo had the opportunity to respond to Hart’s comment about rolling up our sleeves and writing about our own history so that it is known in the schools. “I don’t think I would be doing my job if I didn’t speak up on it,” stated Edmo. Edmo spoke of his Grandmother telling him that we live in a different world and that he needed to get a higher education or that people will not listen to you. “She would always say that the only way my voice was going to be heard was if I went and got a formal education, specifically in the law, and I went and got my Law Degree from the University of Idaho.”

Edmo continued to explain that while in school people would get offended by the true history that he told.  “For decades we have tried to put our own history out there, and its not for a lack of trying. It’s because there have been institutional road blocks and people not wanting to hear Indian people speak up about our version of history,” said Edmo. “I’m lucky to be able to stand here and speak in front of this group and be a leader for my people, and I’m speaking up on behalf of my elders. I know if your statement is bothering me, it would have bothered them even more.

During Small’s introduction he announced that he was retiring and had one week remaining on the FHBC.  Small will be replaced on the committee by a current FHBC member at a future date.  The next Idaho Council on Indian Affairs meeting will be on September 15, 2023 in which elections will occur for officers to serve for the next year.  

To watch the meeting in its entirety you can download the meeting by visiting The Official website of the Idaho Legislature 2023 Idaho Council on Indian Affairs at



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