Sacajawea and me

Today was one of those times where I get to combine a little bit of pleasure with some work.  Chuck Vogel, my host while I’m here in Idaho Falls had to go to Pocatello and let me ride along.  He got to telling me about the Shoshone-
Bannock Reservation and asked if I’d like to go there and get some stories and photographs.  Of course, I jumped at the chance.  He called a friend of his, David, to see if I could get a tour of the reservation while Chuck was in town on business.  His friend said sure, so our first stop was by the casino to meet Dave.

Dave, a tribal judge who graciously took his time to show me around “the rez”.

Dave and I chatted as we drove around the reservation.  Found out that like me, he was in the Navy also.  Once he got out of the Navy he entered the field of journalism and has written some great stuff!  One of the highlights of his career was the chance to attend a press dinner in the State Room at The White House when Reagan was in office.  There will be more about this in an article sometime, so I won’t steal the thunder now.

Dave introduced me to Randi, the PAO (Public Affairs Officer) for the tribe.  Randi is also the lady who was the model for the Sacajawea gold coin that the U.S. started minting in 2000.

That’s Randi on the left

After a few minutes with Randi, it was back into Dave’s SUV.  Here’s some shots on what we saw.

The original tribal mission building built in 1868, the year the tribe was moved to the reservation. Regular services are held there and even though it’s now an Episcopal Church, the building is interfaith — serving all denominations.


One of the older buildings on the reservation. Obviously abandoned now.


Phosphorous used to be mined on the reservation. The mine shut down in the 1980s, but there are still settling ponds on the mine site that the EPA has capped. While the EPA would dip into it’s Superfund money to clean up any similar contaminated area where there was wealth, they have not touched the ponds which are leeching into the aquifer.


When Dave was a boy, he used to fish in this river. Now due to the pollutants from the abandoned mine, people can’t eat the fish anymore.


The land on the reservation is super dry and people are on heightened alert for grass fires. Such a fire occurred a few days before my visit.


Arson is suspected


The Shoshone tribe is a “pay-as-you-go” tribe meaning they do not believe in incurring debt. Pictured here is a two year old, state of the art, justice center that was paid for with matching funds from the Bureau of Indian Affairs.


There are still people willing to take advantage of the indians. This structure is somebody’s home. They have no head or a/c and no insulation. The house is about 20 x 18 and they pay $400 a month rent. It’s owned by two doctor’s in Pocatello


While the Shoshone have two casino’s on the reservation, there main income is from potatoes. Approximately 1/3 of the potatoes in the USA come from this reservation.

Yep, it’s been a good day.  I hope to make it back to “the rez” sometime soon.

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