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Native American tribes ask to be included in Idaho redistricting process

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Redistricting commissioner Thomas Daley, pictured standing at right, speaks to the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs on Aug. 16, 2021. Photo by Clark Corbin/Idaho Capital Sun.

Process of redrawing legislative and congressional boundaries could begin Sept. 1

Representatives from Idaho’s Native American tribes asked Monday to be included in the state’s redistricting process, which is expected to kick off next month.

The request came during the first 2021 meeting of the Idaho Council of Indian Affairs, which is made up of state legislators, tribal members and a representative from Gov. Brad Little’s office.

Redistricting is the process of redrawing the state’s legislative and congressional boundaries based on new U.S. Census Bureau data to ensure proportional representation.

“We just want to make sure that minority voters and tribal voters are not diluted into other districts,” said Samuel Penney, chairman of the Nez Perce Tribal Executive Committee. “That the process is completed and it’s fair and done in a timely manner, that’s what we request.”

Ladd Edmo, secretary of the Fort Hall Business Council that governs the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, agreed and asked for some of the planned public hearings on the redistricting process to take place on tribal reservations.

“It is important to look at the underserved and the counties that have very few representatives at this highest level of the state,” Edmo said.

Edmo added that the Fort Hall Reservation includes land in four counties — Bannock, Power, Caribou and Bingham.

Two of the members of Idaho’s Citizen’s Committee on Reapportionment urged the tribes to get involved in the process and said their input would be valuable.

“Our charge is to make sure every person is adequately and fairly represented,” said redistricting commissioner Thomas Daley, a former GOP state representative.

Dan Schmidt, a redistricting commissioner and former Democratic state senator, said tribal representatives can play an important role in helping redistricting commissioners understand how county lines don’t always match up with communities of interest, such as Native American tribes.

“That is an important consideration for you to share with us commissioners,” Schmidt said.

Daley broke a little news Monday, saying the first meeting of the redistricting commission will likely take place Sept. 1. Once the commission convenes its first meeting, it will have 90 days to submit its maps and redistricting plan to the Idaho Secretary of State’s office.

What is the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs?

The Idaho Council on Indian Affairs was created in state law to monitor legislation, advise the government on issues regarding state and tribal relations and facilitate cooperation between the tribes, individuals and state government.

Idaho has five federally recognized Native American tribes, the Nez Perce, Shoshone-Bannock, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai and Shoshone-Paiute tribes, all of which participated in Monday’s meeting.

The section of Idaho law creating the council calls for it to meet twice a year, with the potential for additional special meetings from time-to-time.

However, Monday’s meeting at the Statehouse was the first since Feb. 19, 2020, mere weeks before the first COVID-19 case was confirmed in Idaho.

Sen. Jim Woodward, R-Sagle, was elected chairman of the Idaho Council on Indian Affairs on Monday while Brian Thomas, chairman of the Shoshone-Paiute Tribal Business Council, was elected vice chairman.

The Council on Indian Affairs did not set a formal follow up meeting date when it adjourned Monday. Woodward suggested the commission could meet again late during the 2022 legislative session. Penney, the chairman of the Nez Perce Tribe, and Sen. David Nelson, D-Moscow, requested an earlier meeting date so members and the tribes could be more involved in the legislative process.

The Idaho Capital Sun is a nonprofit news organization delivering accountability reporting on state government, politics and policy in the Gem state. As longtime Idahoans ourselves, we understand the challenges and opportunities facing Idaho. We provide in-depth reporting on legislative and state policy, health care, tax policy, the environment, Idaho’s explosive population growth and more. Our mission is relentless investigative journalism that sheds light on how decisions in Boise and beyond are made and how they affect everyday Idahoans. We aim to tell untold stories and provide data, context and analysis on the issues that matter most throughout the state. The Capital Sun is part of States Newsroom, a national 501(c)(3) nonprofit supported by grants and a coalition of donors and readers. We retain full editorial independence.