An Airport located within a Native American reservation is found to have discriminated against the Tribes

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FAA: City of Pocatello’s airport lease language discriminates against Shoshone-Bannock Tribes

Airport owned by City, surrounded by Reservation

Lease term required Lessee to report contact with Tribe

FAA says discriminates

Horrendous History of Treatment of Tribe

Aviation is an interesting industry because, in part, it touches so many topics- aerodynamics, meteorology, environment, engineering, government/politics, air traffic control, construction and on and on. The above headline is intriguing: how or why an airport would/could discriminate against Shoshone-Bannock Tribes? The bizarre story which unfolds merits repeating here!!!

The how is clear-the City of Pocatello[1], not the airport, requires that all leases include the following language:

The wording of the agreement in 2016 reads:

  1. Tribal Issues.  Lessee agrees to immediately provide Lessor with a copy of any written correspondence or verbal and/or written demands delivered to Lessee by representatives of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. Moreover, Lessee shall not enter into any agreement with the Tribes regarding the leased premises or Lessee’s operations thereon without first obtaining Lessor’s written consent to do so.

So. in March of 2017, the city changed the agreement to instead read:

  1. Third Party Governmental Agencies.  Lessee acknowledges and agrees to immediately provide Lessor with a copy of any written correspondence or verbal and/or written demands provided to Lessee regarding the leased demise by any third-party governmental agency including, but not an exhaustive list, any county, local taxing district or any tribal authority.  Moreover, Lessee shall not enter into any written agreement with any third-party governmental agency regarding the leased premises or Lessee’s operations thereon without first obtaining lessor’s written consent to do so.

The City was situated in the middle of the Fort Hall Reservation. The federal government assumed control of the 3,300 acre tract during World War II, for use as an air base. And despite verbal assurances that they would return the land to the tribes, the feds sold it for $1 to the neighboring City of Pocatello. The City has reason to be informed about relationships between a PIH tenant. The Mayor is quoted as saying”[t]hey still have to get permission from the city, any time they meet with any third party group, government entity, any third party…That includes anyone and everyone. The City of Pocatello needs to know what’s happening with their tenants there at the airport.”

The controversy appears to have continued, according to a local news report:

Pocatello’s Mayor Brian Blad informed the FAA it routinely includes that discriminatory language in Lease Agreements. Instead of taking responsibility for the discriminatory language and correcting the problem in consultation with the Tribes, Mayor Blad informed the media “it’s ludicrous to think that we are discriminating against them [the Tribes] in my opinion… (KPVI News Report May 2, 2016). The City paid a national law firm to represent it in the investigation.  The City argued it was proper to discriminate against the Tribes and “if the Tribes’ arguments were accepted, then it would follow that the countries of Iran or Sudan could sue for discrimination.”

“THE TRIBES ARE NOT SURE WHY THE CITY’S ATTORNEYS USED A COMPARISON OF PREDOMINANTLY ISLAMIC NATIONS TO AN AMERICAN INDIAN TRIBE, BUT BELIEVE CULTURAL SENSITIVITY TRAINING FOR THEIR LAW FIRM AND CITY WOULD BE APPROPRIATE.” 

Now that the FAA has determined the City’s actions were discriminatory, the Tribes hope the Mayor will publicly apologize to the Tribes for the racial discrimination and pledge to make stronger efforts to work with the Tribes in the future. The FAA decision is an opportunity for the City and Mayor to realize that business as usual is not a proper path forward.  Chairman Small stated, “If the City utilizes this opportunity to work together, we could foster the shared understanding of both communities, which benefits our citizens for better opportunities and management of our shared resources.”

The Tribes pursued an informal complaint process with the FAA because it wanted to create a forum for the City to correct the discrimination that would not affect federal funding received for the airport. The Tribes hope the City will take advantage of the Tribes kind gesture and avoid possible corrective action.  Chairman Small further stated, “We hope the FAA’s findings of discrimination will help facilitate a dialogue with the City of Pocatello on how to better recognize and remedy discrimination within their municipality, their business dealings, and within themselves.”

The history of the treatment of these tribes adds to their basis for taking umbrage at the City’s action and most recent statement. The entered into the Fort Bridger Treaty peace treaties in 1863 and 1868.President Andrew Johnson’s Executive Order reserved 8 million acres, then it was reduced to 1.2 million acres in 1872 as a result of a survey error and the present size of 814.874 sq. mi. through subsequent legislation and the allotment process.

If the discrimination continues, perhaps the FAA will find the City to be an unfit sponsor and apply reverter to the original owners.

 

[1] PIH is owned by the City.



 

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3 Comments on "An Airport located within a Native American reservation is found to have discriminated against the Tribes"

  1. Teri Hanright | August 23, 2018 at 4:26 am | Reply

    The problem goes back to the city buying the airport for $1; that was not legal. The airport was promised back to the tribes after WWII, and they should have control of the airport land. The FAA controls the airspace and the tribes should control the land. The city should be erased from the equation. It’s a federal and tribal matter from beginning to end.

  2. Yes,Teri Hanright, we recognized that history–“And despite verbal assurances that they would return the land to the tribes, the feds sold it for $1 to the neighboring City of Pocatello.”

  3. The PIH was legally stolen. Adds to the racist legacy of Pocatello! We (tribes) have offered to help them create jobs and bring more revenue but were soundly rebuffed. Don’t people like jobs, making money? Why were we rebuffed? One reason, racism!

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