Tribes sign contract with Bureau of Indian Affairs

Fort Hall, Idaho (AP) 10-09

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has signed an agreement with the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes to help pay for operations at the tribes’ $19.7 million Justice Center.

The contract signed commits the BIA to provide recurring funding for operations and maintenance at the new facility. The exact amount of money has not yet been determined.

“This is a very historic day for the tribes – it’s been a long time coming,” James Glaze, legal counsel for the Tribes, told the Idaho State Journal. “The tribes are truly taking control of their own justice systems.”

Construction of the Justice Center started in June. It is expected to be completed in December and to open in February.

The Justice Center will consist of three courtrooms and separate detention areas that will be able to hold up to 80 adults and 20 juveniles.

“This (Business Council) is progressive and on a fast track to get the justice center completed,” said BIA Special Agent Matthew W. Pryor. “They are going to set standards for other tribes wanting a justice center.”

To pay for the center, the Tribes last year obtained a $15.9 million loan from the Native American Bank to go with $4 million the tribe set aside as seed money a decade ago.

“It’s taken us 20 years and a lot of frustrations but we’re finally close to making this center a reality,” said Small. “With the help of the BIA, we hope to make our Justice Center the best of its kind in the West.”

Majel Russell, a legal consultant for the tribes with Elk River Law, said the BIA is also working on a plan to lease most of the law enforcement space and about a third of the corrections space at the center as a way for the Tribes to recoup construction costs.

Also, the tribes earlier this year proposed that the BIA designate the center a regional detention facility for tribes.