MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho --
November is National Native American Heritage Month, a time when the U.S. recognizes contributions made by Native Americans since long before the nation's founding. Hundreds of tribes span across the country all with a thriving culture and a rich history of traditions still practiced to this day.
Idaho's native roots run deep and are claimed by a few large tribes scattered throughout the state.
"The Shoshone-Paiute and Bannock Tribes stretch across the southern part of Idaho into Oregon and Nevada," said Ted Howard, Duck Valley Indian Reservation cultural resource director. "The Nez Percé Tribe is in central Idaho, north of that the Salish, and the Kutnai way up north by the Canadian border."
Howard explained, the Shoshone-Paiute people are the largest group in Idaho and have settled in most of the southern part of the state throughout history. Many areas in Idaho carry a special significance with the Shoshone-Paiute people. Places like the Snake River, Bruneau Canyon and what we know today as C.J. Strike Reservoir have a history with the native people who have and still occupy these regions. Some historic sites, however, contain important relics of the past. The tribes of Idaho view these artifacts as sensitive pieces of their past and hold them dear.
"This is our homeland, we are still a living culture, practicing our traditions and we still visit our sites," Howard said. "If you find an artifact, look at it but don't take it. Please leave it alone and treat things with respect out there. Those objects are important to us. If we all do that, hopefully they will be there for a long time."
Often times, these artifacts are part of the land shared by those in the Treasure Valley. Pictorial murals, statues and structures are located throughout southern Idaho.
"If Airmen find an artifact they must leave it in place according to federal law," said Sheri Robertson, 366th Civil Engineer Squadron, chief of environmental. "It's important because if those arrowheads or bottles or anything left behind by those people are removed, clues to the past could be lost."
Howard explained how protecting the land, preserving history and understanding different cultures should be a priority for everyone.
"It's important to teach the people of Idaho the true history [of Native American Tribes]," Howard said. "If we are afraid to talk about it or refuse to recognize the past, how can we ever understand the present?"
Visit the Shoshone-Paiute Tribes website at http://shopaitribes.org/spt-15/sptmain.html
for more information regarding the tribes' history and culture.