Fort Hall Indian Reservation Issues




The Fort Bridger Treaty of 1868 treaty was entered into between the United States government and the Eastern Band of Shoshone Indians (known at the time as the "Washakie Band") and the Bannock Indians.  This treaty constitutes the starting point for defining the legal relationship between the federal government, the Tribes, and state and local agencies.  The Fort Hall Indian Reservation was created by executive order pursuant to the provisions of the 1868 treaty. 

For more information about the history of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes visit the Shoshone-Bannock Web Site.



The Idaho laws regarding jurisdiction on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation are set forth in Title 67, Chapter 51 of the IdahoCode and Article XXI, Section 19 of the Idaho Constitution.


The state of Idaho has concurrent jurisdiction over certain matters on the Fort Hall Indian Reservation.  This jurisdiction arises from Idaho's assumption of jurisdiction under a Congressional Act known as Public Law 280.  Under that federal law, certain states were allowed to assume jurisdiction in Indian country.  Idaho was one of those states that elected to assume jurisdiction.  Pursuant to Public Law 280, Idaho adopted Idaho Code 67-5101.  That statute gives the state jurisdiction over Indians for the areas of: compulsory school attendant, juvenile delinquency and youth rehabilitation, dependant, neglected and abused children, insanities and mental illness, public assistance, domestic relations, and the operation and management of motor vehicles upon highways and roads maintained by the county or state, or political subdivisions thereof.

Public Law 280 did not require the consent of the Tribes in order for the state to assume jurisdiction.  In assuming jurisdiction, the state of Idaho did not request or obtain the consent of the Tribes.  This failure to obtain consent, although not required by Public Law 280, is a primary points of contention with tribal members regarding the exercise of state jurisdiction on the Reservation.  Some tribal members consider this a legal/sovereignty issue, some see it as a respect issue, and some see it as both.

The Tribes and the state and local governments constantly struggle to define their legal relationship with one another.  The federal law on Indian affairs is frequently ambiguous or seemingly-contradictory, rather than clear and consistent.  This is primarily a result of the radical changes in policy towards Indians throughout the history of the United States.  The legal decisions tend to be heavily influenced by the prevailing policy goals of the federal government at the time the decisions were made.  Because of the lack of clear federal statutes and consistent case law, the various Indian tribes and the state and local governments are often left to themselves to attempt to reach a workable resolution to jurisdictional issues.

The federal government is responsible for protecting and securing the rights of the Indians which arise from treaties which were entered into between the federal government and the tribes.  Because the federal government is entrusted with providing this protection, it is frequently stated that the federal government has a "trust relationship" with the Indian tribes.  The United States Attorney's Office is assigned the responsibility of overseeing the preservation and protection of these Indian rights and federal obligations.  However, the Tribes are also entitled and empowered to take action, including bringing legal suits, to preserve and protect these rights and enforce these obligations.


There are currently no memorandums of understanding to display.

The Shoshone-Bannock Business Council is currently engaged in discussions with the Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney and the Bingham County Sheriff regarding the exercise of state jurisdiction over traffic laws within the Fort Hall Reservation boundaries.  The primary component of the proposed memorandum of understanding is a request by the Tribes that enrolled tribal members be allowed the option of having their traffic offenses litigated in Tribal Court, rather than State Court, when the offense occurred on the Reservation.  Power County has already agreed to such an arrangement.  The Business Counsel is still engaged in discussions with Caribou County and Bannock County.

The Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney has suggested to the Shoshone-Bannock representatives that a memorandum of understanding be entered into regarding the prosecution of Indian juveniles.  The suggestion is to commit to writing what has already been practiced by the Bingham County Prosecuting Attorney's Office since 1994.  The proposal is that Indian juveniles would not be prosecuted in State Court for offenses committed on the Reservation unless requested to do so by the tribal authorities.  The State of Idaho has resources that the Tribes do not have.  The purpose of the referral from the Tribes would be to use State resources to supplement the resources that the Tribes currently have in place for addressing juvenile delinquency.  Past and current practices have resulted in referrals to the State only for felony offenses.  Under existing federal law, the Tribes only have jurisdiction to prosecute misdemeanor offenses.  Felonies are referred to the United States Attorney for prosecution.  The United States Code limits the ability of the United States Attorney's Office to prosecute Indian juveniles to cases where the state authorities decline or refuse to prosecute the juvenile.  Only in extremely rare circumstances does this occur.  It is generally believed by both the county and tribal authorities that the best course of action in such cases is to bring the matter in State court and to utilize tribal resources to the maximum extent possible, with supplementation with State resources as needed.



The Idaho Supreme Court has placed a link to theTribal/State Court Forum - Benchbook on their website.  The benchbook is the product of the Tribal/State Forum's Benchbook Subcommittee.  It discusses the laws and customs of the various Indian tribes residing in Idaho as well as identifying the lawyers admitted to practice before the various Tribal Courts.  It outlines the tribal court systems and their relationship with other jurisdictions, including citations to these and other related topics.  It also lists the names, addresses, and other information about the various Indian Tribes.


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