UI study highlights tribal impacts on economy

Fort Hall, Idaho (AP) October 2010

The Shoshone-Bannock Tribes adds 4,097 jobs and $331 million in revenue to the state economy, according to a University of Idaho study.

The Nez Perce, Coeur d’Alene, Kootenai, Shoshone-Bannock and Shoshone Paiute tribes commissioned the study that looked at 2009 economic information. In preliminary results released in April, the study found that the five tribal nations in Idaho have an economic impact of more than $850 million.

The final study isn’t due out until spring, the Idaho State Journal reports, but the Shoshone-Bannock group is already talking up preliminary findings about how much it affects the regional economy.

“We contribute a great deal of money to surrounding communities,” said Nathan Small, chairman of the Fort Hall Business Council.

Unemployment and poverty remain significant problems in reservation communities, though tribes, including the Shoshone-Bannock group, have expanded in recent years to include casinos, as well as agricultural activities that traditionally formed the backbone of their local economies.

Steven Peterson, a research economist at the University of Idaho who is the study’s author, says the contribution of tribes isn’t well understood. He wants to spread the word about just how important Idaho tribes are in bolstering the state’s output.

“(One of my study goals) is to inform the public of the magnitude and value Native American operations have,” he said.

One finding so far: The tribes appear to have weathered the recession better than other sectors of the economy.

The tribes are sovereign nations, so they have their own tribal governments, health and education services, police forces and judicial systems, Peterson said.

They not only add to the regional economy, but make reservations more resilient during times of economic crisis due to relatively stable revenue sources, including the federal government.