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Shoshone-Bannock Tribes clash with city of Pocatello over airport lease language

August 20, 2018

The language the city of Pocatello has used in lease agreements with businesses and other entities at Pocatello Regional Airport is discriminatory against the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

The language the city of Pocatello has used in lease agreements with businesses and other entities at Pocatello Regional Airport is discriminatory against the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.

In a press release issued Thursday, the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes revealed the findings of the FAA investigation into the city’s airport lease language. The tribes are demanding that Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad publicly apologize for not only the discriminatory language, but for the city’s attorneys comparing the tribes to an Islamic fundamentalist country.

City officials said there will be no public apology and the city actually got rid of the discriminatory lease language more than a year ago.

The airport has been a point of contention between the city and tribes for many years because it is on former Fort Hall Indian Reservation land.

The FAA began its investigation into the airport lease language in 2016 and on Aug. 3 of this year issued the results, which concluded that a provision in the city’s airport lease language violated civil rights laws by “discriminating against the tribes on the basis of race and national origin,” according to the tribes’ press release.

The provision in question stated that anyone renting space from the city at the airport “shall not enter into any written agreement with the tribes” without the city’s approval, and if airport tenants receive any communication from the tribes, they must immediately provide the city with a copy of the written correspondence or material received from the tribes.

According to the tribes’ Thursday press release, the FAA stated that the city must take corrective action to change the airport lease language within 30 days.

The city, however, said in a statement released Thursday night that the airport lease language was already changed back in March 2017 and the city is now in full compliance with FAA standards.

The new lease language states that airport tenants may not enter into written agreements with “any third party governmental agency,” including, but not limited to, the Shoshone-Bannock tribes.

“It was never the city of Pocatello’s intent or policy to discriminate,” said city spokesman Logan McDougall in Thursday night’s statement.

The tribes, however, said in their press release that Mayor Blad should publicly apologize to them for the discriminatory airport lease language.

“The FAA decision is an opportunity for the City and Mayor to realize that business as usual is not a proper path forward,” the tribes’ press release said.

The tribes also took umbrage with the wording the city’s attorneys used when arguing the case.

According to the tribes’ press release, the city’s attorneys stated that “if the tribes’ arguments were accepted, then it would follow that the countries of Iran or Sudan could sue for discrimination.”

The tribes stated that comparing them to Islamic fundamentalist nations was unfair and improper and the comparison shows that city officials and the law firm representing the city need to receive “cultural sensitivity training.”

The land on which the airport was built was originally part of the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. The federal government took control of the land during World War II and built an Air Force base on it. After the war, the federal government gave the land to the city of Pocatello, which turned the Air Force base into Pocatello Regional Airport. The tribes believe that the land should have been returned to them instead because it was originally part of the reservation.

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