Leader of last American Indian war dies at 75

Associated Press

Published: Friday, July 29 2011 10:02 p.m. MDT

BONNERS FERRY, Idaho — Amelia Trice, a leader of the last American Indian war against the U.S. government, has died at the age of 75.

The Spokesman-Review reported that Trice was leader of the Kootenai tribe in northern Idaho when the tribe declared a non-violent war against the U.S. in 1974 in order to win a reservation from the government. On Sept. 20, 1974, tribal members set up informational pickets and asked for 10-cent tolls on U.S. Highway 95 at Bonners Ferry.

A standoff followed for several weeks before Trice led a delegation to Washington for talks. President Gerald Ford eventually signed a bill transferring 12.5 acres of federal land to the tiny tribe for a reservation outside Bonners Ferry.

Trice died last week after a long battle with cancer.

"She was the one who took the tribe to war in 1974 and got us recognition," said Velma Bahe, a member of the tribal council. "She is a big loss."

Historically, the tribe resisted moving onto a reservation because of religious beliefs, and by 1974, the tribe was down to 67 members who were living in poverty.

Declaring war brought the attention of authorities.

"The state police came with Mace and sawed-off shotguns," Trice said at the time. "The closest thing we had to a weapon in our tribal office was a fly swatter."

In addition to the land, the tribe eventually received 18 new houses, water and sewage systems were improved and a community center was erected. The tribe also opened the Kootenai River casino in 1996, bringing in needed revenues. It operates a hatchery to help restore the endangered Kootenai River white sturgeon.

The tribe now has 155 members.

Trice is survived by her husband, four sons, two daughters, grandchildren and great-grandchildren.

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