Heard Around the West


The House of the Utah Legislature has voted 69-2 to exempt the smoke of Native American ceremonial pipes from the state's Clean Air Act. According to the Associated Press, one nay vote came from a "white Republican Mormon," Gerry Adair, who won't okay any form of smoking because his father died of emphysema. The other nay came from Rep. Jordan Tanner, R-Provo, author of the state's air act, who warned, "This sets a precedent for erosion of the act." The AP reported, "The vote helps avoid potentially embarassing incidents like the one last year, when a pair of Gros Ventre tribal leaders from Belmont, Wash., were asked to perform the opening prayer in the House on Human Rights Day. Because the Clean Air Act prohibited smoking in state buildings, the men had to smoke the pipe on the front steps of the Capitol - and then rush inside to deliver the prayer."

Meanwhile, the tiny Yavapai-Apache tribe in central Arizona is trying to get Class 1 status under the federal Clean Air Act, which would prohibit any worsening of air quality on the 635-acre reservation. The Environmental Protection Agency is stalling, extending the public-comment period no less than three times to include every bit of opposition from neighboring Anglo towns and Arizona Gov. Fife Symingtom, R, who react to any threat to economic growth in the Verde River valley. What set off the tribe's quest? A cement plant wants to burn old tires for fuel - sending toxics such as mercury, dioxin and arsenic toward the reservation, a mere quarter-mile downwind. Ironically, the plant is owned by another tribe, the Salt River Pima Maricopas, whose office dodged questions of a reporter for the Navajo-Hopi Observer.

New Navajo Nation President Albert Hale, who played electric guitar at his inauguration last January, has led the tribal council to ask the feds to pardon former tribal chairman Peter MacDonald. MacDonald is being held a long way from home, in a federal prison in Pennsylvania, three years into a 14-year sentence for bribery and conspiracy convictions. Hale said the Navajo Way is about forgiveness and healing. Navajo Times reader Darrin Pablo, of Twin Lakes, N.M., promptly wrote in, warning of MacDonald's possible resurrection in other Navajo terms: Beware of the trickster.

Old West meets New West, part 67 - Someday when we're swinging through Ronan, Mont. (population about 1,500), we'd like to grab a mug at the Cappuccino Cowboy Coffee House, and check if the nouveau version of thick black elixir will pass the traditional test of floating a horseshoe. The nearby Flathead Nation seemed more concerned with solid nourishment. Eight hundred and fifty Salish and Kootenai members stood in line in Pablo, just down the road from Ronan, to get a share of the buffalo that were shot and butchered for the crime of straying outside Yellowstone National Park. Three and a half tons of buffalo meat were distributed in a few hours.

The Courier, a newspaper of record for the wise-use tribe in New Mexico, published a photo of the house in Silver City where environmentalist Susan Schock lives. There was no accompanying story, no news - just the photo of Schock's home shot from the street, with a headline, "Simply Schocking!" and some snide insults to the fence and the house's paint job. It was a clear editorial suggestion that the house and its occupant deserved to be a target, and anybody who didn't know the exact location of the bull's-eye only had to check the photo. Such is the climate that some small-town environmentalists in the West now face.

The Courier seems about to quote bug-eyed mass murderer Charlie Manson - "Total paranoia is total awareness" - with its front-page question, "Where Are The Camps?" If anybody has stumbled across any of the secret prison camps for Americans the United Nations has built, please notify The Courier ASAP. "The only camps The Courier knows exactly how to get to are the ones in Florida. If you have any information, other than rumor, please let us know so that we can go and take photographs there ... The Courier would like to run several pictures of the camps to show those who doubt reality and question the need for a militia ..." We might as well add, if any High Country News readers know of any such camps, let us know here at the Paonia bunker, and we'll pass on the news to our other readers and eventually to The Courier.

Is rural Oregon ahead of the curve? Democrats have been officially extinct in Wallowa County for some time, but the Wallowa County Chieftain sees the downside, lamenting in an editorial, "Democrats are in such disarray they don't have a single precinct committeeman working in Wallowa County. That's one of the reasons you hear the same people droning on about the same issues at virtually every political gathering in the county - they have no competition in the marketplace of ideas."

The new HCN column, Heard around the West, hopes readers will participate by sending to HCN tidbits that merit sharing - small-town news clippings, personal anecdotes, relevant bumper sticker slogans. The definition is loose. Write HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]

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