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Know the West

Heard around the West


Visitors to one of north Idaho's most popular spots - the 200-acre "Samowen" campground on the shores of Lake Pend Oreille - have often been stumped by its Polynesian-sounding name.

" 'Can you tell me about Samoan campground?' they ask," Idaho Panhandle National Forest spokeswoman Judy York told the Spokane Spokesman-Review. Now the area has been officially renamed the "Sam Owen Campground," after the man who donated the land to the Forest Service 56 years ago.


Speaking of misnomers, the Samish Tribe was among five Washington state tribes declared "legally extinct" by a federal judge in 1979. U.S. District Judge George Boldt arguably had two reasons for doing this. First, a clerk in the Bureau of Indian Affairs inadvertently left the Samish off a list of federally recognized tribes a decade before, leaving its 500 members in legal limbo. Secondly, Boldt had Alzheimer's disease - as the tribes learned when the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reported on Boldt's death certificate.

The Samish, who were not aware of their extinction, didn't think much of Boldt's ruling or its attached legal baggage - the fact that they were no longer allowed to take salmon, crab or clams from the waters near their home in northern Puget Sound. So they ignored it.

"We've been fishing since 1979," tribal chairwoman Margaret Greene told High Country News. "We haven't been prosecuted. I want to go out there as soon as possible and get me a bucket full of shrimp."


A bucket of shrimp is one thing, but a test tube of urine is entirely another. Four unidentified raft guides wrote in boatman's quarterly review that they have hired a lawyer to challenge the drug-testing policy that has already started on the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon and may soon spread to Utah's Canyonlands National Park and Dinosaur National Monument.

River guides point to a 1993 study comparing the injury frequency of commercial river-running on the Grand Canyon with 17 other sports. Football was the most injurious, billiards the least. Commercial whitewater rafting came in third safest, between bowling and archery.

"We've created a monster because we go 'Yippee-ki-yi-ay' down the river," 25-year Colorado River veteran Tom Moody told the Associated Press. "But because of the modern equipment and professional training of the guides, it's very safe."


Some stories circulating in the wake of this tourist season suggest that tourists themselves should be tested for drugs. The following true story was e-mailed to us from Greg Poschman of Aspen: A woman visiting Yosemite National Park embarked on a solo hike to the top of El Capitan. When she got lost and saw a storm brewing, she called 911 from her cellular phone and asked to be rescued. A helicopter found her barely off the trail and less than half a mile from the summit. When the copter lifted off and the woman saw how close she was to her goal, she asked the crew to set her down on top. When they declined, she threatened to sue them for kidnapping.


In Yellowstone, when an elderly couple stopped to film some bears at Dunraven Pass, a young bear crawled into their car searching for food. Unable to make the bear leave, the exasperated couple drove 17 miles to the ranger station at Canyon Village with the bear in the back seat. When the husband got out to report the incident, the bear hopped over into the front seat so that investigating rangers found the woman in the passenger seat and the bear behind the wheel.


It's important to remember that the only thing that lies between being us and being tourists is a little bit of geographic displacement. We're actually not a bit smarter than tourists. Take John Elliott, who recently launched an unsuccessful bid to unseat Hal Harper, the Democratic state representative for Montana's District 52. He told the Helena Independent-Record that he is "against unnecessary laws," but is nevertheless in favor of the state paying for female state employees to have their hair done as a birthday gift. He is also interested in sponsoring legislation that would strengthen families - such as outlawing divorce proceedings if the woman involved is pregnant.

Heard around the West invites readers to get involved in the column. Send any tidbits that merit sharing - small-town newspaper clips, personal anecdotes, relevant bumpersticker slogans. The definition remains loose. Heard, HCN, Box 1090, Paonia, CO 81428 or [email protected]