Documentary tells story of 'Idaho's Forgotten War'

Mike Weland
August 6, 2010
Bonner County Daily Bee

"Idaho's Forgotten War, A Lost Tale of Courage," an hour-long documentary on Amy Trice, the 1974 Kootenai War and what it's done for the tribe will air on Idaho Public Television at 9 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10.

The film tells the story of how Trice, who grew up witnessing the suffering of the tribe and was compelled to action after a tribal elder froze to death in his unheated home, became chair of the tribal council and led the tribe to conduct a peaceful war that drew attention to the plight of her people, and fostered remarkable changes for the better.

"It all started when Simon Francis talked to my father, and asked him if his daughter, me, would be on the council," Amy said. "Dad told him it was up to me, and later on he asked me if I'd run."

She agreed, and was elected, but all her efforts to find justice and help for the tribe, which had never signed a treaty with the United States, fell on deaf ears, as the tribe, she was told, was "too small."

She went up the hierarchy in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, and gained nothing. She and a delegation traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with Idaho's congressional delegation, which include Sen. James McClure and Rep. Steve Symms, who listened, but offered no help.

"So I came back and said, ‘Let's start a war,' as a joke, but then it got serious," she said.

Concerned about public reaction, she encouraged the tribe's elders and others who feared repercussions to leave, but only a handful took the opportunity, with the vast majority of the tribe standing together. Indians from other tribes came to lend their support, noted Indian activist Dennis Means offered to come, but Trice insisted on no guns, no drugs.

"It was a war of understanding, a call for attention to how the people of the tribe were living," Amy said.

It was the last declaration of war against the United States made by a Native American Tribe, and one of few won by the Indians. In the wake of the war, things began to slowly improve for the Tribe - grants were made available, they were granted 12.5 acres of trust land on the Kootenai River on which to build the mission.

"We got a lot of things accomplished," she said. "Everything slowly started coming together. We got the housing, the hatchery, the clinic and the hotel. We're slowly getting our land back."

The film was directed by award-winning Idaho film maker, poet and activist Sonya Rosario.

"I wanted to get the story out a long time ago," Rosario said. "It shows we can do something. This documentary will inspire smaller tribes to remain resilient in seeking federal recognition for their people, and viewers to believe in a better way of life."

While Amy saw initial drafts of the film, she has yet to see the final cut, which was finished last year, and said she's looking forward to watching it next Tuesday.

"I'm really looking forward to it," she said. "As a little girl, I never thought I'd grow up to do something so big."

Beset by tuberculosis as a child, and having gone through more than two years of blindness, she often wondered if she'd grow up at all, she said.

"I guess God had a purpose for me."

Originally posted at

The News Story posted here is provided by permission of its original publisher and does not necessarily reflect the views of Idaho Public Television.

Return to Idaho Public Television in the News