May 4, 2013

Spokane Tribal Council may oust vice-chairman for lying about identity in bison poaching incident


Spokane Tribal leaders are deciding whether to oust their vice chairman for lying to a game officer investigating bison poaching in Montana.

Rodney W. Abrahamson was convicted of five misdemeanors after he illegally killed two bison north of Yellowstone National Park in February, while traveling with a group of Nez Perce hunters who were on a legal hunt. The court record states he lied to Montana wildlife agents about his identity. He claimed to be Nez Perce, the tribe that has rights to hunt bison. The Spokane tribe does not have treaty rights to hunt the animal.

The Spokane Tribe’s constitution says tribal council members cannot remain on the council “if convicted of a felony or of a misdemeanor involving dishonesty.”

Rudy Peone, Chairman of the Spokane Tribal Business Council, announced last month that the tribe would investigate Abrahamson.

The charges included a count of obstruction of justice.

Peone declined on Thursday to comment about the investigation. The elected business council represents the tribe. Abrahamson could not be reached for comment.

In an April 16 letter to tribal members, Peone wrote that he convened a special council meeting to discuss an article about Abrahamson’s poaching charges that appeared in The Spokesman-Review newspaper.

“The Tribal Council will develop a process to appoint an independent entity to investigate alleged violations of the constitution by the Tribal Council,” Peone wrote. “It is my opinion that any alleged violation of our Spokane Tribal Constitution need to be addressed and resolved in a timely manner.”

Peone also wrote that he assigned the tribe’s attorney to review the incident.

Attempts made Friday to reach tribal attorney Scott Wheat were unsuccessful.

Abrahamson’s poaching charges stem from a hunting trip he took with the Nez Perce Tribe in February. Nez Perce members have hunting rights protected by treaty, but Abrahamson is not Nez Perce. He is a member of the Spokane Tribe in Northeastern Washington state. His wife is Nez Perce, but that does not give him the bison hunting rights provided by treaty to the Nez Perce tribe.

Two Montana wildlife agents asked for Abrahamson’s ID after he acknowledged he killed two bison, Sam Sheppard, a Montana warden captain, said in an interview last month. Abrahamson told wardens he couldn’t find his tribal ID and provided a false name – that of a member of the Nez Perce Tribe, Sheppard said.

They later determined that Abrahamson lied about his identity.

The next day the two wardens returned to the hunting site and confronted Abrahamson. He then provided his true identity, Sheppard said.

Wardens issued citations for five misdemeanors: two counts of hunting out of season, two counts of possession of game taken out of season and one count of obstructing an investigation.

Abrahamson’s failure to appear at his Feb. 28 court hearing led to a finding of guilty on the charges and forfeiture of his bond of $3,475, which includes restitution for the two animals.

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