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WSU documentary on Shoshone Bannock unratified treaty to air

Documentary filmmakers interviewing people on location.
On location during production of the documentary "In Good Faith."

A documentary featuring Washington State University history professor Orlan Svingen’s research on the unratified treaty of the Mixed‑Band of Shoshone, Bannock, and Sheep Eater people will air on two PBS stations this week.

“In Good Faith” shares the story of the Virginia City Treaty of 1868. Signed by Chief Tendoy, the leader of the Mixed‑Band people in southwestern Montana Territory, the treaty was negotiated with U.S. government officials in good faith. Tendoy then ceded 32,000 square miles of aboriginal territory in 1870 for a permanent treaty reservation in central Idaho. However, the United States Senate failed to ratify the treaty.

The documentary will air on Pullman’s KWSU on Tuesday, April 9 at 8 p.m., and on KTNW in Tri‑Cities on Monday, April 8 at 9 p.m., on Tuesday, April 9 at 1 a.m., and on Friday, April 12 at noon. View the trailer for “In Good Faith,” on Vimeo’s website.

“The facts surrounding the unratified treaty for the Mixed‑Band is a little‑known historical narrative of a tribe that has been mistreated, removed multiple times, and has lost millions of its acres without compensation. This is an important story to share,” said Svingen.

In 1875, the United States accepted that 32,000‑square‑mile treaty reservation cession in exchange for a temporary executive order reservation in the Salmon River country of Idaho. In 1905, the U.S. rescinded that executive reservation, prompting the Mixed‑Band’s 200‑mile forced removal south to the Fort Hall Indian Reservation. The recent discovery by a WSU historian of a National Archives document, highlighted in this documentary, reveals what many regard as a violation of the Takings Clause of the Fifth Amendment.

After nearly 10 years of research, Svingen, along with students and colleagues in the WSU public history field schools, unearthed an official U.S. government document from 1870 and several supporting records that shed new light on conflicting claims about historical use and ownership of large swaths of southwestern Montana and northwestern Wyoming.

“No tribe woke up one day and said today I get to sign a treaty and give away most of my land. That just didn’t happen,” said Svingen. “Through our research and collaboration with the Shoshone‑Bannock Tribes, we concluded that the Indian Claims Commission failed to take into account more than 12,000 square miles of land ceded by the Mixed Band in 1870 in the ICC’s final 1970s settlement with the Shoshone‑Bannock Tribes. Until this oversight is resolved, many believe this remains unsettled law.”

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