Antone Minthorn: Building an Economy

In this excerpt, Antone Minthorn [Umatilla] talks about his role as the general council chairman for the CTUIR and his role in building an economy and land restoration.

Bio: Antone Minthorn has served for more than twenty years with the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation (CTUIR) in various roles, from chief planner to chair of the board of trustees. He is a founding board member of Confluence.


AM: When I ran for office in 1981, I was asked if I would run for some office for the tribe. And I said I would, if you support me not just for one term, but you to support me for —- so I can have time in service. And there were choices that I could make, whether to be an officer of the general counsel or the board of trustees. So in that time, I decided that I would better like to be the general council chairman. I had to run for that because there wasn’t that much pressure put on the general council chairman as there was a board of trustees, which is a governing body and they have the day to day responsibilities. So I became the chairman of the general council. But there were some deep concerns of mine, a vision of things that I thought that really needed to be done. And one was to restore the land back to its original treaty boundaries. That was on the top. The other one was economic development. And because we’d been down that road fighting for a tribal economy and I just thought that we needed to continue to pursue to build an economy for the tribe. And that was one of the first things I did when I got elected. I went and talked to our board of trustees or our business office at the time. And I asked him, “I want you to tell me what is an economy? What is an economy? And I don’t want a dictionary definition , to provide goods and service. I want you to tell me what is an economy?” So we had that discussion there with the tribal business office, maybe BIA was involved in that, too — I don’t recollect back to that. But we did come up with a resolution to build an economy to help the people. And then the other it was to restore the land base back to the tribe.

And then there’s a tremendous story there, a tremendous story with that restored land resolution. Kathy Wilson was the attorney at that time and she drafted the resolution for me.

And I’m not sure that I could come up with it now. But I took that resolution to the NCAI. And took it and went to a work session there where they were talking about Indian Land Tenure. And it happened to be a nonprofit group coming out of Seattle that was working on Indian Land Tenure. I became involved with them and another group from Arlington, Virginia, that was working on economic development. Had a staffer that was looking for business on the West Coast and came to ATNI [Affiliated Tribe of Northwest Indians]. And that staffer began to talk about Indian land restoration.Then I asked them, can you can you build? Can you do a land acquisition plan? A land strategy? A land acquisition plan for the Umatilla tribe? And they said, “Well, let’s see.” So we had some meetings here.

But my whole point of that is that it ended up at Northwest Area Foundation and got funded by Northwest Area Foundation. I think with $20 million or something like that. And Indian Land Tenure Foundation was a result of that. That’s one of the huge accomplishments — that started right here on the Umatilla Indian Reservation. And then that’s when I was general council chairman and then a continuation of doing economic development. And we’re still working on that and we’ve got tremendous results there, too.

And the third one is education. But I never could find staff that that could pin it down to draft a resolution that that that made — that had some clear goals to it.