COEUR d'ALENE - Upon further review, they changed their minds.
The Kootenai County commissioners announced Friday that they had withdrawn their appeal on the trust status awarded to 142.6 acres of Coeur d'Alene tribal land.
"We withdrew yesterday or the day before," said Commissioner Rick Currie.
He declined to give reasons for the withdrawal. He said further details are being worked out with the Tribe on a memorandum of understanding, though over what he wouldn't say.
Currie had no worries about the appeal being withdrawn before the memorandum was completed.
"We feel we can reach an understanding with the Tribe," he said.
The Tribe welcomed the news, said spokesman Marc Stewart.
"This is extremely important to the Coeur d'Alene people, because this is their homeland," Stewart said. "All they're trying to do is get it back."
Tribal Chairman Chief Allan said, "The Tribe sees this as the dawn of a new day with the Kootenai County commissioners. We are very pleased by their decision."
The commissioners had appealed when the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Indian Affairs granted the tribe permission to put 142.6 reservation acres - called the "Ramsey Property" - into trust, part of a method tribes can use to recover native lands they have lost.
The commissioners had justified the appeal by pointing out the county would lose $9,900 a year in property taxes if the acreage were put in trust, under which land is exempt from property taxes.
The Tribe had purchased the land 10 years ago. Putting it into trust status was important because it puts the land back into the sovereign nation of the Tribe, Stewart said.
"It's a political distinction, not a racial one," he said.
But obtaining the status can be slow, on account of rigorous procedures, Stewart said.
"It's a very cumbersome process. Literally this is the first one done (on the reservation) in more than three decades," he said.
Most tribal land across the nation was opened to settlement in the 1887 General Allotment Act. The federal government did away with the law in 1934, and tribes have since pursued buying back their lost property.
The Coeur d'Alene Tribe owns roughly 20 percent of the land on the reservation, Stewart said.
Tony Stewart with the Kootenai County Task Force on Human Relations Executive Committee, which had opposed the commissioners' appeal, applauded the withdrawal.
"Justice is prevailing in this decision," Stewart said. "They (the Tribe) are buying back land that was taken from them and paying top sales price for what was taken from them. We're just delighted that this happened."
Marc Stewart said the Tribe isn't sure how the withdrawn appeal affects the overall trust process, though it is surely symbolic.
Some bureaucratic measures still remain to go through before the trust is finalized and the land is tax exempt, he said.
"It still could be awhile before it's actually done," Marc Stewart said.