To the editor: a letter regarding the Sho-Ban – Salmon basketball game

The following is an open letter from Donna Thompson, tribal member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes, provided courtesy of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes Public Affairs Office. The letter has specific addressees of Ty Jones, Executive Director of the Idaho High School Athletic Association; James Doramus, Superintendent of the Salmon River School District; and Paula Tucker, Athletic Director/Girls Basketball Coach for the Salmon River District

FORT HALL, March 15, 2019 — This letter is in reference to a game I attended on February 15, 2019 between the Sho-Ban Lady Chiefs and Salmon River “Savages.” Please consider this an official compliant about the way the Lady Chiefs basketball players/fans were treated by the Salmon River players/fans/parents and the referees.

Our Sho-Ban Lady Chiefs players were subject to racism on the court and from the crowd. On several occasions during the basketball game our players were subject to racial taunts. Two players from the Salmon River Savages made racial statements to our girls to go back to the Reservation where they belong because they didn’t belong off the reservation (Nampa). Also, several of our fans were subject to racial taunts from the Salmon River parents/fans.

A news reporter for the Blackfoot Morning News was in the stands next to the Salmon River fans (behind their bench) and heard all the racist taunts coming from their fans. The editor and staff of the Sho-Ban News heard these insults as well. Also, the referees allowed this despicable behavior to happen by not warning the Salmon River players for their poor sportsmanship/racist behavior toward our girls. The referees also added fuel to this racist fire by fouling out our top three players.

In this day and age, why is racism still alive and well in Idaho? How can we fix this so this doesn’t happen again in the future? It seems like every time one of our basketball teams participates in the state tournament they are subject to racism? This happens in every instance our students participate in state activities. When is this going to stop? What steps can be taken to help stop this from happening again?

For one, a written apology from the Salmon River “Savages” school district administrator/girls basketball coach to right the wrong committed by their players and fans. This apology needs to be addressed to the Sho-Ban Lady Chiefs and the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes. This would go a long way in helping stomp out this ugly epidemic called racism! Also, all referees should be required to take a cultural sensitivity training before officiating any games. There are many steps we can all take to stamp out this ugly practice.

I feel that any comments made towards any student on race or color is unnecessary and inexcusable.Thank you for taking the time to read this letter and hopefully something positive comes from this. I am looking forward to hearing from you soon.


Donna Thompson, Tribal Member


  1. That is too bad! So sad! I agree about the necessity for cultural sensitivity training NEED! Maybe the whole school should participate! Maybe all schools should! This happens to anyone that shines!
    Thank GOD, Not everyone is this way… and reading this hurts my heart! To anyone hurt by this, be the light!

  2. Of all places to have racism Salmon Idaho. I would have thought they would be Thankful to the natives for the land they all reside on.

  3. I was late to the game that day and had to sit among the savage crowd and not wanting to walk in front of the teams. The tension walking into the gym was so thick, not even a knife could blade through it.
    As I sat there I heard adults acting out in hatred to the behavior displayed on the court from the savage side.
    I felt extremely bothered after this display. For young ladies to walk on a court knowing their opponents sport the name “savages” on their jerseys is a battle all by itself. Not only do those young ladies hear it in their ears from their relatives of how bad that name really is a whole 24 hour period prior to that game, but they also have to contain those built up feelings of hatred toward that word all the while trying to play in that type of playing field. I thought to myself… how would it feel to sport fort hall “crackers” “niggers” “wetbacks” in a sports gym where clearly those words are a powerful meaning and symbolization that racially profiles in a way that is demeaning and allllllll prior use of those words relate clearly to hatred. JUST THE SAME AS THE TEAM NAME “savages”.
    Two: I did my research on that team and their name. Due to law suit issues, salmon savages changed their mascot but not name in recent years to satisfy the courts and to keep themselves out of a huge law suit.
    It’s clearly the name “savages” that is a problem. This day and age there is no room to keep those words afloat and in the human dialect if the world wants to see and create change.
    I believe if Salmon Savages want to keep themselves holy, they will do what’s right and change that name. Idaho does not need to be known as a racist state.

    Chanda Rodriguez
    Shoshone Paiute of duck valley reservation

  4. This letter needs to be retracted immediately unless the Salmon River Schools administration has had the opportunity to address the problem this writer has with our community and school. What a weak way to be transparent and open to communication!

  5. First off I am part Juaneno Indian my great grandmother was born on the san juan capistrano reservation. I am a mother of one of the Savages team. I watched the whole game and I was so disappointed in the way sho-ban players played. I saw the pushing the rude comments and disrespect towards our team. I heard the comments the sho ban said to the girls on the court. At one point i wanted to go on to the court and defend the young lady who was deliberatley pushed down and then the “star” player on sho-ban leaned over and clapped in her face. The remarks made to another girl on our team was so bad our girl cried and was in shock.

    How DARE you take the low road and say salmon river are racist! You need proof and you do not have any! If someone in the stands said something racist that is on them not the community! Salmon River Savages are far from Racist. There should be no appology from our coach but I would love to see one from the sho-ban coach since he did nothing to stop his girls pushing tripping and being being rude. I was shocked this team made it thus far with the attitudes they have has nothing to with skin color. Our girls played hard and fair.
    Your team lost due to their own decisions to deliberately foul on our players.Threatening to beat our girls up is not exceptible behavior.

  6. I didn’t attend the game but I personally know players on the Salmon River team. They would never do this to another team winning or losing. I’ve been to several games and have never seen or heard any derogatory remarks.

    • I was there and I will not comment about the writing of this article. I will say that I have watched basketball at all levels and this game was the most ugly game that I have ever watched! The officials had a tough time watching the physical contact away from the ball. There were multiple times that the young women from ShoBan blantely shoved players and in one instance stood over a player after knocking her to the ground in which case a technical foul was called. I would offer to all that reads this article to find a copy of the game film and decide for yourself!

    • Okay just because you’ve never seen it doesn’t mean it couldn’t have happened. Just say you stan racism and go.

    • Mr. Steven Hawks
      Well if you weren’t at the game you don’t know what happened other than what you have been told. I taught for 29 years at Blackfoot High School and witnessed some incidentses where students said racist things. I had a student that would imitate native singing and everyone would laugh. I told him to stop because it was disrespectful to the native students. There was also a coach who told a Native American basketball player that he had to cut his hair if he wanted to play. It is their culture for boys and men to have long hair, which is always braided. The coach made the rule that all players have short hair. Since it was a coach rule and not a state rule the young man didn’t have to cut his hair but was made to tuck it inside his jersey. They, native students, were continually told that if they didn’t behave they would be sent to ShoBan Jr. Sr. High school. There are many students that do things that are racist and parents would say, “ my child wouldn’t do that. News flash, your child acts different when you’re not around. I taught at Sho Ban for 2 years and then subbed for 2 years. While coaching track I witnessed behavior from other schools toward my athletes. I loved working at ShoBan Jr. Sr. High School. So for you to say that the Salmon Falls players and fans would not behave in disrespectful behavior is very naive. Salmon Falls must apologize that’s all there is to it.

      • You do not even know the school name
        And just because you have heard other people and svhools make stupid remarks does mean everyone in the state is racist

    • That is literally the response of everyone that lives next door to a serial killer on those murder mystery shows🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️🤦🏼‍♂️

    • It gets pretty bad. They have the worst sportsmanship of any team that we play. We love the girls but when they play it’s not fun at all. It sucks because they are so good but their attitudes will get them no where.

    • You should report this to the national & state athletic association. This behavioe needs to be held accountable. Owyhee teams went through that with Wells

  7. Completely fabricated. Please don’t believe these lies. Watch the video and make your own judgement. The Savage ladies are respectful and show a high level of sportsmanship on and off the court. This paper owes our girls an apology.

  8. If the reporter indeed witnessed this then that person needs to come forward and be held accountable for what he or she says they are agreeing with. You cannot let a reporter hide under anonymity.

  9. I truly believe the only reason y there is still racism in this world and especially in the state is because of the fact that all the white people in this state and around the world believe that they are the supreme race and all other races are not to their standards when in fact that is wrong we were all created equally every man woman and child no matter what race u are we are all people and honestly from what I had read I truly believe there should be some disciplinary action taken to punish those who showed racism or who spoke it

    • Your statement in and of itself entirely racist. Therefore you are what you are opposing. Just listen to yourself.

    • You’re wrong about “all white people”, just as others are wrong about “all indian people”. Don’t generalize and don’t group people like that. I’m white, I don’t believe we’re the supreme race. We are all equal and should be treated thusly.

  10. I have had the chance to watch the Savages, and the girls have good Sportmanship. They always have class and are very nice when we are playing each other. However, some of their student section and older fans have poor sportsmanship, they taunt and yell at other players. In volleyball, the boys in the student section would yell at the other teams stuff like “don’t miss your serve” “oh you can’t dig that” and just exaggerate their laugh when the opponent messed up. In basketball, one older gentleman yelled “Well we all know you are going to lose” at one of our players during the game. Also, they are very quick to OVER-celebrate when a player is fouled out or messes up. One of our players was guarding Lotus Harper (a very good player), and a man yelled “take it to the hoop, Lotus. She can’t guard you!” When someone in the crowd says something mean, they all laugh and never acknowledge their behavior.

  11. It is an issue that has always happened and will continue to happen. Remember racism is learned behavior. Demanding an apology really doesn’t solve anything because these people believe they haven’t done any wrong or were derogatory towards anyone, Anyone can write an apology spice it up to seem sincere and it should be done without having to ask for one if all involved we’re truely sorry for the incident that happened.

  12. Joke! Complete Joke! This Salmon River girls basketball team (Riggins) is not dirty, racist, nor do they have bad sportsmanship. These girls are as nice of young ladies as I have ever seen all the way through their roster. When you can’t beat them on the court this author wants to accuse our girls, crowd, and referees of racism??!! Wow…low…
    Sour grapes is the best way to describe this. The number 1 team, according to the polls all year, was knocked off by Salmon River and they didn’t like it. This author of this article should be the one apologizing for these serious accusations! End of story…Makes me sick to even read that crap…

  13. I totally agree with this letter, how sad to have these girls and others be subject to this. Really??? We are in the 21st century!! I hope others read this and support the Lady Chiefs as well.

  14. Hey Ref, see those young ladies/men out there? Those are our children. And ,like you, we want the best for them. We want them to succeed in everything they do, just like you. We love them just as much as you love your children. We want them to be treated fairly and with respect, just like you want for your children. We will defend them from anything that makes them feel insecure, sad, or angry, just like you would. The majority of you will say, “Its just a game..and you should have fun”.. To that I say, “well, let them..they will have fun if given a fair chance to succeed”, just like your kids are given…Our kids work just as hard as yours, practice just as long as yours and love this game just as much as your kids… The only diffrence between our kids and yours is the color of their skin, and sometimes thats the thing that prevents our kids from succeeding in this game, because you are the ones that see the different colors.. We are not blind nor stupid..we know what you are trying to do…we see the racism in your attitudes and in your calls. we even see it your eyes. We’ve seen it for years, some of us have experiened as players. But it is a million times worse seeing it as a parent. Seeing your kid frustrated.. seeing your kid angry..seeing your kid crying because of your own personal issues with “us”…just remember, my kid doesnt know you, never did anything to you or your family, doesnt know where you live or work..and they dont care..all they care about is that you are fair and thats all they ask… they know when other teams are just plain better then them and they can handle that..just like they know when they are cheated…OUR CHILDREN DESERVE TO BE TREATED FAIRLY, …just like yours. I did. It write this but Mr. LeBeau’s words say it all.

  15. I love watching The Salmon River girls play. They play with heart and determination. They maintain one of the highest GPAs in the state of Idaho as a team. I often see them displaying kindness in their community. I love watching them every chance I get. They are wonderful girls on and off the court.

  16. The Salmon River Savages have always been a class act. Now I am not 100% sure what could have been said amongst the fans, but those girls wouldn’t say something racists towards another team. In the past, they have played the Lapwai Wildcats and always played with respect to their race. Also, to add to this, they did have a tribal member from Lapwai come speak at their gym and tell them that he did not feel offended by their choice of name. This name was not intended to be racist, so rather than blaming it on that, take a look at what is actually being said. I was personally at this game and sat in the crowd with them, and sure they do get a little rowdy, but I didn’t hear a racist comment. If anything took place, it was not the girls saying it to the other team. If anyone watched this game, the Sho-Ban Lady Chiefs were very unsportsmanlike and displayed very poor behavior on the court. It’s awfully sad that people are going to such extreme with these accusations when if it was a serious problem, the IHSAA/Superintendent/Coaches would have been notified right away.

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