This article was written for the August 2011 newsletter by Christina Crawford, President of the Benewah Human Rights Coalition.
Our organization was started this spring with a small group of dedicated people, all of whom live and work in Benewah County. From 2009 to 2011, I served as County Commissioner for District 2, which encompasses the western side of the county, including the Coeur D’Alene reservation and Highway 95 from the Latah County line to Kootenai. During that time, it became very clear to me that there were serious human relations problems between various members of the population that were being fueled by old belief systems and lack of modern communication channels to get accurate information to people in all areas of the county.
As years have passed, the extractive industries (logging, mining, farming) employing men and paying family wage jobs have decreased, while the Coeur d’Alene Tribe has grown and expanded economically, creating jobs—not only at their casino—but also within other businesses. This shifted the old balance of influence and caused uncertainty among newcomers and old-timers alike. It is also requiring a new look at education for the youth of the county in order to prepare them for the high technology work force. Change does not always come easily unless there is pro-active, positive leadership to forge the way ahead and create new role models for people to see.
Our Coalition intends to assist with communication, emphasis on education, and youth programs through the school. It is well-known that a peaceful environment is related to education, jobs and health. Benewah County has fallen behind in all those areas according to two years of surveys.
The Benewah Human Rights Coalition has pledged to work towards the elimination of prejudice and discrimination. This summer we are hosting information tables at the Benewah County Fair, Paul Bunyan Days and Veterans Day Memorial. This fall the Coalition is partnering with St. Maries schools and Plummer Lakeside schools in a Prevent Bullying campaign with multi-media projects designed by middle and high school students. Cash prizes will be given to the winners. This partnership will help promote a positive, tolerant and accurate image of the acceptance of diversity in Benewah County.
The Benewah Human Rights Coalition is pleased and proud to be a part of the larger, long-standing human rights movement in our beautiful North Idaho, and we wish to extend special thanks to Kootenai County Task Force for their initial guidance. And thanks to the Northwest Coalition for Human Rights for the opportunity to be included in this newsletter. On behalf of our board, Lloyd Agte (Vice President), Jill Wagner (Secretary), Justin Marsh (Treasurer), Marilyn Barker and Chris Meyer, we look forward to working together now and in the future.