Native American leaders asked Montana lawmakers Thursday for help passing legislation important to tribes across the state.
The President of the Fort Belknap Assiniboine (Nakoda) and Gros Ventre (Aaniiih) Tribes Andrew Werk Jr. delivered the State of Tribal Nations Address in the House chamber Thursday.
“This legislative session I am proud to report, a record number of Native Americans are serving in the interest of Tribal citizens. Our Native American legislators are an inspiration to us all and are setting a strong example for future generations.”
Werk says the Native American caucus is focused on policy addressing the high rate of missing and murdered indigenous women, preventing youth suicide, preserving indigenous language, and chipping away at the disparity in health between tribal and non-tribal people.
He says the continuation of the state’s Medicaid expansion program for low-income adults is an important step.
“Medicaid expansion is critical for improving American Indian health and health care delivery systems in Indian country.”
Werk also called for lawmakers to work with Tribes to give the nations more flexibility managing herds of bison on their reservations. He says the number of buffalo regularly culled in Yellowstone is unacceptable.
To accomplish these goals Werk says the state of Montana and local governments need to work collaboratively with Tribal nations.
“It is imperative that our Tribal governments are recognized at the same level a state government, and that we are adequately represented in all levels of government.”