Montana Public Radio

Blackfeet Reservation

Medical marijuana sign.
Flickr user Laurie Avocado (CC-BY-2)

The Blackfeet Nation Tribal Business Council decriminalized medical marijuana use on the reservation last week. At the same meeting, the council declared a state of emergency in response to drug and alcohol abuse on the reservation.

Invasive species decontamination in Montana includes some firefighting aircraft
Nicky Ouellet

Non-native species in Montana have a way of making their presence known.

In June a KULR TV reported this from near the Ft. Belknap reservation:

“Trooper Matt Finley says the driver of the vehicle swerved to avoid hitting a kangaroo,” said Angela Marshall.

Montana Department of Transportation crews clear roads north of Browning, MT on S-464, February 26, 2018.
Montana Department of Transportation

Gov. Steve Bullock says $200,000 in emergency energy assistance funding will be released to eligible families on three Montana Indian reservations hit hard this winter.

State health department spokesman Jon Ebelt says state officials have received reports of hardship among some residents of the Blackfeet, Fort Belknap and Northern Cheyenne reservations.

Imagery from NOAA geostationary (GOES) satellites, March 2, 2018 shows more snow on the way to Montana.
NOAA

Members of the state legislature’s American Indian Caucus are urging Montanans to donate money and help people impacted by extreme winter weather.

In an opinion column published in the Missoulian Friday, all 10 members of the Montana American Indian Caucus liken the plight of people caught in blizzards on three Native American reservations to that of farmers and ranchers facing drought and wildfire last summer.

Montana Department of Transportation crews clear roads north of Browning, MT on S-464, February 26, 2018.
Montana Department of Transportation

Schools and government offices on the Blackfeet Reservation were closed again Tuesday after another bout of winds buffeted the reservation, leaving roadways impassable, buried under snow drifts.

The reservation remains under a state of emergency and an Incident Command team is coordinating with the State of Montana, the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and other state, tribal and non-government groups.

Strong winds are expected later tonight through Tuesday over the Rocky Mountain Front and across all of Glacier County. The strong winds will lead to areas of blowing snow, with poor visibility at times. Some areas of white conditions are possible.
National Weather Service, Great Falls, MT.

The Blackfeet Reservation remains under a state of emergency as yet another blizzard bears down on the Rocky Mountain Front tonight into tomorrow. The series of storms have forced Heart Butte Public Schools to close 10 times since the start of the year.

A blizzard bringing high winds, whiteouts and dangerous travel conditons has hit parts of NW Montana today.
National Weather Service, Great Falls, MT.

Blackfeet Nation Disaster and Emergency Services is advising people to stay off roadways during a blizzard that’s hit the reservation carrying what’s described as “hurricane force winds” and white-out conditions.

Several major roadways, including Highway 89 north and south of Browning, are closed due to poor visibility and wind-blown snow drifts. U.S. Highway 2 is open but experiencing severe driving conditions. Conditions are expected to worsen tonight.

Weather story for north-central Montana, Feb. 14, 2018.
National Weather Service, Great Falls, MT.

A prolonged winter storm has closed roads, schools and tribal offices on the Blackfeet Reservation. 

Five feet of wind-drifted snow buried roads in some places, preventing plows from reaching outlier communities like Heart Butte. Some people have been stranded since the weekend after a blizzard moved through the eastern Rocky Mountain front last week. 

A team of volunteers rallied to get thousands of pounds of potatoes and bread to Heart Butte after a severe storm stranded the community on New Year's Day.
Courtesy Kathryn Hayes

Hunger is a chronic problem for many families on the Blackfeet Reservation. Grocery stores are few and far between, and the poverty rate is around 40 percent.

Like in any rural area, fresh food especially is expensive. It takes a lot of hours in the car or on the phone to access public assistance programs. But when a severe winter storm blew in around New Year's Eve, the chronic hunger issue became an acute crisis.

Sign saying "Welcome to Blackfeet Indian Country."
Will Marlow (CC-BY-NC-2)

“Repeal and replace” is not just a mantra for Republicans in the U.S. House and Senate, it’s also a rallying cry for constitutional reform on the Blackfeet Reservation.

"We've been at this for 82 years," says  Joe McKay, a member of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.

For the past three years, McKay’s spearheaded an effort to reform the Blackfeet Nation’s current constitution, written in 1935.

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