Montana Public Radio

Blackfeet Reservation

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.

A bear warning sign.
Josh Burnham / Montana Public Radio

Last Thursday the Interior Department announced that it’s removing Yellowstone-area grizzly bears from the endangered species list. It’s expected that grizzlies in the Northern Continental Divide Ecosystem (NCDE) will be de-listed in 2020.

For the first time in a lifetime, grizzly bears in the NCDE  have been roaming far east of the Rocky Mountains following drainages, streams and food into the tan waves of farmland stretching out from the forest edges of the Rocky Mountain Front.  

In the town of Valier, where about 500 people live along a lake an hour and a half drive from the mountains to the west, the community is still adjusting to living among grizzlies.

Watercraft inspection station sign.
Katrin Frye

KALISPELL, Mont. (AP) — Blackfeet tribal leaders have reopened some reservation waters to motorized boats after approving new regulations in response to the threat of aquatic invasive mussels.

The Flathead Beacon reported last week that motorized crafts are limited to four lakes (Duck, St. Mary, Mission and Four Horn lakes).

The Cut Bank voting center.
Corin Cates-Carney

Colleen O’Brien didn’t know her usual polling place wouldn’t be open for Montana's May 25’s special election to fill Montana’s U.S. House seat until last week.

"It's making it incredibly inconvenient at best, and it is disenfranchising an underserved, underrepresented population at worst," O'Brien says.

Two Medicine River, in the Badger-Two Medicine area.
Courtesy Gene Sentz

A Texas oilman is suing the federal government after they canceled his lease, along with two others, in the Badger Two-Medicine area south of Glacier National Park in Montana.

The area is a sacred site for the Blackfeet Nation.

Bison in the snow.
(PD)

Last fall, the Blackfeet Tribe announced plans to reintroduce free-roaming bison to federal land outside its reservation. On Wednesday, the tribe met with state and federal agencies for the third time this year to hash out what that would look like.

Western Montana’s in for yet another round of winter weather, including heavy snow, rain and even some more freezing rain.
National Weather Service Missoula

Western Montana’s in for yet another round of winter weather, including heavy snow, rain and even some more freezing rain. National Weather Service meteorologist Travis Booth says this latest storm is moving into the region this afternoon.

Solenex well site is the last remaining oil lease in Badger-Two-Medicine.
Corin Cates-Carney / Montana Public Radio

The U.S. Interior Department Tuesday canceled the final two oil and gas leases in the Badger-Two Medicine area between Glacier National Park and the Blackfeet Reservation. The undeveloped leases were first issued in the 1980's in an area that is sacred to the Blackfeet Nation.

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