Montana Public Radio

Blackfeet Tribal Business Council

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

The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is now under a mandatory 14-day stay-at-home order after health officials reported the reservation’s first COVID-19 cases. Blackfeet and Glacier County officials identified nine confirmed cases of COVID-19 among residents over the weekend.

A photo from June 06, 2020 show the closed St. Mary entrance into Glacier National Park, which borders the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. The Blackfeet Nation has maintained travel closures longer than Glacier Park or the state of Montana.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

As the busy summer season gets underway in various tourism hotspots across the state, Glacier National Park’s eastern neighbor is taking a more cautious approach. Concerns about COVID-19 have left the Blackfeet Nation slow to reopen its reservation to tourists.

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

The Blackfeet Tribe last week took a step toward lifting restrictions put in place amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. The tribal business council canceled the Blackfeet Reservation’s stay-at-home order and non-essential travel restrictions.

Malinda Limberhand talks about the search for her daughter Hanna, during a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Tribunal, Oct. 4, 2019.
Aaron Bolton / Montana Public Radio

Native advocates and the Blackfeet Nation late last week held what is being called the first-ever Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women Tribunal in the U.S. The testimony from the families of missing and murdered Native people will be delivered to Congressional lawmakers in a push for policy change. Most family members focused on their frustrations with law enforcement.

Screenshot https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELhn51G0Xwc

Food and medication distribution and substance abuse counseling programs for Native Americans are being put on hold due to the federal government shutdown, panelists told members of the U.S. House Tuesday.

Aaron Payment, a board member of the National Congress of American Indians, testified before Democratic members of the House at the D.C. hearing.

"This is a crisis like we’ve never seen," said Payment.

Montana Judge Rejects Challenge To Blackfeet Water Compact

Nov 19, 2018
Sign saying "Welcome to Blackfeet Indian Country."
Will Marlow (CC-BY-NC-2)

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A federal judge has rejected a legal challenge to a water-rights compact between the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, the state of Montana and the U.S. government.

U.S. District Judge Brian Morris said in a ruling Friday the lawsuit challenging the Blackfeet tribe's business council's authority to negotiate and ratify the compact is a matter of tribal law that must be taken up in tribal court. 

Map of Solenex lease site in the Badger-Two Medicine near Glacier National Park
Courtesy Montana Wilderness Association

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told the Associated Press today that the federal government plans to appeal a federal court ruling allowing oil and gas drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine area outside Glacier National Park.

The Badger-Two Medicine is the site of the creation story for the Blackfoot Tribes, and is located on the Helena-Lewis and Clark National Forest, adjacent to the Blackfeet Reservation.

Senator Jon Tester campaigned with other Democrats for statewide office in Browning Nov 3, where he was lauded as an advocate for solving the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women.
Nicky Ouellet

As members of the Crow tribal council stood alongside Republican Senate hopeful Matt Rosendale for his pro-coal stance at the Bozeman airport Saturday, tribal leaders from the Blackfeet Nation and Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes threw their weight behind Democrats Senator Jon Tester and Congressional candidate Kathleen Williams.

They started their day in Browning with a breakfast feed. By afternoon, they were at Elks Lodge in Polson with the Blacklodge drum circle.

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.

Blackfeet tribal members rejected a measure to reform their constitution Tuesday.

The proposed reform constitution would have drastically revamped the structure of the tribe’s government by establishing a three-branch system with built-in checks and balances. But that change was rejected by tribal members. Instead, the tribe will retain its current nine-member, single branch governing body, called the Tribal Business Council, which has been in place for the past 82 years.

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