Friday, January 08, 2016

BTBC Chairman’s Report from Harry Barnes

Another One Bites the Dust

Old Jim Whitecalf's Buffalo Lodge

As I make final plans on the final day of 2015, staying awake until midnight is no longer a part of those plans.  I use to run with the big dogs on New Year's Eve, or “amateur night” as some would call it.  No matter how I scratch and crawl against the tide, I am getting older!  And so late night for me is, oh, 8:30 maybe 9 p.m.  For the rest of you, I hope you had a safe and sane New Year’s Eve.

The year 2015 was memorable for a lot of things not Donald Trump.  The Blackfeet Tribe is further along in audits than it has been in recent years.  The audit for 2014 should be posted by the time you read this article.  We will be compliant with the law for the first time probably since Elouise Cobell was Treasurer.  All audits are available online at the Federal Audit Clearinghouse.  Please review them.  We will then roll right into 2015.  This is a big deal.  While our overall financial condition has not improved dramatically, we are headed in the right direction.  The 2016 budget, adopted and previously published, did not see increases.  We knew it was going to take some time to recover.  We continue controlling cost and seeking new revenues as we try to deliver high quality service to the members.

Tipi Burner -- sawmill at the Industrial Park

I feel very positive and upbeat about 2016.  While Tribal finances do restrict our ability to do all of the things necessary for a robust economic development plan, it will not stop us.  We are going to recapture the Blackfeet Industrial Park and find strategic partners through a U.S. Foreign Trade Zone and also work with the Blood Tribe Agricultural Program to move forward on ag development.  We are expanding our buffalo herd.  In March, close to 100 head of buffalo will ship from Elk Island Buffalo reserve in Alberta to be repatriated to Blackfeet Country.  This blood line originated from the Pablo-Allred herd in the the 1870’s of buffalo captured in Blackfeet country, raised in Salish/Kootenai and sold to the Canadian government in 1900 by Michel Pablo — one of my ancestors.  We found out about their thinning the herd and made contact.  Generous donors have contributed to purchase and ship the animals.  Elders have long said that we will struggle until the buffalo returns.  The buffalo has for thousands of years been a cultural anchor and an economic driver.  Since no longer being exposed to this magnificent animal on a daily basis, we have bought into some very damaging lessons from colonization.

The year 2015 saw the Blackfeet lead a successful campaign to stop oil and gas exploration in the Badger-Two Medicine area.  Many Blackfeet were involved in this fight for many years.  I would like to think the fight is over, but it never seems to end.  Two important developments came from these efforts.  The realization that the Blackfeet have a lot of allies and friends out there that are not tribal members but share our concern for our lands, animals and air.  The second development is we Blackfeet are back and refuse to take a backseat to federal or state officials who discount or completely deny Blackfeet aboriginal rights.  We will continue to demand our rightful place at the table.  “If you are not at the table, you are probably on the menu.”

2016 will be bigger and busier than 2015.  I know it cannot be longer.  Look to the Land Buy Back Program to kick off in early spring with educational outreach.  Be sure you have a correct address as $105 million is allocated to buy back land on a voluntary basis in Blackfeet country.  This has the potential of affecting a lot of members.  For all you single Blackfeet men, there are a couple of Crow and Assiniboine women with million dollar payouts out there.  Just saying’!

We are trying to get the Water Compact Bill introduced into the Congress.  We really don’t want to go after the elections and try to educate a new Congress.  THIS IS NOT ABOUT SELLING OUT OUR WATER!!!!  This is about getting a deal from Congress that we can bring back to the members to vote on.  The members must decide this issue, not the Chairman or the Council.  You have the final say.

The final say is also yours regarding Constitutional Reform.  I would encourage everyone to attend the Symposium on reform next Monday and Tuesday at the Handgame pavilion.  We as voters must be inform ourselves of the issue.  It is easy to sit back and criticize.  It is easier to be on the demolition crew than the building crew.  A lot of people have put a lot of hard work into this effort on behalf of the members, and we should go, listen and share our input.

We have had a lot of deaths lately.  My prayers go out to all families who have lost a loved one.  A family loss is always tragic.  It is more tragic during the holidays.  May God comfort and bring healing to all our community.  I pray to the Creator for special blessing and grace to all Amskapi Pikuni.  Long and happy life to each of you as we enter a new year.

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I do not know why the Glacier Reporter prints the tribal report in the paper version but never puts it online.  Sometimes I think they believe that all Indians are on reservations and do not use the internet.  But I know that John McGill knows that 8,000 Blackfeet are on the rez and 8,000 Blackfeet are scattered over the planet.  I assume the decision is coming from over his head.  Anyway, this is for blog readers in the faraway.

There is another issue that needs attention from U of Montana fans.  After much ballyhoo about their fabulous building and long-time inclusion of Montana Native Americans in their community, the plans are now afoot to drastically cut the budgets for American Indian Student Services (AISS) and the Native American Studies Department.  If you wanted to have input, I suppose it would be a good idea to call Dave Beck in the Native American Studies Department at the U of M:  Office: NAC 203D  Email:   Phone: (406) 243-6097

Payne Family Native American Center
U of Montana

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