FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 3, 2012
CONTACT: Delilah Friedlander
YOUR NUMBER 406.880.0270
YOUR EMAIL Delilah.firstname.lastname@example.org
Membership concerns for the confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes $150 million settlement
Early in April 2012, the secretary of Interior Ken Salazar Announced a $1 billion settlement that included 41 tribes. Of the 41 tribes receiving a portion of this settlement are the Confederated Salish and Kootenai (CSKT). The tribes will be receiving a reported $150 million within the next 4-6 weeks. There have been some concerns with distribution of these funds from the membership and the official first of many meetings occurred on April 30th 2012 in Elmo. Coincidently 41 people signed into the meeting, to share a small meal and big concerns. Although there was a representative attendance of Kootenai people meeting attendees included people from the Pend d’Oreille tribe as well as mixed blood members that are of both Salish and Kootenai lineage.
The meeting was facilitated by the group Wista’la Wanmu’is Ktunxa (7th generation) a newer non-profit kootenai group that has interests in language revitalization, cultural preservation, and is proactive in fair treatment of tribal elders regardless of their affiliation to CSKT. One of the more recent public out reach events included hosting a pow-wow comedy jam in Missoula to raise funds for a Kerr Dam memorial.
The meeting took place at the Elmo Hall a common meeting place in Elmo. There was a microphone at the head of a circle of tables that people were invited to use to voice their opinions. Many unique and diverse ideas came out from members such as constructing a Native based treatment facility, per-capita distributions, and building a truck stop in the Elmo area. There was also a suggestion to trade with other energy resourceful tribes based on the nation-to-nation status optioned by treaty rights. Many people that spoke offered different investment ideas but in all of the speeches there were at least 4 common overwhelming concerns.
The first being that the tribal council already has preconceived ideas and promises that the money will be distributed through various departments such as the Department of Human resources (DHRD), and Tribal Health which membership fears will leave individuals in the similarly current state of despair. “I am tired of those people getting steak and them throwing us the bones.” One member stated during his speech. “Everyone in our membership kootenai or salish should be living good, not rich but good”. Another speaker stated in his support of distributing a per-capita payment to the membership.
The second common theme of concern in the majority of the speeches was elder treatment. People and elders have stated that elders are having a difficult time getting adequate assistance from the tribe’s human resource department (DHRD). Common concern’s that relate to elders throughout the reservation are that they cannot get firewood to last through the winter and the meals they are supposed to get distributed on certain days have turned intermittent. One elder has on numerous occasions asked the council to help maintain her access to a water well she is forced to share with a local rancher that leaves it inaccessible. On a different case a full blood elder recently suffered from E.coli she believes to have infected her from the water that she pays for. “It is disgraceful that we have to even depend on this money to ask for decent elder assistance.” One leader stated. Another elder expressed her concern for the paper work they are required to fill out to receive assistance. “My friend down the way cannot afford the gas to drive to headquarters in Pablo to fill out his paper work, why even try?” she said during an interview prior to the meeting.
The third commonality was that people wanted to see a per-capita dispersment to the membership population and overall apposed the settlement to get any absorption into the “general fund”. “There would be no tribe if it weren’t for the membership!” exclaimed one female cultural leader. Although this settlement comes from mis management of tribal trust funds, trust lands and other non-monetary trust resources, there was an all over consciences that this settlement would not have been reached if it weren’t for the judicially addressed Cobell case. Cobell V Salazar included a 15 year dispute that ended in a settlement of $3.4 billion as a result of Individual Indian monies (IIM) and Individual Indian land owners. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes did not specifically sign on to the Cobell case and as a tribe will not receive the $3.4 billion disbursement that is currently under numerous appeals. The individuals that may have accepted the terms of settlement may receive $1,500.00 if the case concludes all the appeals. The people at the meeting feel that this will be the only chance to see a lot of good changes on the reservation and are coming together to voice their concerns.
The fourth key interest in many of the speeches given that day was if council members decide to ignore the requests and concerns of its membership in relation to this settlement then above all they want to see transparency and accountability in how the money is distributed. “Too many times have we seen money distributed to certain departments and poof disappear.” Stated one elder. The attendees at this meeting ultimately want the tribes to open their books when dealing with this settlement because it is of the belief that membership makes the tribe and there is fear that the members will be put to the side.
Many good ideas were presented in this meeting and we are looking forward to hearing more ideas from the membership as well. We are facilitating the next meeting pertaining to the trust settlement this Sunday April 6th 3p.m. at the Elmo Hall in Elmo Montana. The meeting is open to the public and we invite members from all three of the tribes to attend so that we can help each other in pursuit of empowerment.
Members of Wista’la Wanmu’is Ktunxa (7th generation)