Blackfeet Tribal Business Councilman Marvin Weatherwax Jr. Testifies Before Congress For Wastewater Infrastructure For The Blackfeet Tribe

On May 7, 2024, Councilman Marvin Weatherwax Jr. provided testimony before the U.S. House Committee on Budget Interior in support of funding wastewater infrastructure for the Blackfeet Tribe. Councilman Marvin Weatherwax Jr. represents District 15 in the Montana House of Representatives, where he sits on the Agriculture Committee, the Natural Resources Committee, and the House State Administration Committee. Councilman Weatherwax Jr. is also the Chairman of the Coalition of Large Tribes (COLT), composed of members from other large Indian tribes throughout Indian Country. COLT advocates for issues facing American Indian tribes with land bases exceeding 100,000 acres.

Councilman Weatherwax Jr’s Testimony

Under the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement of 2016, the Blackfeet Tribe was informed that wastewater funding was not eligible to be included in Indian Water Rights settlements. Since 2016, numerous other Tribes have received wastewater funding allocations to provide wastewater infrastructure on their Tribal lands. Now, the Blackfeet Tribe, led by the efforts of Councilman Weatherwax is seeking an appropriation of $250 million to build and provide wastewater infrastructure on the Blackfeet Reservation. 

In his testimony, Councilman Weatherwax Jr. expressed the paramount need for wastewater infrastructure on the Blackfeet Reservation as it “fulfills the purposes of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation under [the Blackfeet] Treaty of 1855 [to] be a permanent homeland for… Blackfeet people”. 

Councilman Weatherwax Jr. contended that when the Blackfeet Tribe agreed to the terms under the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act of 2016, the Tribe was “informed…that wastewater funding was not eligible to be included in Indian water settlements.” Councilman Weatherwax Jr. further stated that since the enactment of other Tribal water rights settlements, like the Confederated Salish & Kootenai Indian Water Rights Settlement of 2020, and the Ft. Belknap Indian Community Indian Water Rights Settlement Act of 2023, which includes funding for wastewater infrastructure, the Blackfeet Tribe’s “water and wastewater needs…remain unaddressed.” 

“[N]ew water and wastewater infrastructure”, Councilman Weatherwax Jr. testified, “will improve Tribal member health outcomes…[provide] clean water… and avoid contamination of drinking water.” 

In his closing, Councilman Weatherwax Jr. reminded the U.S. Government of its trust responsibility and that “authorized funding of this nature will demonstrate the U.S. Government’s commitment to fulfill…its specific Treaty obligations to [the Blackfeet] Tribe…[and] is a small step but important step by the United States to honor [the Blackfeet] Treaty and…reverse [its] failed federal policies.”

Councilman Weatherwax Jr.’s testimony for the Blackfeet Tribe’s wastewater needs can be viewed on the House Appropriations Subcommittee’s website.