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.

Hydraulic Model and Municipal, Rural and Industrial (MR&I) Master Plan

The Blackfeet Nation and the Blackfeet Water Department (BWD) are partnering with some of the most trusted and experienced engineers in the state of Montana, in order to study our existing water system and deliver crucial improvements. In times of climate crisis and water uncertainty, creating, improving, and sustaining our water infrastructure is of utmost concern and priority for our people. We are working to improve drinking water access and delivery for residents and businesses. We are also in the process of improving the reliability and efficiency of our delivery system for irrigation water for agricultural users. These projects include improved irrigation systems, the construction of municipal water systems, and so much more.

A river running through rolling hills

After decades of negotiation, our people secured the rights to our water. April 20th, 2017 is a historical day in Blackfeet history, we voted in favor of the Blackfeet Water Compact and Settlement Act. With access to 471 million dollars in federal funds, it is critical that we begin investing in infrastructure and systems that will benefit the entire community. Our partnership with HDR, a highly qualified international engineering firm with a strong Montana presence of over 200 engineers and technicians, who has worked with organizations and Native nations from across the United States, will help us achieve our goal and ensure that we continue to execute our reserved water rights and ultimately, provide safe and reliable water for all of our residents and water users of Blackfeet country.

“This is our water and no one is taking it from us. Water is everything for us” – Chief Earl Old Person

There are two immediate priorities that we will begin with: The Hydraulic Model, and the Water Master Plan. These are important for informing the creation of infrastructure that will strengthen the health and sovereignty of our people for generations to come. The Hydraulic Model will mimic the existing water system, pumps, storage tanks, pipes, in a computer model which will allow us to understand the day-to-day operation of our water systems. The Hydraulic Model will be used to identify potential areas of concerns, low pressure areas, low flow areas, zones of inefficiency, and how the system will operate under a variety of scenarios, including high-water use in fire season, and other shortages. Additionally, the system will recognize opportunities for future development and help us save money by ensuring that we are making smart and strategic investments the first time around.

A large blue river

Based on the data collected and modeled, we will be able to determine where there may be issues with water pressure and flow as well as verify pump, pipeline and storage tank sizes and make adjustments as needed. The Hydraulic Model is an integral part of the master water planning process and is a tool that can estimate how a system will work 5, 10, 15 and 20 years into the future. Based on the discoveries made within the hydraulic modeling process, we will begin to put together a Water Master Plan that will outline subsequent projects to improve flow, pressure, and efficiency across the system. In short, our investments in the water system will be backed up by the best available analysis, in order to ensure that Blackfeet members can rely on their taps.

These processes will be carried out over the next 12-18 months. We will navigate the Hydraulic Model and Master Plan in partnership with HDR, to ensure we are designing and developing an efficient system that will provide water for domestic, commercial, industrial, municipal and cultural uses to our homeland.

Election Results for Blackfeet Primary Election (June 7, 2022)

Blackfeet lifts mask mandate, opens tribal offices


Per the consensus of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and Blackfeet Incident Commander, the Mask Mandate shall be optional on the Blackfeet Reservation pursuant to the CDC recommendations effective March 15, 2022. All tribal offices and programs will be opened to the public effective March 15, 2022. Mask wearing is recommended for those with severe immune compromised and personal choice. Please continue to be safe.


The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council has taken action to amend two areas of the Blackfeet Law and Order Code:

  1. The Blackfeet Tribal Business council acknowledges the dire need to ensure that public service are made available to address the mental health and substance abuse needs of the Blackfeet Community. In order to appropriately provide protective services, treatment resources, and public resources; while protecting the due process rights of all involved. (to address the social needs as a community) the Tribal Council enacted Resolution 131-2022; to which, passed the “Civil Commitment Code;” &
  2. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council recognizes that the three different laws pertaining to Domestic Abuse (on the Reservation) cause confusion and hinder the overall effectiveness of ending abuse on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. To prevent that confusion, to provide victims of domestic abuse the maximum protection from abuse, and to firmly declare that domestic abuse will not be excused or tolerated, the Tribal Council enacted Resolution 147-2022; to which, passed the “Domestic Abuse Law.”

The public has 60 days to provide comments to the Blackfeet Civil Commitment Code and/or the Blackfeet Domestic Abuse Law. The comment period will end on February 15, 2021.

View or Download the “Civil Commitment Code” and/or the “Domestic Abuse Law.” A hard copy of both amendments are available at the Blackfeet Tribal Offices (front reception desk).

Please submit all comments by February 15, 2022 to:

  • Blackfeet Legal Department
    P.O. Box 849
    Browning, MT 59417

Comments also may be submitted by email on or before February 15, 2022 to

Official Arrangements for Chief Earl Old Person

Tuesday, October 19, 2021 at 2:00pm – Chief Earl Old Person will be arriving home to the Blackfeet Nation. He will be brought to the Blackfeet Tribal Conference Room Chambers where a walk through viewing will take place.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021 at 4:00pm – Chief Earl Old Person will be escorted to the Browning High School Gymnasium where he will lay in state until Friday.

Thursday, October 21, 2021 at 7:00pm – Special Church Service

Friday, October 22, 2021 at 11:00am – Funeral Service

We will update as more information becomes available.

Longtime Chief & Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe passes away at 92


Longtime Chief & Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribe passes away at 92

Browning, MT – Earl Old Person, the longest serving elected tribal official in the U.S., passed away today at Blackfeet Community Hospital after a long battle with cancer.

Earl was elected to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council in 1952 and served for over 60 years while serving as Chairman for over 50 years.  During this time, Earl met many dignitaries including every U.S. President since Dwight Eisenhower, the British Royal Family, the Shah of Iran, and other world leaders.

In 1978, the family of the late Jim White Calf, bestowed the hereditary chieftainship, to Earl.

Earl was an orator and leader for the Blackfeet People, the Blackfoot Confederacy, and Indian People across the United States and Canada.

“The Blackfeet People have suffered a huge loss today with the passing of Chief Old Person.  A chapter in our history has come to a close.  The Blackfeet Tribe offers prayers and support to the family of Earl at this time.”

Services are pending.


James McNeely
Public Information Officer
Blackfeet Tribe

(406) 338-3515

Blackfeet reissues COVID-19 mandates as cases rise on Reservation


The Blackfeet Reservation is currently experiencing an increased number of COVID-19 cases at this time.

The following orders are issued by the Blackfeet Incident Command Team:

1. A mandatory mask mandate for the Blackfeet Reservation effective immediately. All businesses and individuals shall be notified.

2. All Blackfeet Tribal Offices shall be closed to the public until further notice. Tribal Employees will report to work on Wednesday, August 18, 2021. Business may be handled via phone, email, fax, or appointment.

The Blackfeet Reservation is not on lockdown.

Anyone traveling out of town is encouraged to wear a mask and follow CDC recommendations.

These orders are effective immediately and shall remain in effect until further notice and are put in place in the best interest of the Blackfeet Reservation.

Blackfeet Care Center

Due to the rise in active COVID-19 cases on the Blackfeet Reservation, per the Medical Director, the Blackfeet Care Center will be on 30 day lockdown effective today, July 9, 2021, for the safety of all residents.
There will be no visitors allowed during this time.
Please call 338-2686 if you have any questions.