Press Release: Blackfeet to move into COVID-19 Phase 3 starting March 15

For Immediate Release—March 10, 2021

Blackfeet to move into COVID-19 Phase 3 starting March 15

Browning, MT – The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, after consultation with local health officials and Incident Command team, has approved the Blackfeet Reservation to move into COVID-19 Phase 3 titled “New Normal” beginning, Monday, March 15, 2021 at 12:01 a.m. Coincidentally, it is exactly one year to the date at which the Blackfeet Tribe declared an Emergency due to the COVID-19 Pandemic (March 15, 2020).

The decision was based on the active COVID-19 cases and vaccines to date on the Blackfeet Reservation. We are currently at 1 active case and no hospitalizations. The vaccines, both Moderna and Johnson & Johnson, which are being administered by Indian Health Service and Southern Piegan Clinic, have vaccinated approximately 5,697 residents of the Blackfeet Reservation. The population is roughly 10,000 residents with 3,000 being under the age of 17 so at this time approximately 80% of the eligible population have received the vaccine.

The ability to move to Phase 3 is due to the diligence and care shown by the residents of the Blackfeet Nation and healthcare organizations throughout this pandemic. Details of Phase 3 will be forthcoming as well as updated business regulations.

While many are vaccinated, it is important to remember that COVID-19 Testing is still highly encouraged as the vaccines only lessen the symptoms and do not prevent COVID. Please keep in mind that while the numbers have permitted this move to Phase 3, please take precautions and remain vigilant to all the requirements of social distancing, keep within your cohorts/households, wear your mask, sanitize and wash your hands.

Approving the move to Phase 3 of the Blackfeet COVID Phase Plan comes with risk. An important piece of the Phase Plan is that the community can move backward in the Phase Plan, if needed. If the public health or healthcare system is strained, or cases rise dramatically, action will be taken to move back into Phase 1.

The Blackfeet Tribe has taken a strict, safety-oriented approach to ensuring the health and welfare of the Blackfeet Nation. Incident Command will continue to monitor community outbreaks and capacity in the medical and public health sectors as decisions are made regarding the recovery of the community.

FOR THE MEDIA, CONTACT:
James McNeely, Public Information Officer
Blackfeet Tribe
(406) 338-3513
jmcneely@blackfeetnation.com

NOTICE OF OPPORTUNITY TO COMMENT ON BLACKFEET WATER CODE BY APRIL 10, 2021

The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council has taken action to amend the Blackfeet Water Code (Resolution 211-2021) as a part of the Tribe’s obligation to implement the provisions of the Blackfeet Water Rights Compact and Settlement Act. The amendment repeals and replaces Ordinance 62 adopted on May 15, 1980 and re-adopted on July 12, 1988.

The public has 30 days starting March 11, 2021 to provide comments to the Blackfeet Water Code.  All comments must be received by the Blackfeet Legal Department on or before April 10, 2021.

View or download the Blackfeet Water Code and authorizing Tribal Resolution No. 211-2021. A hard copy of the Blackfeet Water Code is available at the Blackfeet Tribal Offices (front reception desk).

Please submit all comments by April 10, 2021 (30 days from March 11, 2021) to:

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

Comments also may be submitted by email on or before April 10, 2021 to blackfeetwatercode@gmail.com.

The amended Blackfeet Water Code is summarized below:

The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council adopted the Water Code under the authority of the Blackfeet Constitution and By-Laws and its sovereign authority, which is to control, manage and protect the waters of the Blackfeet Reservation in perpetuity for the permanent Blackfeet homeland.

Pursuant to the Treaty of October 17, 1855, the Blackfeet Tribe reserved all waters of the Blackfeet Reservation necessary to provide a permanent homeland (Winters Doctrine right); and are essential to the existence of the Blackfeet Tribe culturally, historically and economically and to the continuing viability of the Blackfeet.

The purposes of this Water Code is to protect the health and welfare of Reservation residents, the political integrity of the Tribe, and the economic security of the Reservation through effective administration, regulation and management of the Reservation water resources in order to protect the quantity, quality and integrity of the water resource.

The Tribe possesses the sole jurisdiction and authority to administer Tribal waters on the Reservation for the benefit of the Tribe and its members and to authorize use of the Tribal Water Right by any person.

The administration, regulation and management of the waters of the Reservation through under this Water Code shall comply with due process requirements, all Tribal law, regulations and procedures and any applicable federal law. 

The protection and preservation of the Tribe’s water resources, and the economic stability and well-being of the Blackfeet Tribe now and for generations to come, are dependent on the efficient and effective management, control and development of the Tribe’s water resources which this Water Code is intended to provide.

The Water Code applies to every person who seeks to use or is using Blackfeet Tribal Water.  This includes Tribal members, allottees and non-members. No person shall use Tribal Water without a permit issued pursuant to this Water Code.  The Water Code sets out the process for obtaining a Tribal water permit and also addresses the circumstances in which a permit may be transferred to another tribal member, a family member or to third parties.

The Water Code also provides for the establishment of the Blackfeet Water Department and the structure and authority of the Department.

On and after April 15, 2009 (the date of State ratification of the Blackfeet Compact), all basins on the Blackfeet Reservation are closed to issuance of State of Montana certificates of water rights and water permits and the Blackfeet Tribe shall have sole and exclusive jurisdiction to authorize use of water within the Blackfeet Reservation.

The Blackfeet Tribe entered into a Compact with the State of Montana and the United States quantifying the Winters Doctrine rights of the Tribe. (ratified by the State of Montana, MCA 85-20-1501, and by the United States in the Blackfeet Water Right Settlement Act, Public Law 114-322, 130 Stat. 1628, Title III, Subtitle G).  The Compact and Settlement Act were approved by the Blackfeet tribal membership in a referendum vote held on April 20, 2017 and certified by the Secretary of the Interior’s delegate on May 30, 2017.

Free COVID Testing March 4

On Thursday, March 4, 2021, There will be free COVOID Testing at the Old Eagle Shields in Browning, MT. Incentives will be given out! For questions, call 338-4624 or 338-4724 .