Blackfeet negotiates Heart Butte voting location with Pondera County following lawsuit

Press Release Credit: Native American Rights Fund 

Three days after the Blackfeet Nation brought a federal lawsuit against Pondera County arguing that the county was violating the voting rights of tribal members, Pondera County has agreed to make changes to make voting more accessible.

As part of the settlement, Pondera County agreed to open a satellite voting office in Heart Butte:

  • Satellite Election Office, Heart Butte High School, Monday, Oct. 19, 2020 (9am-3pm)
  • Satellite Election Office, Heart Butte High School, Thursday, Oct. 29, 2020 (9am-3pm)
  • Drop Box, Heart Butte High School, Tuesday, Nov. 3 (9am-5pm)

Blackfeet Nation—represented by the Native American Rights Fund (NARF) and the ACLU of Montana—claimed that Pondera County violated the U.S. Constitution, the Montana Constitution, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 by failing to establish a satellite election office on the Blackfeet Reservation. The satellite office would provide in-person voter registration, in-person early voting, and Election Day voting.

Days after the lawsuit was filed, Pondera County agreed to establish a satellite election office in Heart Butte.

“Pondera County’s refusal to establish a satellite office was in clear violation of the rights that Blackfeet tribal members have to participate in the political process and exercise their political power,” said NARF Staff Attorney Jacqueline De León. “While it’s shameful that it took a lawsuit for Pondera County to do the right thing, we are glad that tribal members will now have a way to register and vote.”

According to the complaint, the failure to establish a satellite office discriminated against Blackfeet tribal members because there would have been less opportunities for tribal members than white citizens to vote and elect candidates for federal, state, and county offices. The county did not have a compelling reason to deny a satellite office on the Blackfeet Reservation in Heart Butte, which is 93.7% Native American.  In fact, the county already had established an in-person satellite office in Conrad, which is 95.1% white, off the reservation, and nearly 80 miles from some Blackfeet tribal members.

There are multiple barriers to voting for those living on reservations, including lack of local mail service, distance to the polls, and poverty. Voting by mail is not a reasonable alternative for tribal members because houses on Blackfeet do not receive mail delivery, post offices are often located far away, and roads are sometimes impassable during the winter months.

“Forcing Blackfeet voters to travel to Conrad for the only in-person voting option was not reasonable, was an assault on tribal members’ right to vote, and would have disenfranchised an entire tribal community,” said Alex Rate, legal director, ACLU of Montana.

The lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court in Billings.

Extended Stay at Home/Quarantine Orders for Blackfeet Reservation: SEPT. 28 – OCT. 25, 2020

EXPIRES AT 11:59 P.M. ON SUNDAY, OCTOBER 25, 2020

1. BLACKFEET TRIBAL OFFICES CLOSURE. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council hereby closes all tribal programs as directed under the attached List and memos issued by the Blackfeet Personnel Department. (Amended to remain closed until October 25, 2020 per Resolution 08-2021 Tribal Offices Only)

2. STAY AT HOME ORDER FOR RESIDENTS OF THE BLACKFEET RESERVATION. All persons are ordered to Stay Home. Persons found to be engaged in the following illegal activities shall be fined a minimum of $500.00 per occurrence: House Parties, Loitering, Soliciting, or engaged in unapproved gatherings. Employment travel to and from the Reservation is exempt from this order for purposes of employment. The Blackfeet Revenue Department shall issue tags for such travel.

3. APPROVED ACTIVITIES. All residents on the Blackfeet Reservation are required to Stay at Home unless engaged in essential activities as follows:
—obtain medical services;
—obtain food or medicine;
—to engage in spiritual, mental, physical and emotional well-being;
—only residents of the Blackfeet Reservation are permitted to engage in outdoor activities with members from within the same household or established cohorts as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). “Cohort” is defined as: smaller groups formed out of a larger organization of persons for the purpose of engaging in legal activity for the same period of time, with the goal of reducing risk of infection from the Coronavirus; and, in the event one cohort is exposed to the virus, remainder cohort groups can continue to participate in the activity; and
—Residents are encouraged to engage in walks, hiking, fishing, etc. Such activity should not amount to large groups or extended family groups where risk of infection increases.

4. SOCIAL DISTANCING ORDER. All persons are mandated to distance at six (6) feet from each other while wearing a mask, with the exception of those persons who are members of the same household. “Household” is defined as those members of a household who were living in the same dwelling unit during the past fourteen (14) days. Persons knowingly in violation of this Order shall be fined $500.00 per occurrence.

5. PROHIBITION ON INDOOR GATHERINGS. Indoor gatherings shall be limited to household members or approved cohorts and businesses under the current business regulation order. Spiritual gatherings engaged in closed contact between persons shall be limited to virtual or remote attendance. Persons knowingly in violation of this Order shall result in a $500 fine per occurrence.

6. MASKS REQUIRED IN ALL AREAS OF THE BLACKFEET RESERVATION. All persons on the Blackfeet Reservation are required to wear masks at all times while in public (where social distancing cannot be maintained), with the exception for children under two (2) years of age. Masks are available through the Blackfeet Tribal Office Main Lobby. Persons not wearing a mask after warning shall be fined $500.00.

7. CURFEW AMENDMENT FROM 9 PM to 6 AM. Curfew shall be from 9 PM to 6 AM each day. Violations of Curfew shall result in a minimum of $500.00 Fine per occurrence.

8. COURT ENFORCEMENT FOR ISOLATION/QUARANTINE PUBLIC HEALTH ORDERS. Amendment #3 to Ordinance #121 requires enforcement of all public health isolation/quarantine orders by the Blackfeet Tribal Court. Persons not following the public health orders will be subject to further legal action requiring violators to be legally detained and face further criminal action not to exceed 3 years in jail and/or $5,000.00 fine per occurrence.

9. WEEKLY BRIEFING TO THE PUBLIC. The Blackfeet Incident Command shall issue a daily briefing to the public on current COVID-19 issues.

10. EXPIRATION OF THIS ORDER. Expires on October 25th to which the Blackfeet Tribe will implement its Phased Plan by October 20th.

Tribal rifle hunting season opens Oct. 10 and ends Dec. 20, 2020.

The tribal rifle hunting season opens on Saturday October 10th and ends on December 20, 2020.
Hunters are encouraged to obtain their hunting licenses online at blackfeetfishandwildlife.net Once hunters buy their licenses they can call our office at (406) 338-7207 to arrange a time to pick up their kill tags.
Hunters without access to a computer or those experiencing difficulty using our website can call our office to obtain assistance buying their hunting licenses.
The Blackfeet Fish and Wildlife Department will be offering extended hours for tribal members and descendants wanting hunting licenses and/or lottery chances for the upcoming bighorn sheep, moose, and elk special lottery drawings.
Hunters can obtain hunting tags from 8:00 a.m. to 8 p.m. all week from October 5th through October 9th. The office will also be open on Saturday October 10th from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Hunters are reminded that lottery sales for the special bighorn sheep, moose, and elk rifle tags end at midnight on Thursday October 8th.
The lottery drawing is slated to occur on Friday October 9th at noon.
Hunters are encouraged to only ride in vehicles with immediate family, wear masks in public places, wash hands frequently, and keep a safe distance from cohorts and other sportsmen.
Good luck!!

Blackfeet authorizes 14-day mandatory shut down of entire reservation due to Covid-19

SEPTEMBER 24, 2020 – 3:00 P.M.

PUBLIC NOTICE FROM THE BLACKFEET TRIBAL BUSINESS COUNCIL

Due to the rising numbers of active COVID-19 cases on the Blackfeet Reservation, the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, in an emergency meeting today, authorized a 14 day mandatory shut down of the entire reservation beginning Sunday, September 27, 2020 at 11:59 p.m.

This will allow individuals to get supplies they need.

The shut down was based upon the recommendation by our Public Health Officials. For every 2 tests, 1 is positive.

Blackfeet Community Hospital will also be going back to a Phase 1 closure.

Everyone needs to take this serious. Reservation wide, there are 83 active cases as of today and a few hundred on quarantine. COVID-19 can affect everyone, regardless of age or health.

Law Enforcement will be on full force to cite and fine individuals not complying with the shut down.

More details will be forthcoming. Please stay tuned on our Facebook page, local radio and tv, newspapers.

We remind everyone to follow the CDC guidelines and Blackfeet Tribe Ordinance 121.

Contact:
Blackfeet Tribe
338-3513

COVID-19 Supplemental Services checks will be mailed due to safety concerns

PUBLIC NOTICE – SEPTEMBER 10, 2020:

Due to health & safety concerns, all COVID-19 Supplemental Services checks will be mailed.  There will not be any in person distribution.  Remember, there is a 3-4 week turn around for a check to be processed.  If you need to correct your address or have other questions, please contact the Manpower Application Center at any of the following numbers:

(406) 845-8796
(406) 845-8792
(406) 845-8778
(406) 845-2581
(406) 450-4809

The main tribal offices are not working with the application process.  Please direct all calls the the above numbers.

Blackfeet Tribe ready to distribute $7 million to tribal members in COVID-19 financial assistance

For Immediate Release—August 28, 2020

Blackfeet Tribe ready to distribute $7 million to tribal members in COVID-19 financial assistance

Tribe launches online application and to provide drive-thru support

Browning, MT—The Blackfeet Nation is now accepting applications from tribal members for a one-time $500 stipend for those who have experienced hardships due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

$7 million has been allocated toward this effort from money the Tribe received from the CARES Act, which was established to ensure tribes have equal access to federal COVID-19 economic recovery resources.

“The supplement payment to our people has been a priority for the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council,” said Tim Davis, Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council. “This pandemic has impacted us all in various ways, but we hope this payment will help alleviate some of the financial burdens that have come with it.”

Tribal members can access the online application on the Tribe’s website, blackfeetnation.com.

The website also includes information for alternative methods to complete and submit applications, which includes drive-thru service, email, pick-up and drop-off locations, mail, and fax.

“To help mitigate the spread of the virus, we highly recommend that applications be completed online,” said James McNeely, Public Information Officer for the Blackfeet Nation. “But we are also aware that some people prefer other methods when sharing personal information, which is why the Tribe has dedicated staff to support elders and others to access and complete the application in other ways.”

Starting on Monday, August 31, tribal members who prefer to submit a hard copy of their application will be able to go to a drive-thru at Glacier Peaks Casino to obtain the application, receive assistance, and submit the application. The drive-thru starts from North Boundary Street at the north gate of the powwow grounds.

The drive-thru will be available to tribal members Monday through Friday, 10:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m., until December 16.

The Tribe asks that people follow the CDC and safety guidelines while in line at the drive-thru. Signs will be posted stating that individuals in their vehicles must wear a mask. All staff will have the appropriate PPE when engaging with the members in the drive-thru line.

The drive-thru will also have booths with information encouraging tribal members to complete the 2020 Census and register to vote for the upcoming elections.

“I am proud of the hard work the Tribe and our tribal members have done to prioritize the safety and wellness of our people during this pandemic,” said Davis.

###

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

COVID-19 Testing Locations and Times (July 7 – 11)

Tuesday, July 7 – Heart Butte
  • Location: Heart Butte School
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Wednesday, July 8 – Browning (Glacier County DES will be on site)
  • Location: The old eagle shield
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Thursday, July 9 – Browning
  • Location: The old eagle shield
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Friday, July 10 – Browning
  • Location: The old eagle shield
  • Time: 10:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.