State-Tribal Relations Committee meets with CSKT Council

by Whitney England
Daily Inter Lake | May 15, 2020 3:39 PM

The Montana State-Tribal Relations Interim Committee virtually hosted a meeting last Thursday with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council to discuss important issues within the reservation.

The committee acts as a liaison between the state of Montana and tribal governments, including the CSKT Tribal Council. By meeting with the committee, the council is able to voice concerns and discuss topics to encourage local government and tribal cooperation.

This interim the State-Tribal Relations Committee has four primary areas of study. The first is HJ10 ,which is a study of barriers to voting for American Indians in Montana. Another issue is regarding how to improve the state of communication between the children and family services division in the state and the tribes in cases of abuse and neglect. The final two topics include the maintenance of highways within reservation boundaries and then concerns of runaway youth and the reasons why they run away multiple times.

In the meeting held over Zoom, these matters were discussed and the State-Tribal Relations Committee encouraged open conversation regarding these issues.

One of the most concerning matters brought up in the meeting was regarding the lack of training for tribal CPS workers. CSKT Chairwomen Shelly Fyant said there was a need for more training for this position and, more importantly, an increased amount of time to train these individuals before they take on demanding caseloads.

Fyant said the caseloads are overwhelming and there is too high of a turnover rate for tribal social workers due to being assigned far too many cases at one time. The workers do not have the time to investigate the situation and take the proper steps in filing paperwork. Fyant would like more training to be provided from the state to lessen the amount of “burnout” among case workers.

The need for more reliable foster care homes and increased support for tribal grandparents raising children was also discussed.

Another matter the committee and council conferred over was the need for statewide acceptance of tribal identification cards. Many CSKT residents have issues with their IDs being accepted in places off the reservation. Senator Jason Small said the committee will follow up with state and local governments to ensure correct training on acceptable identification cards is established statewide.

The CSKT Tribal Council was also concerned about the logistics regarding mail-in ballots, including whether the counties will work with the tribe to cover the additional costs. There is also a restriction of ballots per household, which is a concern for many tribal families and their access to vote.

The Tribal Council and the committee conversed over many issues regarding travel through the reservation and are hoping to have better communication with the Montana Department of Transportation in controlling the traffic violations. Many voiced concerns over different areas of safety along Highway 93, including the possible need to alter a segment of the road between Pablo and Ronan.

The State-Tribal Relations Committee is continuing to meet with tribes and discuss these areas of study for a future improvement of relations between the state and tribal communities.