Archive for November 22nd, 2011

Crow Tribal Chairman Cedric Black Eagle is from Lodge Grass. The small community of 500 has survived a summer flood followed by a trio of crimes, including a triple homicide. Tribal, local and law enforcement officials are working on restoring peace to the town. (CASEY PAGE/Gazette Staff)


Floods. Poverty. Crime. All are a part of the Lodge Grass story in the past six months. But the town on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana is a comeback story in the making.

Here’s the full story from Billings Gazette reporter Susan Olp:

    It’s been a long six months for Lodge Grass.

    In May, floodwaters inundated the reservation town of about 500, turning it into a temporary island and swamping businesses, churches and houses.

    A trio of crimes in the fall, including a triple homicide, was another punch to the town, turning the sleepy community into a fearful one.

    Now tribal, local and law enforcement officials are working on changes to restore peace.

    Cedric Black Eagle, chairman of the Crow Tribe, has more than a tribal leader’s interest in Lodge Grass. It’s where he grew up and where his parents live.

    The Lodge Grass of Black Eagle’s youth was a different place. Back then, he said, the community had multiple grocery stores, cafes and restaurants, an appliance store, a hotel and a movie theater.

    “And I think most of it was because the major highway, old 87, ran right through town,” Black Eagle said.

    Once Interstate 90 was built, he said, businesses started drying up. It also didn’t help that retail centers in Sheridan, Wyo., and Billings drew shoppers away.

    Now, a drive through town reveals single-wide trailers and houses, some with boarded-up windows, on tree-lined streets. Painted graffiti covers abandoned buildings. One grocery store serves the town, along with a few other businesses. A handful of churches dot residential areas.

    The town has elementary, middle and high schools, which are on top of a hill. But there aren’t many job opportunities, and like other towns on the reservation, unemployment is high.

    Lodge Grass is the only incorporated town on the Crow Reservation. That means that Henry Speelman is the only mayor out of the six towns on the reservation.

    He took office two years ago, when the city was $50,000 in debt, owing taxes to the federal and state governments. That amount has been cut to $29,000, he said, and the goal is to pay it off.

    He’d also like to see Lodge Grass re-establish a police department, which went away about 15 years ago.

    “We used to have law enforcement, courts, everything here,” he said. “Now I want to bring it back.”

    The town has been through a lot, Speelman said. It started with the May flooding that destroyed the Lodge Grass Post Office, briefly closed the IGA store and hit a couple of other stores and several houses.

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Mark Trahant

Mark Trahant is a writer, speaker and Twitter poet. He is a member of the Shoshone-Bannock Tribes and lives in Fort Hall, Idaho. Trahant’s recent book, “The Last Great Battle of the Indian Wars,” is the story of Sen. Henry Jackson and Forrest Gerard.

A simple statement from the two co-chairs of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction. “After months of hard work and intense deliberations, we have come to the conclusion today that it will not be possible to make any bipartisan agreement available to the public before the committee’s deadline.”

And, they continued, “despite our inability to bridge the committee’s significant differences, we end this process united in our belief that the nation’s fiscal crisis must be addressed and that we cannot leave it for the next generation to solve. We remain hopeful that Congress can build on this committee’s work and can find a way to tackle this issue in a way that works for the American people and our economy.”

But let’s be clear about this statement, the committee, and Congress itself. This represents a failure to govern. There is a structural inability to make difficult choices about what the country needs to do to finance its operations. The so-called supercommittee is no different than the country and its citizenry. We are divided, locked into a struggle with significant differences about what to do next.

Some of us believe that we should balance two competing ideas: We should invest in jobs. Now. Again. And keep doing that until everyone who wants a jobs has access to one. Then, and only then, the government should begin a long-term strategy of rethinking promises made through entitlement programs.

The other view says cut government now. Shrink government, period. Don’t raise a single dime in new taxes – and let the economy grow again (after it crashes).

Now we will read over the coming weeks and months about the tragedy of automatic budget cuts as the real numbers surface. Some will complain about how much smaller our military must become. Others will note the deep unfairness in cutting domestic programs that serve people who are at the lowest end of the economic spectrum. The president has already promised to veto any bills that try to get around the automatic budget cuts.

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