The tribal council on the Flathead Reservation in northwestern Montana has voted how it will spend the $150 million in settlement fund coming from the federal government: Half will go to members and half with be spent for things like cultural programs and economic development.
Some members aren’t happy with that decision, as Missoulian reporter Keila Szpaller reports.
Ramona Cajune wants the tribal council of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to return more settlement dollars to the people she says need it most.
On Monday, Cajune and other tribal members protested a council decision last week to pay individual members only half of a $150 million settlement signed with the U.S. government in May.
The tribal council has been holding meetings on how to spend its portion of the $1 billion going to 41 tribes as a result of a settlement agreement in Nez Perce v. Salazar.
“In my own family, there are people who are homeless,” Cajune said in a telephone interview. “One of the meetings I was at, there was a girl with no electricity, and I knew there were people in that meeting whose kids were hungry because we had fed some of those children earlier that month. So there is extreme poverty here on the reservation.”
The settlement money is not related to the funds coming from the historic Cobell v. Salazar settlement.
The tribal council meets again Tuesday, but tribal communications director Robert McDonald said he has heard nothing to indicate elected leaders plan to reconsider their vote. In fact, he said the decision to disperse $10,000 to each of the estimated 7,800 CSKT members – and retain the other half – came directly from tribal members’ input.
“This action is an effort to strike a balance among the needs presented at the meetings, as well as planning for the future,” McDonald said.
In public sessions about spending, four priorities emerged, he said: providing for elders, language efforts, cultural programs and economic development. The tribal council has not yet allocated funds to those areas.
“There’s no timeline, but it is clearly a topic that they are investing time into,” McDonald said.