The new chairman of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has a lot on his plate, and half the normal two-year term to get things done.
The Missoulian reports that Ron Trahan takes over the chairmanship at a critical juncture for CSKT.
In less than two months, a mediator will set a price for Kerr Dam, the acquisition of which the tribes have been vigorously pursuing for years.
There has been unrest among some tribal members over what’s known as the Salazar Settlement. A previous Tribal Council voted to distribute just over half of the $150 million to individual members and place the balance in an investment account; a fairly vocal group wants all the money divvied up among the membership.
And, there’s the contentious issue of reserved water rights, although the tribes have signaled their role now is mostly to await a decision by the Montana Legislature on a proposed compact agreed to by negotiators for CSKT, the state and the federal government – and to be prepared to file thousands of water rights claims next year if the Legislature rejects the compact.
By then, however, the tribes will have another new chairman, Vernon Finley. The Tribal Council deadlocked, at 5-5, three times trying to select a replacement for Joe Durglo, who lost his re-election bid. Now, Trahan and Finley will each serve one year of the two-year term.
It’s happened once before. Unable to muster a majority for either candidate for the 1986-87 chairmanship, the council split the two-year term in half. Ron Therriault and Mickey Pablo took turns serving.
“It’s not the perfect way, but it’s what the council sees as best” under the circumstances, Trahan says.
Trahan follows in his father’s footsteps. Lyman Luke Trahan served as CSKT chairman from 1966-67.
- Vince Devlin