PABLO – Members of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will be able to decide whether they want to amend their constitution to allow themselves to petition to recall their council representatives, according to the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

In a letter from BIA Northwest Regional Solicitor Stanley M. Speaks, a group on the Flathead Indian Reservation that is seeking an election to decide whether 100 percent of what’s known as the Salazar Settlement should be distributed among the CSKT membership learned this week it had successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to conduct a secretarial election to amend the tribes’ constitution.

Presently, only the Tribal Council can remove a council member from office.

The proposed amendment would give the membership “the power to recall any tribal council person for malfeasance, or any part of the Confederated Tribes’ Constitution.”

A recall petition would require the signatures of at least one-third of the eligible voters qualified to vote in the most recent tribal election. That would trigger a recall election.

The People’s Voice, a group that organized to seek a popular vote on whether all of the $150 million the Flathead Reservation tribes were awarded in the Salazar Settlement should be divided among tribal members, wants the change.

The Tribal Council voted to distribute a little over half the settlement money to CSKT’s approximately 7,800 members, and use the balance to help fund and expand several tribal programs.

Just over a year ago, approximately $78 million was distributed in the form of $10,000 checks.

The People’s Voice wants the membership to vote on whether the rest – which would amount to approximately $9,000 apiece – should be distributed to tribal members as well.

***

On Thursday the group’s attorney, Howard Toole of Missoula, filed a complaint in Tribal Court alleging the council violated the CSKT constitution by twice rejecting petitions from the People’s Voice requesting that the entire membership be allowed to vote on whether to distribute all of the Salazar money.

“We’re claiming the tribes mishandled, and inaccurately counted, the signatures,” Toole said, “and that the council is unwilling to implement Article 9 of the constitution.”

That article says that with the submission of the signatures of one-third of the eligible voters, any enacted or proposed ordinance can be submitted to a popular referendum. Toole said the council found an initial petition on the matter “legally inadequate,” and rejected a second petition on the grounds that it lacked enough eligible signatures.

CSKT spokesman Rob McDonald said Thursday the council could not yet comment on either the complaint, or the recall election.

“As for the court case, council has not seen or been able to review its contents,” McDonald said.

Much the same held true for the BIA-sanctioned election, McDonald added.

“We’ve been told by individuals the information is coming, but it’s not something we have seen or reviewed,” he said. “The language hasn’t been provided. The heads-up has been given, but we have not been given the meat and potatoes.”

Speaks, in his letter to People’s Voice president Sharon Rosenbaum of St. Ignatius, said the BIA’s review of the petition involving the proposed amendment disqualified 60 of the 1,395 signatures gathered.

“Of (the 1,395 signatures), we found 32 lived outside the reservation, 10 signed twice and 18 printed their signatures,” Speaks said.

After those were invalidated, the petition still had 1,335 signatures from eligible voters, more than the 1,280 – or one-third of the 3,839 eligible voters – required.

The secretarial election “will take place in the near future,” according to Speaks.

***

While they’re separate issues, Toole said signatures for the two petitions were gathered by the same people at the same time.

“It’s interesting to note that the BIA cleared the recall one with ample signatures,” Toole said, “but the tribes turned down the other.”

According to Jeri Roullier of St. Ignatius, spokeswoman for the People’s Voice, the petition asking for a popular vote on the Salazar settlement gathered 53 more signatures than the one on the proposed recall amendment, but was still rejected.

Of the 1,448 submitted to the Council, she said, 263 were invalidated and, she charges, another 189 disappeared.

That took the total below 1,000, and left it short of the 1,280 needed.

“They rejected a lot of signatures, and pages of signatures were lost,” Toole said. “We’re asking tribal judges to determine whether the people’s right to a popular referendum was violated by rejecting the petition.”

Reporter Vince Devlin can be reached at 1-800-366-7186 or by email at vdevlin@missoulian.com.

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(8) comments

Rez Kid

Tribal members will never see a penny of this money because the CSKT is going to use it to buy Kerr Dam (at a fraction of what it is really worth). If you want to see heads roll, demand an outside , independent AUDIT on all money rec'd and spent by the CSKT over the past 10 years. Then you find out who has been padding their pockets while the other tribal members are hung out to dry.

jimira

Micheal Gale, you have no idea what you are talking about... Independent audits are mandatory. And most of the money spent probably went to your fellow non members just like those Salazar checks did. As for the dam, you are totally clueless as usual, CSKT has been saving money to purchase the dam for almost 30 yrs now. Your assertion CSKT is buying the dam back at a fraction of the cost is another in a long line of misinformation tactics. If you knew anything about any Tribe acquiring anything from the gov't or corporations than you would know we overpay 99.9 percent of the time. So take your opinion walking...

jimira

So if we recall our TC members then what... We spend more money, we do not have, to hold elections where only 1/7th of our membership votes anyways than elects people who's only qualification are minimal at best (age, Tribal membership and residency)... Someone please tell me how this is a good idea? I have not read anything from the all-knowing Jeri addressing this. So we recall 3 TC members and elect 3 others. What happens if those three do not vote to give you the money you believe is yours? Or they do vote yes but it does not matter because three is not a majority? Do we have another recall and election? In the mean time we have a TON of other issues to address but we are bogged down in recalls and elections because a few people want money???

Agencygrl

Finally some light at the end of the tunnel! It's about darn time. I'm not too concerned about the settlement, but given the right to conduct a secretarial election to amend the tribes’ constitution is huge! I just hope the resident members who have the right to vote, exercise it, and get it right, because you might not get a second chance.

Nick D

How shortsigthed is it of this small group of members to demand the entire balance of a settlement designed to account for over a century of mismanagement? That money belongs to ancestors and future generations just as much as it belongs to the money grubbing people behind the People's Voice. Each $9,000 check will be one more chapter in America's most shameful saga of greed.

Northwoods

wow just wow

Early Morn

It's about time some fairness went to the people of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Reservation...I hear too much about secret meetings called "executive sessions" where the people are not properly informed. A person interested in their tribal government will get banned from these secret meetings called "executive sessions"....not a good way to run a tribal government whose flow chart is supposed to have the people's interests on top...The people need to have better information and those secret meetings banned... With this turn of events there may start to be some information going to the people and some fairness...Those petitions then would not be treated the way they were treated...Tribal Council shouldn't be against the people, they should be for them....They used to be concerned for the people in the past. I don't know what happened to that fair way of dealing with the very people they represent....I hope and pray for the sake of the people, some things get better...this is a step in the right direction...


to be told how their money is being spent....it is a crying shame to ban the very people being represented...Congratulations to the people's voice for getting their foot in the door and getting the ball rolling to put the people back in the forefront. Lots has to change there and the tribal council needs to realize who they are supposed to be representing....

Dubs

Welcome to the world of politics---look at what Obama, Reid and Peolsi are doing to America. They are arrogant, narcissistic, and dishonest and do NOT have the best interests of the country in mind. They are only worried about getting elected and furthering the concept of transforming America into a socialistic country. Funny how a person takes on the persona of the political party that they belong to and independent thought flies out the window.

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