LETTER: Open Enrollment and Turmoil on the Blackfeet

By Beacon Staff

The entire state of Montana and the Blackfeet tribal members are well aware of the turmoil in the Blackfeet Nation

Trouble has been building for the past three and a half years, and no clear resolution seems to be in sight.

Various groups, individuals, the divided Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and newspaper analysts all differ on the exact cause of these troubled times and some even offer possible solutions. But the common people are amazed on why no one speaks or talks to the real cause. Why have, in the past year, innocent tribal employees been fired, the people locked out of their own tribal headquarters, prosecuted for speaking out, duly elected council members removed for no logical reason and the people greatly divided on whom to listen to or follow.

But as having witness the political environment on the reservation for the past 20 years, I have drawn conclusions to the real cause and I share these conclusions with a very large number of Blackfeet people. But the common shared item by the Blackfeet people is to have a strong proud Blackfeet Nation forever and to assure its leaders and people are true Blackfeet.

So what is driving the Blackfeet turmoil? Power, money, and control! These being the root of most all government struggles, the Blackfeet’s trouble goes deeper and is best described in two words: “open enrollment.”

The majority of non-Blackfeet have little or no knowledge of the open enrollment issue. The enrolled Blackfeet have just really begun to understand the real consequences of open enrollment.

The political history of Open Enrollment began during the 1992-94 Blackfeet Tribal Council. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, at that time, pushed a resolution to the Bureau of Indian Affairs for a vote to the people for open enrollment.

The second, seemingly well-disguised, plan was to trick the Blackfeet membership to redo a part of the Blackfeet Tribal Constitution. The true intent was to make it easier to change the Blackfeet Tribal Constitution for the sole purpose of open enrollment.

The “Real People” is what the Blackfeet people initially called themselves before the white man gave the tribe the name Blackfeet. The real people put a stop to these first two attempts on open enrollment.

Currently, the third open enrollment attempt is in the making. Blackfeet Enrollment Amendment Reform (B.E.A.R) is a group of enrolled members of the Blackfeet tribe aided by a very large number of descendants getting signatures for petitions for open enrollment. This B.E.A.R group’s champions on the Blackfeet Tribal Council are the four who are in trouble for DUI, drinking on a DC trip and not being a duly elected Blackfeet council member, but appointed by the DUI leader. This B.E.A.R group’s members look the other way and condone their tribal council champion’s misconduct and political trickery, so as long as they push the open enrollment agenda. Turmoil, division, shaming the Blackfeet tribe – “Carte Blanche” is the appropriate definition for this “B.E.A.R” group’s members and their BTBC champions.

This turmoil is really being fueled by the desperate members who are a quarter or less of Blackfeet blood and their descendants. These people of a quarter or less of Blackfeet want to pass to their descendants the power and control they have enjoyed, but their descendants can’t take over unless they become enrolled as official Blackfeet tribal members.

The Blackfeet Tribal Council could enroll 75,000 to 90,000 thousand members if open enrollment passes. These numbers are based on the 2012 U.S. Census.

For the past year and a half many of our Blackfeet people and our government have suffered under the effects of this “open enrollment” issue. The “Real People” have felt the full-blown effects of what would happen if open enrollment passed.

Money, power and control equates to the desperate open enrollment movement. The Blackfeet tribal leaders who are the open enrollment champions will not let other council members or the Blackfeet Tribal Constitution stand in the path of their open enrollment goal.

Removal of council who were opponents, giving huge tribal assets, tribal jobs and tribal money to descendants and non-tribal members are only a preview of the consequences of open enrollment.

The result is turmoil for the past three and a half years to today with nearly a total dysfunctional tribal government. What is going to transpire? The real people can only hope that this stalemate will slow down the harm to the Blackfeet Nation and the integrity of the Blackfeet. At least until the next election when the right things and the right people will be selected to begin to straighten out this mess.

The Real People have, for the last 15 years, offered a solution to open enrollment. A tribal enrollment audit, a comprehensive study of what is the reality of open enrollment, and to begin to bring the current membership standard of living to acceptable levels – so they can make an educated and informed decision.

But one thing is certain, the Real People will never give up!

Barbara AfterBuffalo