BIA Gives Tentative Green Light to Blackfeet Constitutional Election

New constitution would completely reform tribal government

By Justin Franz

One of the grassroots organizers of a constitutional reform effort on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation says the Bureau of Indian Affairs has informed him that a secretarial election will most likely be held early next year.

Blackfeet Tribal Business Council member Joe McKay said he talked with federal officials earlier this month that signaled the local Blackfeet BIA supervisor would most likely call an election in the coming weeks. McKay said officials hope to hold the election sometime in late March.

The secretarial election will give all Blackfeet members a chance to vote on a new constitution that was drafted by a grassroots group earlier this year. After a blessing from the tribal council, the draft constitution was submitted to the BIA this past summer, and the agency  reviewed it to ensure it does not violate federal law. Now that the draft constitution has passed that test it will be put before the members for a final vote. The new constitution calls abolishing the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council and replacing it with three separate branches of government.

  While supporters believe the new constitution is needed to prevent some of the dysfunction seen on the reservation a few years ago – when the tribal council split into factions and the government shutdown – opponents believe it will pave the way for open enrollment, a highly contentious issue on the reservation.

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