After decades of negotiations, years of legislation, and approval from Montana and the United States, Blackfeet tribal members will vote on the Blackfeet Water Compact and the Blackfeet Water Rights Settlement Act on Thursday, April 20.
The referendum election will be an in-person vote at regular polling locations on the Reservation.
Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. on Thursday, April 20.
“This is one of the most important and historical votes in the Tribe’s history,” stated Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, in a news release. “The compact would provide tremendous opportunities for the Blackfeet people, so we strongly encourage all eligible voters to vote.”
If a majority of tribal members vote in favor, the water agreement between the tribe, the state of Montana and the United States will be implemented, which would confirm and quantify the tribe’s water rights and confirm its jurisdiction over those rights on the Reservation.
It would also provide the tribe with $471 million for water-related projects such as new irrigation systems and improvements to existing systems, development of community water systems and land acquisition.
A study completed by the U.S. Department of Interior projects that up to 500 short-term jobs and up to 200 long-term jobs would be created.
“After the bill passed through Congress in December, we have been doing our best to educate tribal members about something that has taken decades to put together,” stated Jerry Lunak, Water Resources Director of the Blackfeet Nation, in the statement. “If there is anything that I wanted folks to take away, it’s that with this vote, we have the opportunity to positively impact our people for generations to come.”
The Tribe has held six community meetings across the Reservation to provide more information to tribal members. They have also been providing information about the compact through ads, Facebook, mailings and on the Tribe’s website as part of an education campaign.
Tribal members will be able to cast their ballots at the following poll locations:
- Browning District – Blackfeet Community College (A-Z)
- Browning District – Blackfeet Community College (Off Reservation)
- Browning District – Starr School Head Start
- Browning District – Babb Head Start
- Heart Butte District – Heart Butte Head Start
- Seville District – Seville Head Start
- Old Agency District – East Glacier Head Start