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Historic election planned on Flathead Indian Reservation

Published On: Jul 11 2014 07:20:16 PM MDT
Updated On: Jul 11 2014 09:04:28 PM MDT
ST. IGNATIUS -

NBC Montana is tracking an historic election for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribe.

The election was sparked by the way the tribe handled a $150 million settlement from the U.S. government.

We dug into the specifics of the Salazar Settlement, money given to tribes over the mismanagement of tribal assets.

The CSKT got about $150 million.

Roughly half was disbursed to individual tribal members.

Many tribal members thought all the money should have been disbursed to individuals.

But the tribal council decided to earmark the other half for investments for the whole tribe.

The controversy brewing isn't just about whether tribal members agree with the way their leaders doled out Salazar money.

Some said they don't think they have adequate input into their own government, and want more accountability on how and where their money is spent.

On Saturday, as many as 2,000 tribal members living on the Flathead Indian Reservation will cast ballots in 8 reservation communities.

They will be asked to amend the Constitution.

"It's for people to vote yes or no for recalling council members should the council members not abide by the Constitution or the bylaws of the tribe," said The People's Voice member, Agnes Hernandez GunHammer.

"It is an effort to open up government and the tribal council," said the group's attorney, Howard Toole," and  make people more responsive to members of the tribe."

NBC Montana talked to several families in St. Ignatius.

The adults in the family plan to vote in the election.

Derwin Adams will vote for it.

"This way," said Adams, "we will have our right to vote whoever we want out."

Michael Moran is a young family man.

On the Friday afternoon we were visiting in a yard, filled with kids playing, Moran said he was not happy with the way the money was disbursed.

"I'm not happy with that at all," said Moran."The way they did it was wrong. It was supposed to be for the people,not for the council."

But not everyone feels that way.

Sabrina Rasmussen said she knows there are many families on the reservation the money would help.

But she also said if the money would benefit the tribe, there are a lot of things that need to be done on the reservation.

NBC Montana called some of the tribal council members, but hadn't heard back.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs will hold the secretarial election Saturday, from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m.

It is overseen by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.