By Jerome Tharaud/Havre Daily Newsfirstname.lastname@example.org
Chippewa Cree Grassroots People has drafted a petition requesting a formal audit of tribal government on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation.
The group, which has protested government actions at Rocky Boy in the past, wants the audit because it claims widespread mismanagement of tribal finances.
The group at a meeting last week initially proposed to send a letter to the Chippewa Cree tribal council asking for an audit. Instead, the group will circulation a petition to collect signatures from tribal members and then submit it to the regional office of the Bureau of Indian Affairs in Billings, as well as to the Office of the Inspector General in U.S. Department of the Interior, members of the group decided. The group discussed the plan at a meeting Wednesday night in Havre.
"If we get enough signatures we'll send it to all the congressional people. Somebody's bound to listen," said group member Yvonne Demontiney. She said she would fax it to as many U.S. senators and representatives as possible, not just those who represent Montana.
The petition says: "We, the undersigned, as concerned enrolled members of the Chippewa Cree Tribe, hereby petition and request an audit be conducted by the U.S. government, office of inspector general, of all Chippewa Cree tribal programs." It says the audit should include grants and "all tribal entities generating revenue," including the tribal casino and a tribally owned farm.
Demontiney said she and the other group members hope to gather at least 100 signatures in the next two weeks. Group members will go door-to-door on the reservation and also contact enrolled members living outside Rocky Boy, she added.
Grassroots People members also said they want to request travel records of tribal council members to examine their expenditures of tribal funds.
Tribal attorney Dan Belcourt said today the tribe is not regularly audited by the federal government, but that its federal grants and contracts are audited by independent auditing firms.
"The tribe has nothing to hide financially, believe me," Belcourt said.
Tribal council members did not return calls this morning asking for comment.
Group members said they are taking their complaints outside tribal government because there is no good administrative way to address complaints on the reservation. Tribal council members sit on the boards of tribal entities like the tribal Housing Authority and Health Board, they say, so people with grievances against those groups are unlikely to get redress by coming before the council.
Redress by the tribal court system is equally unlikely, they said, because, as a result of a special election in January, tribal judges are now appointed by the council instead of elected.
So far the federal government has refused to address the issues, they said, because the tribe is considered a sovereign nation.
"Why do they tell us they have no jurisdiction when (tribal entities) get state and federal dollars?" Harriet Standing Rock said.
"If we're so sovereign, why did they make us go through a water compact and a gaming compact?" said Arnold Four Souls.
Eight people attended Wednesday's meeting, fewer than the 20 people who showed up last week. Harriet Standing Rock said she posted more than a dozen fliers at different public places on the reservation.
"The ones who are employed are afraid it'll come back on them," Demontiney said.
People also have trouble getting transportation to Havre, Demontiney said. The group meets in town because it says it is no longer allowed to meet in churches and public buildings on the reservation.