KAHRIN DEINES Associated Press Writer HELENA
Senators reversed themselves Friday on a bill that requires state agencies to deal with each of Montana's tribes individually if they seek to represent Indian cultures in exhibits or other materials. Senate Bill 488, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Jonathan Windy Boy of Box Elder, was supported on a 27-22 vote. Windy Boy, a member of the Chippewa- Cree tribe, said the bill is needed to give tribes control over their own cultural property and ensure it is not misrepresented. "We're not a melting pot of culture," he told lawmakers Friday. "Each individual tribe has their own rights, policies and processes that they follow." On Tuesday, the Senate narrowly rejected the same measure, but it was revived for reconsideration. Between the two votes, 16 senators changed position. After one final reading in the Senate, the bill would move to the House. The measure requires state agencies that create materials, such as exhibits or documentaries, about Indians to Abide by protocols set individually by each of the tribes in Montana. It also declares that each tribe has ownership over its cultural property. There are eight tribal nations in Montana, seven federally recognized tribes and one that is state-recognized. "We have been subject to much research, much study, much misrepresentation and the reason why this bill is in front of you today is to protect the cultural integrity of the tribes and to protect the cultural property of the tribes," said Sen. Sharon Stewart- Peregoy, D-Crow Agency. Democrats and Republicans voted on both sides of the measure, but it did not receive support from all of the Senate's Native American legislators. "One of the things I'm concerned about is its impact on Indian Education for All," said Democratic Sen. Carol Juneau of Browning, who voted against the measure. Indian Education for All is a curriculum development program run by the state's Department of Public Instruction. The measure would require the department to work out how Indian cultures are represented in educational materials with each tribe separately. Currently, the department consults with the Montana Advisory Council on Indian Education, which is made up of tribal representatives, to determine what representations are appropriate. Opponents also worry other state agencies may struggle to comply with the requirement to secure approval from each of the state's tribes. "There are many unintended consequences and I think the biggest one is agencies, such as the Historical Society, will overlook or decide not to use materials with Indian content," said Sen. Christine Kaufmann, D-Helena. But the bill's supporters argue any new steps the bill creates for state agencies are necessary to give the tribes a voice in how their cultures are represented. "It's about local control," Windy Boy said. "If we're going to have something that's going to impact on the local level than you need to listen to the tribes."