While listening to an earful of complaints at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation about the local government, the organizer of a community meeting said he would report to the Chippewa Cree Tribe’s Business Committee or the appropriate agencies.
“I’ve been hearing a lot of talk, talk, talk, ” Business Committee member Stacey Small, who organized Wednesday night’s meeting at the old Stone Child College, said two-and-a-half hours into the meeting. “I’m tired of talking. Let’s get something done. ”
Two other members of the committee, Joe Lafromboise Jr. and Gerald Small, joined Stacey Small in the lengthy, sometimes contentious discussion, along with some members of the tribe’s judicial commission and representatives of law enforcement.
More than 50 people came to talk and listen to the committee members.
Small said he had invited the tribe’s election board — several items on his agenda related to election procedures at the reservation — and that he was disappointed that none came to the meeting.
He said he appreciated people bringing their complaints to the meeting, and that he would take them back to the tribal government, whether the Business Committee, the Election Board, the Judicial Commission or whichever agency should hear the complaints.
Discussions during the meeting ran the gamut from election procedures to housing, from the police department and courts to having activities for senior citizens.
Several people talked about the contentious elections at the reservation. Daryl “Buck” Wright said no election had been held without dispute in the last five years, and yet the same election board still is in place.
Another question was why, in the last election, the polls for the tribal election were set in a different location than the county election, forcing two trips if people wanted to vote in all races.
Small said he did know, and that he had recently asked the same question without receiving a good answer.
Another audience member asked what was being done to help reduce the unemployment rate at the reservation, listed by some groups as 60 percent to 80 percent. Some plan needs to be in place to create jobs, not give handouts, she said.
“You are not to be social workers, you are to be leaders, policy makers, ” the audience member said. “Take us to the next levels. ”
Lafromboise said the tribal council is trying to find ways to get people employed and keep them employed. That includes starting projects, such as constructing numerous new water towers that will increase the amount of potable water on the reservation while creating jobs, and considering techniques such as changing the times of work days or how work weeks are set to try to motivate people to get jobs and keep working, he said.
Another question was on Plain Green, the online lending company the tribe started last summer. An audience member asked if a plan was in place to use the money the company is supposed to pay the tribe, and how much it is paying.
Lafromboise said the first monthly payment last summer was $9,000, and that now has grown to $225,000 a month. He is told, he said, that the money first must be used to pay off the debt created in starting the company, and then plans will be made to use it to pay to different departments.
Several people also raised the issue of dealing with domestic violence, with several pointing out that looking at violence against men as well as women has to be part of the issue.
Tanya Schmockel, planner for the Chippewa Cree Tribe, said that is one of several issues the tribe is trying to do better, with two grant applications that could bring $600,000 due next month. She said several other issues are being addressed, including trying to get funds to improve activities and support for senior citizens, continuing to press the Federal Emergency Management Agency for funding to repair residences and other damage from the last two years of floods, and funds to change how youths will be handled at the new law enforcement and justice facility at the reservation.
Small said this morning that he will look at holding more community meetings in the future, which was requested during Wednesday’s meeting.
“I told them we’ll see what takes place after this, ” he said today. “I have to take the complaints I heard last night, compile them and get them where they need to go. ”