An agreement to be signed by Chippewa Cree tribal leaders and the state of Montana in Helena Wednesday morning will open the doors to economic development on Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation, officials believe.
The agreement is aimed at defining just what right creditors have on the reservation.
The agreement will be signed at 11 a. m. in the capitol rotunda by Chippewa Cree Business Committee Chair Bruce Sunchild Sr. and Montana Secretary of State Linda McCollough.
Under the terms of the joint sovereign filing, the tribe will be part of the Uniform Commercial Code, which assures that creditors have rights on the reservations.
Commercial creditors have often been reluctant to provide loans to tribal businesses, said Terri L. McCoy, communications director for the secretary of state's office. Since the reservations are sovereign nations, it has been unclear just what the creditor can do if the business defaults, she said.
Under the terms of the arrangement, creditors should be far more willing to participate in development projects on the reservation, she said.
She heaped praise on tribal leaders for the long process that resulted in the signing.
Tribal officials wanted to encourage more lending as part of their economic development push, she said. But they wanted a "culturally sensitive" agreement, she said.
This deal accomplishes both, McCoy said.
Montana has been a leader in the effort to sign such compacts, she said.
The Crow Nation became the first tribe in the United States to sign a similar deal in 2008, she said.
A few other tribes in other states have followed suit, but Chippewa Cree is only the second Montana tribe to sign such an agreement.
The Uniform Commercial Code has been adopted by all 50 states. It allows banks and other creditors to establish its priority in relation to other creditors or third parties that have an interest in the project.
McCoy said the compact will make it easier to finance new businesses or housing projects at Rocky Boy.
"The filing system, under the uniform commercial code, is an important tool for enabling and supporting tribal economic and housing development by improving access to commercial and consumer credit," she said.
Sunchild did not return calls seeking comment.