By Tim Eberly
The Chippewa Cree Grassroots People have joined with members of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in their fight against the Bureau of Indian Affairs.
While meeting at a Great Falls hotel on Saturday, more than 50 Grassroots People voted unanimously to collaborate with Blackfeet residents in filing a class-action lawsuit against the BIA, citing repeated civil rights violations.
"I think this is the right way to go," Grassroots People spokesman Russell Standing Rock said today. "It's about time somebody goes after the government, after all these years."
On Friday evening, Standing Rock fielded a phone call from Al Reevis Sr., a member of the Blackfeet Original Allotment Heirs Association and chairman of the Montana Indian Land Owners Association.
Reevis asked to meet with Standing Rock after reading newspaper accounts of the Grassroots People's recent march in protest of a BIA-conducted secretarial election at Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation. Standing Rock agreed to meet with Reevis, but he did not travel alone.
"He just brought himself, thinking that just he and I were going to meet," Standing Rock said. "But I don't do anything without my people."
The group met for about four hours, discussing a long history of injustices they believe have been committed by the BIA, and then voted to consolidate their efforts.
Both sides are planning to meet again this Saturday in Great Falls to coordinate plans for a lawsuit. Representatives from the Fort Belknap and Crow reservations have also contacted Standing Rock regarding their interest in joining the lawsuit, Standing Rock said.
The Grassroots People on Thursday held a quarter-mile march at Rocky Boy in protest of the March 6 secretarial election. Voters had approved several constitutional amendments, including one that prohibits dual tribal enrollment.
The protesters convinced the Chippewa Cree tribal council to pass a resolution asking the BIA to void the results of the election.
James Montes, the BIA field representative at Rocky Boy, admitted that he failed to abide by federal regulations that require the BIA to notify all eligible voters of upcoming secretarial elections by mail.