By Tim Leeds
The unofficial vote count on a referendum at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation says the Fort Belknap Indian Community can continue administering some additional Bureau of Indian Affairs and Indian Health Service programs on the reservation.
The count on Tuesday's referendum, asking the tribal council to rescind its May decision to contract with the federal government to administer additional programs, passed 858-198. But 1,436 votes, one-third of the reservation's registered voters, are needed to be cast to make it a binding referendum, tribal secretary treasurer Julie King Kulbeck said today.
An official count wasn't available this morning. King Kulbeck said she expected it to be released this afternoon.
The council members and department heads of the Fort Belknap Indian Community were in strategic planning meetings today and could not be reached for comment.
The referendum, proposed by council members Raymond Chandler and Walter Horn, was requested by a coalition concerned that the tribal government had rushed into taking over the programs too quickly and had not had enough time to learn how to administer them.
The tribal government took over some of the administration in October, and the remainder the beginning of November.
The coalition also said the tribal government had not collected enough public input about its plan to contract the management of the programs.
Council member John Allen said Tuesday that the idea was raised at public meetings, but few people attended the meetings.
The tribal government had contracted to administer 35 federal programs before it made its May decision. Tribal contracting to administer federal programs is the wave of the future, Allen said.