Hill County jail entangled in Ravalli dispute
Planning chair says jail is full of ‘drunken Indians’
November 25, 2013
The number of Native Americans in the Hill County Detention Center became a topic at a meeting between Ravalli County officials and Confederated Salish and Kootena tribal leaders.
The comments of the Ravalli County Planning Commission has created a stir around the state.
Ravalli County commissioners oppose the tribes' plan to put 58 acres of tribally owned land into trust with the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs, saying the county would lose $808 in annual property taxes.
The meeting ended on a sour note when county planning board chairman Jan Wisniewski of Darby said he'd recently gone on a fact-finding trip around the state, during which he visited with law enforcement officials in Havre who, he said, complained about their jails being filled with "drunken Indians."
Tribal council member Steve Lozar said he was "deeply, deeply offended" by Wisniewski's remark.
Tribal members traveled to Hamilton with a "good heart" to discuss issues important to both sides, he said.
"We are citizens of the United States," he said. "We serve in the military at a higher rate than others. This is our homeland. I'm offended by those comments."
Wisniewski could not be reached for comment this morning. A county commission staffer said she would relay a message to the commission chair that the Havre Daily News wants to speak to Wisniewski, but he had not returned the call by deadline today.