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Rocky Boy declares financial disaster due to gov't shutdown


October 16, 2013

While the possibility of the federal government reopening inched closer this morning, the Chippewa Cree Tribe at Rocky Boy’s Indian Reservation has prepared for the worse this week.

The tribal government declared a financial disaster Tuesday due to the federal government shutdown, warning that nearly all tribal offices will be closed and almost all programs halted if the budget stalemate in Congress isn't resolved by Thursday.

The central Montana tribe already has cut back hours, furloughed staff and limited services after federal money for tribal programs was cut off following the Oct. 1 shutdown, spokesman Wade Colliflower said.

Loren “Bum” Stiffarm, chief administrative officer at the Fort Belknap Indian Reservation, said Monday he was presenting a contingency plan about dealing with the shutdown to the Fort Belknap Indian Community tribal council for approval, but had not returned calls asking for details about the plan by printing deadline this morning.

Fort Belknap announced at the start of the shutdown that it was using tribal funds to continue services as long as possible.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has shut down operations, with a skeleton staff operating last week at its Fort Belknap offices, which are not open to the public.

At Rocky Boy, the tribal government says it has tried to extend its operations as long as possible. Tribal court judge Donna Running Wolf said Monday she has offered to fill in to help keep the courts running, saying she could take on some work as prosecutor as well.

“We can try to keep the court open,” Running Wolf said.

The tribe’s Business Committee member and budget committee chairman, Ted Whitford, said last week in a interview on the tribal radio station KHEW that the tribal government took action early to reduce expences.

“We are mostly reliant on federal funds, and with the shutdown funds are no longer being forwarded to the tribe,” he said.

Whitford added that even if the federal government restores operations, it could take time to get back to full operations.

“Once the government shutdown does end, funds will not be restored immediately,” he said. “There is going to be a delay in us receiving funds, so count on a delay in restored funding and delay in when employees will be called back.”

And the tribe's financial outlook has turned dire as the shutdown has dragged on, causing tribal leaders to call for drastic measures if a deal isn't reached by Thursday.

The issue hadn’t been resolved as of this morning, although U.S. Sen. Kelly Ayotte, R-N.H., said this morning she understood Senate leaders had reached an agreement to end the shutdown and raise the federal debt limit.

The Chippewa Cree Tribe made its declaration Tuesday morning and created an emergency operations center to plan for the cutbacks, Colliflower said.

That has left those living on the Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation to hope for the best and brace for the worst.

"I think they are holding their breath hoping something will get done," Colliflower said.

Whitford said in the radio interview that the tribe is hopeful the Democrats and Republicans in Congress can pass temporary continuing resolution to reopen the government at previous funding levels will happen, adding that he doubts a full budget agreement can come anytime soon.

“With the federal shutdown, this is way beyond our control,” Whitford said. “We have no way of controlling how the federal government operates.”

Many tribal programs are subsidized by federal agencies and others are paid for with tribal money that's held by the Department of Interior and is now unavailable.

Most tribal workers already have been cut back to four-day workweeks, while office hours have been slashed and nonessential staff sent home.

The tribe's General Assistance Program that provides aid for the poor on the reservation stopped doing so Tuesday, and while the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program is accepting applications, there are no more funds available to distribute.

The Chippewa Cree's Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is no longer taking applications.

Things get worse after Thursday, when tribal leaders plan to shutter nearly all government offices and services, including the tribe's social services offices, Colliflower said.

The exceptions will be the reservation's police department and health clinic, which will both be fully staffed, he said.

Senior citizens and the extremely poor will still receive meal deliveries, propane and firewood past Thursday, as the weather turns colder, Colliflower said.


Reader Comments

Montanamedic writes:

It is high time for the Chippewa Cree people to request for the tribe to concede back to the Federal Government, It is obvious that the new era elected officials do not understand the meaning of Self Determination! They read this as determination to make them selves richer. I for one feel that as a member we have been kept in the dark about what they are doing, I am embarrassed to see the articles about how broke we are, yet they continue to pay them selves their inflated salaries, Shame on you!

Iwanna writes:

Blattman buddy ol' pal...i sensed the sarcasm in the force.lol. I posted the question to see how many people would actually answer it with high hopes that KB-SM will save the day.

moose25 writes:

Government shutdown?..It won't affect the Tribal Government,that much. They've been promised lump-sum backpay,when the fed shutdown ends.They're still tweeting and posting on facebook,from of course, all the final rodeos in the country,cabo san lucas,and any place with a beach.Distant Pow-wows,all,with the whole family,My grandchildren go to school,with their children,and they think Disneyland is blase'and boring,after three times. One,family is planning a trip to Paris,France.Financial crisis?

bill writes:

Wonder if any of the boys are enjoying themselves at the NILE rodeo on business, as customary.

Blattman writes:

Iwanna, don't you know that he is the caped crusader and is single handedly fighting crime and corruption on the reservation, lol. I was and am being sarcastic.

milkitboys writes:

The council will milk the federal shutdown somehow. Why would the council try to create successful money making business/jobs for the people/reservation? They know they can sit at tribal chambers and wait for the free federal checks to roll in. We can only blame ourselves for voting in the same ol some ol.

moneytalks writes:

when funds do arrive, might be a good time to keep track of where it goes, if the dictators would allow it. OPEN GOVT. means just that, a dictatorship, dictates what is seen or released.

Wondering writes:

as I was saying, not to mention all the bonus from each of the programs they each sit on. they could be making close to $300.00.00 a year. I heard the said that they would take a 5% cut in pay...really.... so where has all the tribes money have gone, 13 million they took from the clinic that's being build, ask them about it, they say fema/insurance company has not disburse it yet...hmmmm. Now am hearing they are going after 10.4 million in tax credit money.

Wondering writes:

Rocky Boy counsel declares finical disaster due to government shut down. I don't see it that way and if you ask me personal, it's the tribal council who have created the shut down of rocky boy services to their people. Looks look back some and theses' are my personal options 1, the council make base salary of $107,000.00, this does not include fringe benefits, like unemployment paid to them. A quarterly drawing of retirement, Travel, not to mention bonus they get paid from each continued

Iwanna writes:

The government shut down was going to happen either way, it is not only happening in Rocky Boy. So...with that, how would Blattmans hero Ken save the reservation?

Willy writes:

So Rocky Boy is a sovereign nation and they do not need to follow any law that they choose not to follow, but they rely on upon the federal government for money. What a joke.

dsrobins writes:

This financial disaster probably has far more to do with corrupt and dishonest tribal management than the federal government shutdown.

Blattman writes:

This wouldn't be happening if Kenny Blatt was chairman. Break out the Blatt Sign and summon our hero from the Blatt Cave for he will save the day.

Rezinit writes:

The council is a joke, HELLO we are a sovereign nation (supposedly)..where are the reserve funds?? We have a casino where is the money going, wait there isn't any, all going to Mike the GM...what about PLain Green millions in revenue where has that gone? Natural gas where are the royalties going? It's crazy you see the other Tribes using there own money to help the people, but not Rocky Boy. They are taking monies from other departments on the rez so the council get get there paychecks....


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