Montana lawmaker wants to revisit idea of reservations

HELENA, Mont. (AP) — A white state lawmaker in Montana is questioning whether or not land put aside way back for Native Individuals ought to exist anymore.

Republican Sen. Keith Regier is proposing asking Congress to review alternate options to reservations. The measure, submitted this week and riddled with racial stereotypes, is unlikely to move and would don’t have any sensible impact if it did. Nevertheless it’s inflicting tensions to floor on the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature that kicked off this week.

Native American lawmakers say they’re now spending time responding to the proposed decision moderately than specializing in their very own legislative priorities, together with extending the state’s Lacking and Murdered Indigenous Individuals Process Pressure for an additional two years, making a grant program to coach community-based teams to seek for lacking individuals and inspiring the state to find out the financial affect of reservations on the state’s economic system.

“I hate spending power and time on this type of stuff as a result of I really feel prefer it sidetracks us,” state Sen. Shane Morigeau, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, stated Thursday. “However on the similar time, it clearly alerts to me that now we have a whole lot of instructional work to do on this state.”


Regier stated the language within the decision was written by Mark Agather, a retired businessman who’s concerned in conservative politics in Kalispell close to the Flathead Indian Reservation in western Montana.

Reiger has submitted the draft to legislative staffers, however he didn’t reply to an e-mail Friday asking if he would formally introduce it.

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Agather did not reply to inquiries from The Related Press, together with on whether or not he sought enter from tribal members.

The draft decision argues that reservations have “didn’t positively improve the lives and well-being” of Native Individuals, led to substance abuse, home violence, welfare dependence, poverty and substandard training. It additionally argues tribal members who do not personal land have the very best poverty charge and lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in America.

It additionally argues reservations are “not in the most effective pursuits of both the Indians inside our borders or for our widespread Montana Residents.”

Morigeau stated that if legislators wish to contemplate any different, it ought to be “giving the land again that was taken within the first place, not robbing the final little bit of land and assets that now we have.”


Floyd Azure, chairman of the Fort Peck Tribe in northeastern Montana, stated the draft decision perpetuates racial stereotypes about life on the reservation when social ills, akin to dependancy, exist nationwide.

“Why exaggerate the reservations?” he stated. He thinks some individuals “make themselves really feel higher” by attacking Native Individuals.

Morigeau stated the federal authorities over a long time has didn’t stamp out tribes, their tradition and language by relocation applications and boarding faculties. Inside Secretary Deb Haaland, who’s from Laguna Pueblo in New Mexico, repeatedly has acknowledged the hurt these insurance policies that not exist induced and sought methods to handle the trauma.

“I am uninterested in listening to what different individuals assume is finest for us,” Morigeau stated. “Seek the advice of and search the recommendation of Indian individuals,” moderately than imposing on tribes.

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The answer to any social points on reservations, together with dependancy or disproportionate charges of well being issues, is to not diminish reservations, Morigueau stated. “We ought to be constructing tribal sovereignty up.”


Greater than half — or 326 — of the 574 federally acknowledged Native American and Alaska Native villages within the U.S. have land put aside that is categorized as federal belief land. Typically the land is known as a reservation, but additionally as rancherias in California and pueblos in New Mexico.

The biggest reservation is the Navajo Nation, which spans 27,000 sq. miles (69,000 square-kilometers) into elements of New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. Different reservations are tiny.

All however certainly one of Montana’s seven reservations had been established previous to statehood.

Federal insurance policies at varied factors in historical past sought to disestablish reservations and power Native Individuals into cities. Right this moment, greater than 70% of Native Individuals stay off reservation.

Momentum has grown lately to revive land to Native American tribes. The Inside Division beneath Haaland additionally has opened the door for Alaska Native villages to hunt belief land standing.


The decision argues that Native American reservations had been created based mostly on race. The U.S. Structure acknowledges tribes as sovereign governments, which is a political classification.

The federal authorities set the boundaries for reservations beneath the auspices of lessening conflicts between Native Individuals and white settlers.

The identical race-based language utilized in Reiger’s draft decision has proven up elsewhere. Most notably, from critics of the federal Indian Little one Welfare Act who’ve argued the regulation is unconstitutional as a result of it violates the equal safety clause.

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The U.S. Supreme Court docket is predicted to situation a ruling this 12 months in a case difficult the regulation, which supplies choice to Native American households in foster care and adoption proceedings of Native youngsters. Tribes worry widespread impacts if the court docket makes an attempt to dismantle their standing as political sovereigns.

The race-based language additionally appeared in a case difficult tribal playing operations in Washington state.


In the course of the 2021 legislative session, Native American lawmakers noticed discrimination and racism in legislative actions, akin to tabling a invoice to acknowledge Indigenous Peoples Day and threats to get rid of funding for a Native American language preservation program that was later restored.

The Republican-controlled Legislature additionally handed payments just like earlier legal guidelines that had been declared unconstitutional after a choose discovered they made it harder for Native Individuals to vote. And the state Senate eliminated a member of the Montana Human Rights Fee, leaving it with out Native American illustration for the primary time in a minimum of 16 years.

“Legislators, together with the Indian Caucus, make each try to be civil. Nonetheless, it’s laborious when the Indian individuals are attacked again and again, day after day,” Democratic Sen. Susan Webber stated on the time.

Republicans denied any laws was discriminatory.


Related Press reporter Felicia Fonseca contributed from Flagstaff, Arizona.