District meetings update membership
By Alyssa Nenemay
The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council hosted a series of district meetings throughout the reservation. Ronan's District meeting drew a modest crowd of concerned tribal members. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)
RONAN — The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Council hosted a series of district meetings throughout the reservation to update the membership on an array of topics.
The agenda included the land consolidation segment of the Salazar Settlement, Energy Keepers Incorporated, and an update on the progress of the tribal students in the Ronan School District No. 30.
Cobell Land Consolidation
In November 2012, Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced the final approval of the historical Cobell Settlement. The $3.4 billion settlement resolves a 16-year class action suit filed against the United States Government for mismanagement of tribal trust assets and improper accounting of individual American Indian trust accounts.
The $3.4 billion settlement will be dispersed in three segments: a $1.5 billion fund will be distributed to class members for potential trust asset and mismanagement claims, a $1.9 billion fund will be awarded to tribes throughout the US for land consolidation, and up to $60 million of the land consolidation portion may be set aside as a scholarship fund for Native and Alaskan Native Americans.
Tribal Lands Department head Teresa Wall-McDonald presented an update the on CS&KT’s preparation for its anticipated $7,464,00 portion of the $1.9 billion land consolidation fund. The tribes negotiated a 38 priority ranking on the top 40 Initial purchase ceiling list.
According to the Cobell Land Consolidation Program Draft Plan, the funds can only be used for the following purposes: “(1) acquiring fractional interests in trust or restricted lands; (2) implementing the Land Consolidation Program; and (3) paying the costs related to the work of the Secretarial Commission on Trust Reform, including costs of consultants to the Commission and audits recommended by the Commission.”
Wall-McDonald said CS&KT is the first of the 40 initial purchase-ranking tribes to have already established a land consolidation program. The tribes began its land acquisition process in 2004, receiving $3.2 million in federal funding to establish its Indian land consolidation project. The project funded the purchase of individual tribally owned fractionated land parcels throughout the reservation.
Energy Keepers Incorporated CEO Brian Lipscomb answered public concern on the pending tribally owned energy corporation. Lipscomb also gave and update on the current Kerr Negotiations. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)
The CS&KT were originally ranked number 42 when the tribal lands department added planning for the Cobell Land Consolidation funding to its staff’s workload. The tribes drafted the “2012 Land Consolidation Plan for the Purchase of Fractionated Interests in Allotments,” which outlines CS&KT’s need and plan of action for purchasing fractionated tribal land.
The tribes’ planning efforts cemented its current 38 ranking. “I would just like to praise the lands department for their planning and placement. The entire land’s staff created an excellent plan way before anyone else,” said CS&KT chairman Joe Durglo.
Wall-McDonald said the tribes are now seeking additional funding through continued planning and requesting unused resources from initial purchase funds. The program has a ten-year deadline, with a target completion timeline of four years.
Energy Keepers Incorporated
Energy Keepers Incorporated CEO Brian Lipscomb updated the meeting on the tribes’ ongoing negotiations with PPL Montana for the anticipated 2016 takeover of Kerr Dam. Lipscomb said on March 5, the tribes would be receiving a ruling on the negotiation arbitration.
Lipscomb went on to explain that Energy Keepers Inc. would be managed very differently from other tribal corporations because it would retain no earnings. All revenue, he said would go into operations or back to the tribe’s general fund. He went on to say that the corporation would be held to strict audit and reporting standards.
The CEO also explained that following the takeover; possession and operation of the dam will be under the tribal corporation rather than the tribal government. This decision, according to Durglo, was made to strengthen the corporation’s credibility. “We will be competing in an open market. The customers will want to see substance,” he said.
By concern of meeting goers Lipscomb went on to say the membership’s lease (per capita) payments would be included in the corporation’s budget as a fixed expense.
Indian Education Director Leslie Caye presented the 2012/13 Indian Education mid-year report for Ronan School District No. 30. Caye was pleased to report an increasing attendance rate amongst Native American students. (Alyssa Nenemay photo)
Ronan School District No. 30
School District No. 30 Indian Education Coordinator Leslie Caye presented the 2012-2013 Mid-Year Indian Education Report for his district. The information in the report complies with the School Board’s #731 Policy on required statistical information.
Of the districts 1,400-students, 61 percent identify as Native American. The Indian education Report concluded that each of the district’s four K-12 schools have greater Native population rates. Caye said School District No. 30 is ranked number four in the state for highest Native student population.
Although lower than their peers, the reports concluded that the district’s Native students have rising attendance rates. Pablo elementary has the highest Native attendance rate at 90 percent, while K. William Harvey had the lowest at 77 percent.
With its rising Native student population, meeting attendee and tribal member Les Bigcrane suggested that the district work towards raising its Native staff population within the schools. “The next goal should be getting real Native American teachers into the local school system rather than Indian by association,” he said.
Caye concurred that the Native staff populations in the district are low. He said that although there has been a rise of interest in elementary level teaching positions by Native applicants, turnover rates for the district’s elementary positions are low.