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Missoula City Council extends olive branch to CSKT

By Alyssa Nenemay

The Missoula City Council met for the first time with representatives from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to discuss economic development, supporting the city’s Indian population, and Missoula’s rich tribal history. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay) The Missoula City Council met for the first time with representatives from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes to discuss economic development, supporting the city’s Indian population, and Missoula’s rich tribal history. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)

MISSOULA — In recognition of the tribes’ sovereign status as a nation, Missoula Mayor John Engen officially declared May 13: “The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes Day.”

The declaration stems from Resolution 7747, which passed in December of last year. The bill formally acknowledges that the city of Missoula sits on aboriginal tribal territory, recognizes the Missoula City Council’s government-to-government relationship with CS&KT, and opens dialogue for future collaboration between the two.

“In the spirit of cooperation and collaboration, it’s long overdue that the governing bodies of the CSKT and the City of Missoula convene a joint gathering to explore opportunities to strengthen our relationship–economically, socially, and culturally,” noted the Resolution’s background.

In their first formal setting, representatives from the CS&KT met with the Missoula City Council to discuss economic development, supporting the city’s Indian population, and acknowledging the city’s tribal history, culture, and heritage.

Missoula City Council Chair Woman Marilyn Marler received a few momentos courtesy of Tribal Chairman Joe Durglo. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay) Missoula City Council Chair Woman Marilyn Marler received a few momentos courtesy of Tribal Chairman Joe Durglo. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)

Economic Development
The tribe’s affiliated corporation S&K Technologies, Inc. immediately became the center focus for the group’s discussion on economic development. High-tech Missoula entrepreneur Alex Phillip praised the corporation as model collaboration between tribal and non-tribal investment.

“(S&K Technologies) is one of the most exciting economic development stories going on in all of Montana, which frankly is a reflection of both tribal and non-tribal capital investment in, as far as I’m concerned, one of the most high tech businesses you’ll see in Western Montana or Montana in general,” he said.

Director of Tribal Services Clayton Matt explained that the S&K Corporations are a separate entity from the CS&KT government. Although the six-branch corporation is tribally owned, it has separate management. The S&K Corporations do, however, sustain an annual dividend to its CS&KT shareholders.

When asked about economic challenges, CS&KT Chairman Joe Durglo said that tribal government is “the” major employer on the Flathead Reservation with nearly 1,200 employees but he hopes to see that change.

“We’re trying to encourage our tribal members to look at opportunities besides tribal government for employment–especially in entrepreneurship. But it’s a very small market and low income so it’s hard for people to pursue that,” he said.

Although the Flathead Reservation is outside of its Missoula County jurisdiction, Missoula Economic Partnership President James Grunke offered his organization’s assistance.

“We have our own entrepreneurship program here, we would be happy to always look for any activity we could be doing jointly…if there’s anything we could do of value, we’d like to be a part of that, ” he said.

Clayton.Durglo: Director of Tribal Services Clayton Matt and tribal council representatives James “Bing” Matt and Joe Durglo provided additional information on the tribes. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay) Clayton.Durglo: Director of Tribal Services Clayton Matt and tribal council representatives James “Bing” Matt and Joe Durglo provided additional information on the tribes. (Photo By Alyssa Nenemay)

Supporting Missoula’s Indian Population
According to the US Census, 2.8 percent of Missoula’s population is American Indian and the city council hoped to gain feedback from the CS&KT representatives on how they could create outreach or support its tribal citizens.

Matt said that the city’s Indian population is made up of people from not only the CS&KT but also tribes throughout the US and each has its own unique needs. Matt suggested the city conduct its own research on its tribal citizens’ and their unique needs. Durglo suggested the city gather and provide information on services or support that is available.

Acknowledging Missoula’s Tribal History
Long before non-Indians ventured west, the entire northwest region of Montana was home to the Salish, Kootenai, and Pend d’Oreille tribes. Because of its riverfront location, Missoula was historically a prime gathering area for tribes. Bitterroot flourished throughout the valley and the river was clean and abundant with fisheries.

To the delight of the council, Bitterroot Salish elder Louise Adams shared numerous landmark names and descriptions for areas located throughout the city including the hill that now feature’s the cement “M.” Adams said the canyon near the University was known as an area where the Blackfeet would ambush the Salish.

Adams also shared an ancient historical account of area with a coyote story that described why the Salish refer to a point in the river as “the place of little bull trout.” The city’s name “Missoula” derives from the Salish word “Nmesuletkw,” which describes the river as being cold or subsided.

The city council and the tribes agreed that it would benefit Missoula’s citizens to learn about the city’s rich tribal history. In the near future, the government bodies agreed to a collaborate on a project to create signs that featured Salish and Pend d’Oreille place names for the area as well as historical tribal information for various tribal landmarks located throughout the city.

Ending the meeting, the two groups exchanged gifts and Durglo praised the city for reaching out to the tribes on a sovereign-to-sovereign level.

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