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St. Ignatius District Meeting updates membership

By Adriana Fehrs

Patty Stevens, Tribal Council, and CloAnn Westerman, Tribal Lands, discuss the Cobell Land Buy Back at the St. Ignatius District meeting. Westerman explained that their department is available to help. “When the offers are mailed out, there will probably be a lot of questions. That’s okay; we want people to come up to Tribal Lands so we can help. We can walk you through everything, and if you are going to accept the offer, it has to be notarized, and we can do that.” (Adriana Fehrs photo) Patty Stevens, Tribal Council, and CloAnn Westerman, Tribal Lands, discuss the Cobell Land Buy Back at the St. Ignatius District meeting. Westerman explained that their department is available to help. “When the offers are mailed out, there will probably be a lot of questions. That’s okay; we want people to come up to Tribal Lands so we can help. We can walk you through everything, and if you are going to accept the offer, it has to be notarized, and we can do that.” (Adriana Fehrs photo)

SAINT IGNATIUS — Tribal Councilmember Patty Stevens hosted a rousing district meeting on Wednesday, August 27. Tribal lands, Energy Keepers Inc., Tribal Social Services, and economic Development all stopped by to share updates.

CloAnn Westerman and Carolee Wenderoth, Tribal Lands, gave updates on the Cobell Land Buy Back Program. Around September 5, the DOI will issue 331 offers to fractionated landowners on the Flathead Indian Reservation – a total of $19 million.

Those who receive an offer, which will come via mail, will have 45 days to respond. If an individual accepts the offer, they can expect a check approximately 35 days after their response.

The Tribal Lands Department expects a 40 percent success rate in appraisal acceptance, which is statistically better than some other tribes.

For the individuals who have questions, or need assistance, Westerman explained that their department is available to help. “When the offers are mailed out, there will probably be a lot of questions. That’s okay; we want people to come up to Tribal Lands so we can help. We can walk you through everything, and if you are going to accept the offer, it has to be notarized, and we can do that.”

Brian Lipscomb, Energy Keepers Incorporated (EKI) Chief Executive Officer, shared updates on the Kerr Dam Acquisition at the St. Ignatius District meeting on August 27. EKI is working on building their staff. Of the 21 positions 17 have been filled, of which, 11 are tribal members. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Brian Lipscomb, Energy Keepers Incorporated (EKI) Chief Executive Officer, shared updates on the Kerr Dam Acquisition at the St. Ignatius District meeting on August 27. EKI is working on building their staff. Of the 21 positions 17 have been filled, of which, 11 are tribal members. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Next, Brian Lipscomb, Energy Keepers Incorporated (EKI) Chief Executive Officer, shared updates on the Kerr Dam Acquisition. Lipscomb says currently, EKI is working on building their staff. Of the 21 positions 17 have been filled, of which, 11 are tribal members.

When faced with concerns on the longevity of the dam, Lipscomb remains adamant that the condition of the dam is good, “especially for being 80 years old.” He explains that there are some components of the dam reaching their end, but EKI is building a capitol investment in order to deal with issues like repairs and unexpected costs.

Lipscomb is also hopeful for the future of hydroelectric energy. “We are 80 percent hydroelectric in the northwest, and it’s pushing to replace coal and gas plants; the Environmental Protection Agency issued new clean air standards which will force coal and gas to change – and that is costly. Water is also much more predictable than coal or gas, and operational costs are much lower. Needless to say, the dam will be here for a long time.”

Anna Whiting-Sorrell, Tribal Health and Human Services (THHS) Director of Operations, Planning and Policy, gave updates at the St. Ignatius District meeting. Whiting-Sorrell says it might be possible for THHS to handle referral services in the future. “Right now, we are looking into our options – it could be more cost affective to purchase healthcare coverage for members instead of paying for contract health.” (Adriana Fehrs photo) Anna Whiting-Sorrell, Tribal Health and Human Services (THHS) Director of Operations, Planning and Policy, gave updates at the St. Ignatius District meeting. Whiting-Sorrell says it might be possible for THHS to handle referral services in the future. “Right now, we are looking into our options – it could be more cost affective to purchase healthcare coverage for members instead of paying for contract health.” (Adriana Fehrs photo)

After EKI wrapped up, Anna Whiting-Sorrell, Tribal Health and Human Services (THHS) Director of Operations, Planning and Policy, was next to give updates at the district meeting. THHS recently finish Phase I of construction on the St. Ignatius THHS clinic. Eight new dental chairs and eight new exam rooms have been added to the clinic. THHS hired a new doctor and a nurse practitioner.

Phase II of construction will include remodeling the Behavioral Health Building, which will be a six month program.

Whiting-Sorrell reminded members that there is an important distinction between Indian Health Services (IHS) and THHS. “IHS provides contract health care – they pay for private providers. THHS provides the clinics and healthcare.” She explains that she understands that there are problems with IHS, but in her time working as an IHS Area Director, she received hardly any complaints.

One attendee shared her experience with IHS. She explained that she suffers from pain, and needs a hip surgery, but hasn’t been able to get a referral to see a specialist. IHS has told her that there is a ‘certain process’ that she must adhere to, and even though she is in excruciating pain, right now the only thing they will do for her is provide her with a wheelchair.

Whiting-Sorrell says it might be possible for THHS to handle referral services in the future. “Right now, we are looking into our options – it could be more cost affective to purchase healthcare coverage for members instead of paying for contract health.”

Carolee Wenderoth, Tribal Lands, shared important information on the Cobell Land Buy Back at the St. Ignatius District meeting on Wednesday, August 27. (Adriana Fehrs photo) Carolee Wenderoth, Tribal Lands, shared important information on the Cobell Land Buy Back at the St. Ignatius District meeting on Wednesday, August 27. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Melinda Caye, Tribal Social Services Department (TSSD) MSW Division Manager, spoke about their home visiting program. Caye says, “The program is about getting kids ready for school. Any parent that has children under the age of three can participate, and it is voluntary.”

The program will work with the ‘Parents as Teachers’ curriculum, to build attention, memory, and eyesight, with ‘a whole array of other things’ says Caye.

Home visitors will also show parents how to teach their children a language. “Within the first 12 months of age, different neural pathways in the brain are built when a child is learning a language, and they tend to remain.”

Caye says the program is up and running and they are accepting parents. The program can offer incentive for volunteer parents such as gas cards, groceries, cribs, diaper bags, and strollers.

Janet Camel, Economic Development Office, gave updates on their CSKT Member Job and Training Needs survey. Raw numbers show that 89 percent of responders owned their own business, and 35 percent of responders were interested in owning a business. (Adriana Fehrs photo)  Janet Camel, Economic Development Office, gave updates on their CSKT Member Job and Training Needs survey. Raw numbers show that 89 percent of responders owned their own business, and 35 percent of responders were interested in owning a business. (Adriana Fehrs photo)

Last on the docket to speak, Janet Camel, Economic Development Office, gave updates on their ‘CSKT Member Job and Training Needs’ survey. Year one of the three-year project is coming to a close.

The department had previously mailed out surveys to tribal members, which focused on educational needs, career interests, and employment. The department received 772 responses, a 25 percent return.

From the surveys, Economic Developers were able to determine that 89 percent of responders owned their own business, and 35 percent of responders were interested in owning a business.

Camel says they hope to develop a training program for individuals seeking to own their own business, or need help with a business they already own. “We want to help entrepreneurs, and we want to train in areas that are growth industries.”

Next year the department will construct a strategy to develop training programs.

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