TERS students sponsor another informative Tribal Council candidate forum

PABLO — The students at Two Eagle River School pulled off another successful and informative Tribal Council candidates forum Monday evening at the school. The crowd was a bit sparse, however the forum was broadcast on Facebook so it was available for viewing by a wide swath of people.

Seven of the 10 Tribal Council candidates were present at the forum. Elmo District incumbent Len TwoTeeth was, challenger Art Caye wasn’t; Polson District challenger Jennifer Finley was, incumbent Charmel Gillin wasn’t; Ronan District incumbent Carole DePoe Lankford was, challenger Leonard Michel wasn’t; Arlee District incumbent Chairwoman Shelly Fyant was, challenger Jim Malatare was; and, At-Large candidates Tom McDonald and Dan DePoe were.

Solutions to drug and alcohol use caused homelessness

• Dan DePoe: Employment is part of the solution, and provides income, self-esteem and respect.

• Tom McDonald: Drugs and alcohol, and homelessness are all connected. Employment and a treatment center are part of the solution, as is addressing the uber dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

• Shelly Fyant: The drugs and alcohol problem is related to the historic trauma Indian people have experienced. Resolutions include a local continuum of care that includes culture-based treatment programs, detox facilities and other such efforts.

• Jim Malatare: A drug and alcohol treatment center is needed on the reservation.

• Carole DePoe Lankford: A drug and alcohol treatment center is very expensive to build, staff and manage. Involvement in local pre-existing programs such as the Lake County Drug Court is part of the solution that create paths to sobriety and drug abstinence.

• Jennifer Finley: Historic trauma that includes racism is one of the bigger causes of the drug and alcohol problem within the reservation Indian community. More mental health support for people in need of it.

• Len TwoTeeth: Homelessness, and drug and alcohol use are part of intergenerational trauma. Drugs and alcohol are not part of tribal culture and traditions, teach and involve the youth in the tribal ways to enhance their cultural identity.

Non-Indian purchasing land on the Flathead Reservation

• Len TwoTeeth: Many people moving here, don’t know this is an Indian Reservation, they should be informed that it is and educated on tribal regulations and ordinances. The Tribal Council will continue to purchase non-tribal owned fee land on the Flathead Reservation.

• Jennifer Finley: Will do everything possible to protect Solutions to drug and alcohol use caused homelessness

• Dan DePoe: Employment is part of the solution, and provides income, self-esteem and respect.

• Tom McDonald: Drugs and alcohol, and homelessness are all connected. Employment and a treatment center are part of the solution, as is addressing the uber dangerous drugs like fentanyl.

• Shelly Fyant: The drugs and alcohol problem is related to the historic trauma Indian people have experienced. Resolutions include a local continuum of care that includes culture-based treatment programs, detox facilities and other such efforts.

• Jim Malatare: A drug and alcohol treatment center is needed on the reservation.

• Carole DePoe Lankford: A drug and alcohol treatment center is very expensive to build, staff and manage. Involvement in local pre-existing programs such as the Lake County Drug Court is part of the solution that create paths to sobriety and drug abstinence.

• Jennifer Finley: Historic trauma that includes racism is one of the bigger causes of the drug and alcohol problem within the reservation Indian community. More mental health support for people in need of it.

• Len TwoTeeth: Homelessness, and drug and alcohol use are part of intergenerational trauma. Drugs and alcohol are not part of tribal culture and traditions, teach and involve the youth in the tribal ways to enhance their cultural identity.

Non-Indian purchasing land on the Flathead Reservation

• Len TwoTeeth: Many people moving here, don’t know this is an Indian Reservation, they should be informed that it is and educated on tribal regulations and ordinances. The Tribal Council will continue to purchase non-tribal owned fee land on the Flathead Reservation.

• Jennifer Finley: Will do everything possible to protect the land, and its flora and fauna resources, as it is dependent upon human (tribal) protection. 

• Carole DePoe Lankford: The Homestead Act is the reason for the prominence of non-Indians on the Flathead Reservation, and the reality of that means the diverse population has to get along. The CSKT has to have an active reservation land buy back policy. 

• Jim Malatare: Land is the most important resource and the CSKT needs to buy back as much land as possible. Set goals to accomplish that.

• Shelly Fyant: Buy back the land, in part to ensure care of the animals. Educate non-Indians on the CSKT recreational regulations, as well as title companies and realtors. 

• Tom McDonald: The Flathead Reservation hasn’t had an influx of populations (mostly related to climate change and COVID-19 refugees) since the allotment of reservation lands. This is the only home for the CSKT, non- Indians have the rest of the United States. The Natural Resources Department’s divisions have been involved in purchasing 30,000 acres of buy back land through various mitigation efforts and other programs. 

• Dan DePoe: Close off parts of the reservation for tribal member exclusive use but be good neighbors and have areas for non- Indians use. More game wardens to enforce regulations. 

Non-Indian adoption of Indian children

• Len TwoTeeth: In today’s times, there could be drug and alcohol use, and abuse in a family. If there isn’t a suitable Indian family available, we have to look out for the welfare of the child and if an Indian child gets placed in a good non- Indian home, that’s okay. 

• Jennifer Finley: Using the guidance/mandates of the Indian Child Welfare Act, Indian children should go to a stable Indian family. In some instances, there may not be a stable Indian family that can care for the child, in that case they could be placed with a non- Indian family. 

• Carole DePoe Lankford: The Indian Child Welfare Act guides the whole process from foster care to permanent placements, with Indian families first then non-Indians if no qualifying/competent Indian families are available. If adopted by non-Indians make sure they involve the child in Indian cultural/traditional events. 

• Jim Malatare: It’s important to have Indian families take Indian children into their homes but they have to go into a good home environment. 

• Shelly Fyant: With the Indian Child Welfare Act, we can claim that when an Indian person is being adopted out, they should remain with an Indian family. 

• Tom McDonald: The Indian Child Welfare Act is a great step forward that helps recover from boarding school assimilation. We’ve (wife Teresa) adopted two children, we’re keeping them home, here. We’re living proof ICWA works. 

• Dan DePoe: Children are our most important resource. They need a loving home. It’s great that if they are placed in an Indian home but it’s more important to be in a loving home. 

Positive experiences with youth

• Len TwoTeeth: Enjoyed being part of the Tribal Council’s involvement with building of the Boys and Girls Clubs on the Flathead Reservation. Would like to start engaging with every school in the reservation community — there are tribal members in every school. 

• Jennifer Finley: This TERS forum is as a positive experience. A lot of you have important gifts to give to the world. 

• Carole DePoe Lankford: In a talking circle in the TERS parking lot where individual students were honored in athletics and school attendance. This forum is a real positive experience.

• Jim Malatare: Supporting athletics in TERS and Arlee schools. Kids involved in sports is an important way to keep kids in school. 

• Shelly Fyant: Most of my life I've been involved in working in the education sector. Worked 16 years at Kicking Horse Job Corps, helped get the young adults registered to vote. Involved with the youth in the Arlee community, held with a camp in the Jocko prior to COVID and plan to continue when safe to do so. 

• Tom McDonald: Volunteer youth coach; good to see kids work as a team. An organizer of the River Honoring. Would like to get youth centers in all reservation communities, they are the heartbeat of a community. 

• Dan DePoe: Have taught kids how to get and cut wood, and hunt. The CSKT should hire people to teach such skills. 

How to get LGBT people more accepted

• Carole DePoe Lankford: Honor individuals different than self and treat them with respect. Maybe the Tribal Council needs to pass a resolution that makes them feel accepted. 

• Len TwoTeeth: It comes down to respect and freedom of choice. As leaders we need to address the LGBT community by not being afraid to step forward for them. 

• Jennifer Finley: Any form of bullying is not in our culture, it’s not okay to bully. 

• Tom McDonald: Diversity is our strength. Honor and respect all (LGBT) people in our community. 

• Shelly Fyant: I think all CSKT policies respect the LGBT community. 

• Dan DePoe: We can’t have any discrimination. I don’t look at anyone any different than anyone else. I don’t believe in degrading others. 

• Jim Malatare: Show them respect is a good way to deal with LGBT people. 

Blood Quantum requirements for membership of the CSKT

• Len TwoTeeth: Blood quantum is an issue that needs to be dealt with. It is discriminatory — our descendents are us. I support getting this issue back on (the table for discussion). 

• Tom McDonald: Present blood quantum requirement is a downward trend that will result in less tribal members. Everyone that is a lineal descendant should be considered for enrollment. I would consider including other tribal blood as quantum measurement. 

• Shelly Fyant: Blood quantum needs to be addressed. Some say that would be political suicide but the Tribal Council needs to have the courage to address the issue. We are an inclusive not exclusive culture. Only dogs and horses have such (identifying) requirements. 

• Dan DePoe: Blood quantum needs to be addressed but needs to be based on CSKT blood, not other Indian blood. 

• Carole DePoe Lankford: The blood quantum issue caused a lot of dissention and animosity (the last time it was officially discussed in the late-1990s). It almost pulled us apart. I believe we as a Tribal Council can develop a committee to bring up the issue for presentation and discussion. We also need to establish an outside of the Tribal Council election board. 

• Jennifer Finley: Maybe we can have a blood quantum “A” role and “B” role, and contemplate other tribes’ Indian blood. I am a tribal member with Mandan Indian blood; I am an Indian, that’s my identity. We have to have a discussion on what we need to be Indian. 

• Jim Malatare: We need to get blood quantum back on the table; let’s get started and talk about this. 

Exercise your right to vote Saturday, December 18, from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. in polling centers in Arlee, Elmo, Polson, Ronan, Dixon, Hot Springs, Pablo, and St. Ignatius. 

It was a sparse crowd

It was a sparse crowd that attended the Monday evening TERS sponsored Tribal Council candidates’ forum but more were watching remotely via Facebook.

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