Harry Barnes: Blackfeet Nation counts coup in trip to US Capitol

Harry Barnes. Photo from Facebook

Harry Barnes, the chairman of the Blackfeet Nation of Montana, discusses the tribe's recent trip to Washington, D.C.:
A delegation of Blackfeet, accompanied by Jeanne Whiting, descended full force on the U.S. Capitol and counted many coup. Arriving Monday we had a full schedule of meetings. With a light skiff of snow that barely covered the ground and temperatures around 28 degrees, it was called a “snow day.” They need to travel to Blackfeet Country and learn firsthand what a snow day really is. The Department of Interior hallways were somewhat bare of employees as we met with the Interior’s staff that has worked on all water compacts in Indian Country. It was a good meeting with a lively exchange of questions and comments. We were trying to identify any issues of contention. After that meeting we met with David Little of the Office of Justice Services to go over our concerns with the Jail. This now looks very good that we will start construction and relocation of the Jail this year. This was a very positive meeting.

After lunch we met with Senator Jon Tester and his staff, and later we met with Senator Steve Daines and his staff. Both Senators are on the Senate Sub-Committee on Indian Affairs, and both have worked on the Blackfeet-Montana Compact before. The Senators will be cosponsors of the new bill in the Senate. The next morning we met with Representative Ryan Zinke at 7 a.m. (that is 5 a.m. in Browning). The Congressman sits on the Natural Resources Subcommittee and voted for this Compact while in the State Legislature. He promised his full support.

We did not sell the water. The purpose of the visit was twofold. We need to move this issue to the next level (passage of a bill) so that we can bring something back to the Blackfeet people. They will then decide by their vote whether we enter into this agreement. The second reason for the visit was just as important. Because of our meltdown last year, there are a lot of doubters out there that have dismissed the Blackfeet. We can say “So what?” or we can move to reestablish the Blackfeet as true leaders in Indian Country. Other Tribes followed our lead, and non-Native governments had to deal with the Blackfeet on a peer-to-peer basis. The greatest Indian Nation on this North American continent was reduced to fight over scraps left on the street.

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Harry Barnes: Blackfeet delegation descends on D.C. (The Cut Bank Pioneer Press 2/4)

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