Blackfeet Nation rebuilds relationships after leadership spat

Badger Creek in the Badger-Two Medicine Area in Montana. Photo from Blackfeet Nation

The Blackfeet Nation of Montana is rebuilding relationships with tribal members and outsiders after resolving a leadership crisis.

At one point, two councils claimed control of the tribe. Each group was hiring its own staff yet employees went without pay for weeks at a time because no one had the authority to issue checks.

An election in June of last year restored some order as five new council members came on board. Harry Barnes is now serving as chairman and he has been working to repair the tribe's standing.

Harry Barnes. Photo from Facebook

“During the dysfunction of the last few years, we pushed all of our relationships to the brink,” Barnes told The Flathead Beacon.

The tribe has been able to complete its 2013 audit, the paper reported. The 2014 audit will be more challenging because of the split.

With a functioning government, the tribe is also able to focus on pressing issues, like preventing energy development in the sacred Badger-Two Medicine Area. A water rights compact with the state of Montana will require some heavy lifting in Washington, D.C.

Further down the line, the tribe could finally make changes to its constitution. Tribal members approved a plan to reform the government but the effort faltered.

“This is a bad form of government,” Barnes told the Beacon. “And now that I’m in it I can see where all the weaknesses are.”

Get the Story:
Rebuilding a Nation (The Flathead Beacon 5/13)

Related Stories
Blackfeet Nation launches campaign to ban drilling at sacred site (04/23)
Blackfeet Nation opposes energy development on sacred lands (03/30)
Harry Barnes: Blackfeet Nation counts coup in trip to US Capitol (02/05)
Blackfeet Nation denies political motive in arrest of ex-leader (11/26)
Final person sentenced in theft from Blackfeet Nation program (10/23)
Blackfeet Nation elects new leadership but old wounds remain (07/11)

Join the Conversation