Native Sun News Today: Northern Cheyenne Tribe promotes safety

Standing: Tracy Robinson, Tribal Transportation Director; Sterling Small, NCTBH Injury Prevention Specialist; Seated left to right: Patricia Sioux Ramos, Environmental Health; Dana Eaglefeathers, Busby Councilman; Bart Elliott, Disaster Emergency Service, Director; Calvin Wilson, Chief Prosecutor and Jesse Martinez, Environmental Health. Photo by Clara Caufield

Northern Cheyenne promote use of seatbelts and child safety seats
By Clara Caufield
Native Sun News Today Correspondent

LAME DEER, Mont. –– With the assistance of a grant from the Montana Healthcare Foundation to the Northern Cheyenne Tribal Board of Health (NCTBH) a coalition of programs and staff on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation have organized to promote the increased use of seatbelts and child safety seats on the reservation, hoping for a 25% increase in the next two years.

The grant comes on the heels of an Indian Health Service study identifying the leading causes of injury morbidity and mortality on the Northern Cheyenne reservation for 2014 and 2015. The leading cause of injury and mortality were accidental fall, assault, accident due to natural and environmental factors and motor vehicle crashes. In the meantime, another report by the State of Montana revealed that the average life expectancy for Native Americans residing on Montana reservations is 15 years lower than for others living off the reservation, in part to violence and motor vehicle crashes.

Sterling Small, tribal member and new Injury Prevention Specialist for the NCTBH explained that the Northern Cheyenne Tribe does have a seat belt law, violation of which is a misdemeanor, but currently only minimally enforced by BIA law enforcement.

“Studies say that driver seat belt and car seat usage on the reservation is at 25% - 30% but passenger use is only 17%”, he said. “Upping that percentage will certainly save lives.”

“In recent years our community has suffered many tragic losses and injuries due to car wrecks involving deaths of all ages. My concern is that we are becoming complacent to these deaths seeing them as common place," Small said. "I hope the coalition efforts can bring this public health concern to the forefront of our minds and help us to remember to buckle up. Every life matters.”

The coalition includes members from programs involved in tribal public safety including Tracy Robinson, Transportation Director; Calvin Wilson, Chief Prosecutor; Bart Elliott, Director of Emergency Services also a former law enforcement officer; Patricia Sioux Ramos and Jesse Martinez, Tribal Environmental Health Program and Dana Eaglefeathers, Tribal Council member, Busby District. The group is facilitated and led by Sterling Small.

During the first meeting in mid-December, 2016, coalition members held a wide-ranging discussion about the problem of low seat belt usage on the reservation and possible ways to increase it. Robinson explained that the Tribe currently has a Highway Safety Traffic Officer, funded by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, but that position is currently supervised by the Bureau of Justice, often pulled into duties other than traffic, due to police staffing shortages.

The Tribe also runs a “Safe on all Roads”, sometimes called “Click it or Ticket”, funded by the Montana Department of Transportation.

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Northern Cheyenne promote use of seatbelts and child safety seats

(Contact Clara Caufield at

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