A sign welcomes visitors to the Blackfeet Nation. Photo: Royalbroil

Blackfeet Nation secures $100K federal grant to enhance border security efforts

The Blackfeet Nation has secured a $100,000 grant from the Department of Homeland Security to assist with border protection efforts.

The funds came from the Operation Stonegarden program. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), who announced the award, said it will help the tribe protect America's 540-mile border with Canada.

"Terrorists and criminals will find and exploit any weakness we have," Tester said in a press release "That's why we can't just focus our efforts on securing the southern border, we must also ensure the safety and security of our northern border as well. Our national security depends on it."

The reservation shares a 65-mile border with the Canadian province of Alberta. Blackfeet citizens and descendants live on both sides of the border and many travel back and forth for economic, social and cultural activities.

Chairman Harry Barnes of the Blackfeet Nation was among the participants in the recent Northern Tribal Border Summit. Leaders from tribal communities along the U.S. border with Canada came together on August 21 to share common concerns about border crossings, security and treaty rights.

Chairman Harry Barnes of the Blackfeet Nation, front second from left, and other tribal leaders are seen with Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-North Dakota) at the Northern Tribal Border Summit in Shakopee, Minnesota, on August 21, 2017. Photo: Rep. Kevin Cramer

“The summit is the first step in establishing an alliance of similarly situated Indian nations to work on issues that affect our right to traverse our traditional territories and maintain relations to our homelands on either side of the border. This right is fundamental," Eric Thompson, a chief of the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, said on Thursday.

The meeting was organized by the St. Regis Mohawk Tribe, whose reservation in the U.S. is located in New York, and the Kootenai Tribe, whose homelands in the U.S. are in Idaho. It was hosted by the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community in Minnesota.

“The Ktunaxa Nation and its citizens have occupied Ktunaxa Territory since time began. We look forward to working with our sister indigenous governments, the United States and Canada, to ensure Ktunaxa citizens will be able to access all parts of the territory.” Chairman Gary Aitken, Jr. of the Kootenai Tribe said.

During the meeting, the tribes formed the Northern Tribal Border Alliance to advance their issues before the U.S. and Canadian governments. Adequate funding is among their major priorities.

"Our territory is a self-declared port and border security is a major concern to us. Major drug trafficking occurs off our coast with drugs coming in from Canada," said Chairman Nate Tyler of the Makah Nation, based in Washington state. "Unfortunately, we must compete with other governments for funding. I am glad to work with other sovereign tribal nations to ensure that we are funded directly for our efforts to protect America's northern border."

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