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People’s Voice reaches signature goal for petition

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PABLO — The People’s Voice presented a petition signed by 1,400 eligible Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal members to CSKT Chairman Joe Durglo last week, requesting that the Tribal Council “initiate a referendum vote to decide, once and for all, if the balance of the Nez Perce/Salazar settlement funds currently retained by the council, should be paid out to the members or not,” according to a press release from the group. 

“We just received (the petition), and we are internally evaluating it,” said Rob McDonald, CSKT communication director. “There are questions that need to be answered regarding what exactly is being asked.” 

There has been confusion as to whether the Bureau of Indian Affairs would be involved, but according to Flathead Agency Superintendent Chuck Courville, a referendum doesn’t come through the Bureau of Indian Affairs, since it’s an internal tribal issue.

Calling themselves “100-percenters,” the People’s Voice has been working since August to gather signatures to trigger a referendum so tribal members can decide what should happen with the Nez Perce/Salazar settlement money. Indian tribes across the United States, including the Salish and Kootenai Tribes, received compensation for money lost in mismanaged accounts and from royalties for oil, gas, grazing and timber rights on tribal lands that the tribes did not receive from the government. The CSKT received approximately $150,126,000. Tribal Council distributed about half of the money on Sept. 12 to its membership, with each member receiving $10,000.

The referendum would give the tribal membership the final say on what happens with the remainder of the settlement money, since only tribal members on the reservation 18 years old or older can vote, said People’s Voice representative Jeri Rouillier.

“We have submitted more signatures than required,” she added.

Roullier said the group wants to let the tribal membership know the ball is now in the CSKT Council’s court. The council needs to advise the membership and then notify all eight polling places. The signatures and enrollment numbers also need to be verified. 

“Tribal Council needs to advise the membership of when the meeting (regarding the referendum) will take place,” Roullier added, as well as when the election will be held.

The People’s Voice is a small group that started out with five people and now has about 45 members. The group advocates for people who are frightened to speak in front of the Tribal Council, Roullier said. 

“We are a Christian group; we’re nonprofit; and we don’t charge anything,” she noted, explaining that the group believes in honesty, integrity and professionalism.

“Our group is out to make a change in our government,” she added.

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