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Daines visits Flathead Indian Reservation

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PABLO — Montana Congressman Steve Daines stopped at Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal complex to meet with tribal leaders and Salish Kootenai College President Robert Depoe III on Aug. 23. 

On hand were Vern Clairmont, CSKT financial director; Arlene Templer, Department of Human Resource Development; Janet Camel, economic development; Teresa Wall-McDonald, acting head of CSKT Tribal Lands Department; Jim Durglo and Ron Swaney, Division of Fire; CSKT Tribal Council Chair Joe Durglo and Council Member Lloyd Irvine.

Sequestration was a dirty word at the meeting, since many tribal programs have been hit by it. Clairmont noted Indian Health Service funding was reduced by $713,376, and Department of Indian Affairs Operation of Indian Programs monies by over $300,000. The OIP includes law enforcement, social services, higher education scholarships, natural resources, and more. 

The funding reduction doesn’t reduce trust responsibility, Clairmont’s info said, and CSKT will be challenged to continue to meet the social, educational and other needs of its 7,900 tribal members.

Depoe’s information said SKC needs the Department of the Interior’s appropriation bill to fund the Indian Student Count at a level of at least $5,850 per ISC, less than the authorized level of $8,000. Also tribal colleges are historically underfunded. 

With an enrollment of approximately 850 students, SKC has experienced a “little bit of a gap in enrollment,” Depoe said.

He’d like to see Congress exempt tribal colleges from further sequestration cuts.  

Templer mentioned the Fatherhood program, which her department facilitates and which was in the top 10 percent of programs funded. She wants to continue the program and attract new fathers but is concerned about continued funding. 

Templer also put in a good word for Job Corps. Local students, too, can stay home and attend Job Corps, because there is an off-base program.

“We end up employing or ‘growing our own,’” Templer said.

Daines was positive about the skills Job Corps students learn since 50 percent of college graduates are having a hard time getting jobs.

Jim Durglo talked to Daines about the disparity between funding for Bureau of Indian Affairs forestry programs, which is 30 percent of that of adjacent national forests.

He added that collaborative forest restoration programs, such as in the Seeley Swan Ranger District, can’t be used to treat tribal trust land. Jim said he is a big supporter of this program, so he’d like Daines to look at the issue. 

“Healthy forests are an issue I’m very passionate about,” Daines said.

Each department presented information, before Daines and his aid headed on to Browning. Daines plans to visit all reservations in Montana before Congress reconvenes in September.

“Thanks for cutting out some time for us on a Friday,” Daines said.   

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