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CSKT statement regarding Public Law 280

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PABLO — On Nov. 20, 2023, the Lake County Board of Commissioners notified Montana Governor Greg Gianforte that Lake County has withdrawn its consent to enforce Public Law 280 (PL 280) jurisdiction on the Flathead Indian Reservation. Under Montana law, Governor Gianforte now has six months, until May 20, 2024, to issue a proclamation recognizing Lake County’s withdrawal. Regardless of any change, CSKT will continue to collaborate with jurisdictions on the Reservation to provide robust law enforcement services.

“This change from Lake County does not impact our ability to provide the highest quality law enforcement across our communities,” said CSKT Tribal Police Chief Craige Couture. “Tribal law enforcement officers are academy trained and provided authority similar to every other law enforcement entity throughout the state of Montana. Our officers are highly qualified, and we manage and execute law enforcement duties in the same ways that the State, counties, and the federal government do. We remain capable and dedicated to providing for our communities and to working in partnership with other jurisdictions.” 

CSKT reaffirms its commitment to work in partnership with other jurisdictions to ensure public safety across the Flathead Indian Reservation, including with the State of Montana, Flathead County, Missoula County, Sanders County, Hot Springs, Ronan, Polson, St. Ignatius, and with Lake County.

CSKT also will continue to exercise its exclusive misdemeanor jurisdiction and concurrent felony jurisdiction over members of federally recognized tribes. In 1994, CSKT retroceded from the State’s misdemeanor jurisdiction, meaning that the Tribes took back misdemeanor jurisdiction over members of federally recognized tribes. Since that time, CSKT has had exclusive misdemeanor jurisdiction and shares felony jurisdiction with the State and, in some instances, the federal government over offenses allegedly committed by members of federally recognized tribes which occur within the exterior boundaries of the Flathead Indian Reservation.

“We are committed to doing what is best for our communities,” said CSKT Tribal Council Chairman Tom McDonald. “We will continue to work in partnership with other governments who share felony jurisdiction.”

During this transition, CSKT will collaborate with the State and federal government to determine the next steps for moving forward.

“With its withdrawal from PL 280, Lake County is opening up options for our Tribes, the State of Montana, and federal partners to develop a solid path moving forward regarding the execution of law enforcement and the operations of criminal proceedings on our Reservation,” said Chairman McDonald. “We appreciate all the work that has been done in anticipation of Lake County’s decision, and we are confident that law and order will remain a cornerstone of our communities while we work collaboratively with all the stakeholders.”

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