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Lake County commissioners have officially voted to pull out of an agreement to provide law enforcement services on the Flathead Reservation in northwest Montana.
Montana Public Radio’s Aaron Bolton reports, the state will be required to provide those services later this year.
Commissioners unanimously voted to withdraw from the agreement between the state and tribes, known as Public Law 280.
Lake County agreed in the 1960s to provide law enforcement services on behalf of the state across the Flathead Reservation. But county commissioners say tax payers can’t afford to pay for those services, estimated at $4 million annually.
The Legislature passed a bill in 2021 requiring the state to reimburse Lake County for those services, but appropriated $1 for that work. The law also gave the county and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes the ability to withdraw from the agreement.
To make Lake County’s withdrawal of Public Law 280 official, Gov. Greg Gianforte (R-MT) will have six months to issue a proclamation acknowledging it. The state would then be charged with providing law enforcement services on the reservation.
CSKT spokesperson Gwen Lankford declined to comment on the county’s withdrawal.
Gov. Gianforte’s office did not respond to a request for comment by deadline.
Rhonda McBride, news director at our flagship station KNBA, reports that it’s been a disappointing week for Alaska Native people waiting to watch U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola (Yup’ik/D-AK) take the oath of office for her first full term in Congress.
But until Republicans select a new House Speaker, Rep. Peltola and other House members cannot be sworn in.
Rep. Peltola says the Republican stalemate is a sign of the times, where partisan politics has poisoned government from school boards to city councils.
“I think at the local level they’re not designed to be partisan. But the partisanship has really crept down to every level. And it’s on steroids in Washington D.C. It’s hard to go to committee hearings and talk about the issue at hand. Because the conversation quickly turns to partisan bickering.”
Rep. Peltola campaigned for her Alaska congressional seat on her abilities to work across the aisle, which she credits to being brought up in the Yup’ik culture, which discourages conflict and encourages cooperation.
Rep. Peltola says she’ll try to hold onto those values, but it won’t be easy.
Jim LaBelle is a retired Alaska Native studies and history professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage.
“She needs to take advantage of the novelty of her being a Yup’ik woman, using that position to get their attention on strategic issues that she’s working on.”
He believes Rep. Peltola is in a position to set a powerful example for the country.
“One person can make a difference, and sometimes you don’t know who that’s going to be or when that’s going to happen, but when we are rooted in are values and wanting to do good for our fellow man. Yeah, it could be that congruence of time and space that Mary’s at, that could be that one person.”
For now, Rep. Peltola is that one person who is Alaska’s lone vote in the House.
She became the first Alaska Native to serve in Congress, after she won a special election last year to fill out the remainder of the late U.S. Rep. Don Young (R-AK)’s term.
On Thursday, President Joe Biden signed into law bills to restore tribal stewardship of federal lands and ensure federal land management laws respect tribal sovereignty.
The bills collectively place about 3,500 acres of land previously owned by the U.S. Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management into trust for the benefit of two tribal governments in California – the Agua Caliente Band of Cahuilla Indians and the Karuk Tribe.
Three bills involving tribal water rights in Arizona were also signed into law.
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