Montana official says US should close Indian reservations

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Montana official says US should close Indian reservations

Robert Besser
11 Jan 2023, 18:34 GMT+10

  • Republican Montana Sen. Keith Regier has proposed that Congress should study alternatives to reservations, in a proposal submitted this week
  • In response, Native American lawmakers stressed that they are now spending time responding to the proposal instead of focusing on their own legislative priorities
  • The draft resolution argues that reservations have “failed to positively enhance the lives and well-being” of Native Americans, causing incidences of substance abuse, domestic violence, etc

BILLINGS, Montana: Republican Montana Sen. Keith Regier has proposed that Congress should study alternatives to reservations, in a proposal submitted this week that is causing tensions to surface at the Republican-controlled Montana Legislature.

In response, Native American lawmakers stressed that they are now spending time responding to the proposal instead of focusing on their own legislative priorities, such as extending the state’s “Missing and Murdered Indigenous Persons Task Force” for another two years, and creating a grant program to train community-based groups to search for missing people.

Meanwhile, state Sen. Shane Morigeau, a member of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, said, “I hate spending energy and time on this kind of stuff because I feel like it sidetracks us. But at the same time, it clearly signals to me that we have a lot of educational work to do in this state.”

The draft resolution argues that reservations have “failed to positively enhance the lives and well-being” of Native Americans, causing incidences of substance abuse, domestic violence, welfare dependence, poverty and substandard education. Tribal members who do not own land have the highest poverty rate and lowest life expectancy of any ethnic group in America, it added.

It also argues reservations are “not in the best interests of either the Indians inside our borders or for our common Montana Citizens.”

However, if legislators want to consider any alternative, it should be “giving the land back that was taken in the first place, not robbing the last bit of land and resources that we have,” Morigeau stressed.

Floyd Azure, chairman of the Fort Peck Tribe in northeastern Montana, said the draft resolution perpetuates racial stereotypes about reservations, adding that social ills, such as addiction, exist around the country.

“Why exaggerate the reservations?” he said, adding that some people “make themselves feel better” by attacking Native Americans.

Momentum has grown in recent years to restore land to Native American tribes. In Alaska, the Interior Department recently opened the door for native villages to seek trust land status.

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