Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes

Life on a reservation can tend toward a pattern of wounds difficult to mend by young natives.

15-year-olds Kianna Finley and Gabby Houle live on the Flathead reservation. They say at times they are surrounded by a discouraging way of living - one of substance abuse and loss.

Without water, we perish. For 30 years, the Confederated Salish-Kootenai Tribes and the state of Montana have disagreed about tribal water right claims. But this year the legislature approved a comprehensive water rights agreement. Melissa Hornbein was one of the lead attorneys in the negotiations, working for Montana DNRC and the Montana Reserved Water Rights Commission. Hornbein talks with Brian Kahn about the legal and emotional challenges of negotiating the Flathead water compact.

Tribal wildlife biologists lethally removed these two female yearling grizzly bears from the St. Ignatius area after conflicts with livestock.
Courtesy CSKT Natural Resources Department

Tribal wildlife biologists lethally removed two female yearling grizzly bears from the St. Ignatius area on Tuesday.

Biologists saw one of the yearlings chasing livestock. Similar reports have been noted around St. Ignatius.

Wednesday afternoon the Montana House narrowly approved the Flathead Reservation Water Compact after more than three hours of debate on the House floor.

Flickr user Brad Smith (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

The contentious Flathead Reservation water compact appears to be taking the same convoluted path to the House floor as the Medicaid expansion bill did last week.

Flickr, Peggy2012CREATIVELENZ

The Montana State Capitol was bustling with activity Saturday, as literal busloads of people arrived from the Flathead Valley to weigh in on the controversial Flathead Reservation compact that will settle tribal water rights and determine how much water farmers and ranchers of that region will receive in future years.

Flathead Water Compact On Saturday's Legislative Agenda

Apr 10, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

The Montana Legislature is holding a special weekend hearing Saturday for the hundreds expected to come to speak their mind on the Salish Kootenai water compact. If passed, the compact would outline water rights on and around the Flathead Reservation.

Chuck Johnson, Sally Mauk and Mike Dennison
Eliza Wiley

This week on Capitol Talk: Sally, Mike and Chuck look back at the week's events at the Montana Legislature, from the Flathead water compact, to dark money, to the death of the death penalty repeal.

Lawmakers Say Much Work Remains As Legislature Reaches Half-Way Point

Feb 27, 2015
Michael Wright - Community News Service

The Montana Legislature is at the half-way point of the scheduled 90-day session.

It’s more than just the numerical half-way point; it’s a key legislative deadline. All non-spending or non-tax bills had to meet the Day 45 deadline of being transmitted to the other chamber or they died.

Lawmakers will now have nearly a week off before they return to the Capitol to resume their work.

Yellowstone Public Radio’s Jackie Yamanaka talked to legislative leaders and the governor about the progress so far, and what lies ahead.

William Marcus

Supporters of the proposed Flathead Water Compact, involving the state, the federal government, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes have a victory to celebrate. The compact, one of the most contentious issues of the current Legislative session not only survived a debate and vote in the Montana Senate, but did so with a sizable margin.

Montana Legislature

The  Flathead Water Compact working its way through the Montana Legislature was briefly killed today, but quickly brought back to life.

Because the massive water-rights agreement contains $8 million for canal system upgrades, the bill was routed to the Senate finance Committee. There, Dayton Republican Janna Taylor tried to amend it to add financial accountability.

The Sponsor Republican Chas Vincent, saw ulterior motives.

The Montana Legislature took a step toward ratifying the state’s final outstanding water compact this morning, with a vote in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The compact involving the federal government and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes has drawn more heated debate than any issue except perhaps Medicaid expansion. 

Flathead Water Compact Faces First Committee Vote Friday

Feb 19, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

On Friday, the Salish-Kootenai water compact faces its first big vote. If the Senate Judiciary Committee advances the bill, it will face the anger of irrigators who say they won’t get as much water.

Eric Whitney

On the calendar it may have been Presidents Day, but for the Senate Judiciary Committee, Monday was no holiday.

Flathead Water Compact On Monday's Legislative Agenda

Feb 13, 2015
Montana Capitol
William Marcus

Monday, the Montana legislature will hear the bill to pass the Salish-Kootenai water compact, essentially mapping out water rights for the Flathead reservation and surrounding area. The bill’s sponsor is Republican Senator Chas Vincent of Libby, who was the compact’s opposition last session. He says, even amid death threats, he believes this year’s compact is better and absolutely necessary to ensure Montana keeps it’s water.

Flickr user Brad Smith (CC-BY-NC-2.0)

Some of Montana’s most influential agriculture organizations are lining up to support the Flathead water compact.

Yesterday the Montana Stockgrowers Association said it endorses the compact, which is a negotiated settlement between state and federal government and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. Right now, ownership of water on the reservation is disputed, and the compact is an attempt to codify who owns and controls the water without having to go to court.

Lake County Democrats and the county’s Republican Women’s group are getting together to learn about the Flathead water compact at the end of the month.

The event happens Thursday January 29th, 7:00 p.m. at Salish Kootenai College in Pablo.

An attorney from the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes will present on the negotiated water settlement currently before the Montana legislature. An attorney for State of Montana will be on had to answer questions.

Eric Whitney

 Tonight in Helena Montana’s Reserved Water Rights Commission meets, and is expected to approve a huge water rights settlement between the state, the Confederated Salish and Kootnai Tribes and the federal government.

 

Negotiating teams for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the State of Montana, and the United States today released a revised draft of a proposed water right compact.

You can view the draft water compact here.

Negotiating teams for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes, the State of Montana, and the United States have completed a revised draft of a proposed water right compact.

However, a copy of the draft is not yet publicly available.

A Montana Department of Natural Resources & Conservation press release says: "For copies of the public review draft of the Revised Compact and associated documents please check the RWRCC website during the week of January 5, 2015"

The Flathead Joint Board of Control, the body that represents most irrigators on the Flathead Reservation, is sharply divided over the proposed water compact with the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

At a meeting Tuesday, a majority of the board decided to draft a resolution urging the state legislature to reject the proposal. Vice Chairman Jerry Laskody says most of the commissioners feel the state and the tribe have ignored the concerns of irrigators.

Today we continue our coverage of the proposed water compact negotiated by the federal government, the state of Montana, and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. The compact itself is expected to be over a thousand pages long; it’s still being drafted. The road to this point stretches back over 35 years of negotiations. And it’s clear from the reaction to our coverage that people have strong feelings about it.

An attorney for the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes says the latest compact governing tribal water rights has a better chance of passing the state legislature, than one that was rejected two years ago. 

Rhonda Swaney, says the biggest single improvement in the latest version of the tribe’s water compact with the state and federal governments is in its timing. The previous version was just introduced too late in the legislative session for lawmakers to deal with, she says.

Clay Scott

A visit to the Flathead Indian Reservation in Montana, where students immerse themselves in Salish language and culture at the ground-breaking Nkwusm School.

(Broadcast: "Mountain West Voices," 12/15/14. Listen weekly on the radio on Mondays, 3:00 p.m., or via podcast.)

    

One of the issues that you will hear a lot about in the coming months is the proposed water-rights compact between the State of Montana and the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes. It’s the only water compact involving a Montana reservation that remains un-ratified by the state legislature, after the first version was rejected in 2013.

A new group of farmers, ranchers, and tribal members want to convince Montana lawmakers to pass a water compact, like the one they rejected two years ago.

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes are the only Montana Native Americans who lack a compact with the state governing water rights. In 2013, the legislature rejected it, after objections from property rights groups. The group supporting the new compact includes Scott Reichner of Bigfork, an outgoing state lawmaker who voted against the last version.

Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribal wildlife managers expect to have the updated, 5-year wolf management plan finalized by the end of January.

It focuses on wolves found on the Flathead reservation and is separate from the plan the state of Montana uses to manage other wolf populations.   

Summer surveys and observations suggest there are a minimum of 30 wolves on the reservation, but Tribal Wildlife Program Manager, Dale Becker, says it's difficult to pin-down a specific head count.

United States Fish and Wildlife Service

The Confederated Salish and Kootenai tribes are updating their gray wolf management plan. A public comment period ended last Friday.

Tribal Wildlife Program Manager, Dale Becker, estimates there are about 30 wolves on the Flathead reservation.  

Becker says few people commented on the draft management plan this year, but those who did were passionate about it.

CSKT Natural Resources Department

A Stevensville man is $10,000 richer because of a 10-inch fish he caught in Flathead Lake.

Every spring and fall since 2002 the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes holds the Mack Days fishing tournament, offering lots of prizes to anglers. The tribes do it to help reduce the number of non-native Mackinaws, or lake trout in the lake, because they’re crowding out native fish like Bull trout and West Slope cutthroats.

Montana Senator Jon Tester visited western Montana today. His trip included attending a health care summit in Charlo being put on by the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes.

Before going there, though, he stopped by Montana Public Radio to talk about a number of issues, including so-called “country of origin labeling,” the law that requires meat and seafood to carry labels so consumers can know which country it came from. He spoke with News Director Eric Whitney.

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