CS Masthead

Housing Program Could Make Fort Peck Tribes A Model For Nation


Former Fort Peck Tribes Executive Board member Eric Bruguier points to an artist’s rendering of the housing, wellness center and shopping center projects at the former site of the Poplar Airport during a meeting in Wolf Point, Thursday, Sept. 25.  (Photo by John Plestina)

When Jason Campbell of Arete Development Group said the Fort Peck Tribes could become a model for tribes nationwide during a meeting in Wolf Point, Thursday, Sept. 25, he was referring the first 20 houses of the Fort Peck Sustainable Village project that will soon be built in Poplar.
There are long-range plans to build more energy efficient tribal houses in Poplar, Wolf Point, Brockton, Fort Kipp, Oswego and Frazer during the coming years.
Timelines for construction beyond the first 20 houses in Poplar and possible locations in Wolf Point and other communities have not been disclosed.
Some of the houses will be modular homes placed on insulated form foundations.
Campbell said the project could put local residents to work and might involve the Fort Peck Community College building trades program.
Arete is working with the nonprofit Make It Right Foundation, a New Orleans, La., based charitable organization and the Fort Peck Tribes to develop the first phase of the project on a 5.2-acre site at the former Poplar Airport along the north side of U.S. Hwy. 2.
Campbell held community meetings in Brockton and Frazer last week, as well as the one in Wolf Point.
He said the rising costs of rental housing and the housing shortage created by the effects of the oil boom have made the housing situation acute.
“The partnership [Arete, Make It Right and the tribes] made a whole lot of sense,” Campbell said.
Fort Peck Tribes executive board member Eric Bruguier is working with the tribes on the project with American Indian Consulting Services.
Bruguier said the development of needed infrastructure at the Poplar airport site is vital for the project.
“If we can get the infrastructure done, we can move forward,” he said.
The United States Department of Agriculture Rural Utility Services is funding the infrastructure.
Bruguier explained related projects that will be built adjacent to the houses in Poplar.
He said plans include a strip mall with five or six commercial tenants, travel plaza, motel and tribal wellness center fronting on the north side of U.S. Hwy. 2, adjacent to the site of the first 20 houses.
Bruguier said that while the Make It Right housing project, wellness center and proposed commercial development are separate, they are all located on the site of the former airport and there has been collaboration.
“The big picture is everybody is involved in this process,” Bruguier said.
He said two federal Environmental Protection Agency Brownfields environmental studies have been done on the airport
“We had a culture sensitivity study done,” Bruguier said.
Then he speculated that more land could become developable.
“If we can get rid of the leach ponds [near the development], that brings up more land,” Bruguier said.
“It truly has been a monstrous collaboration,” Campbell said.
Separate groundbreakings for the projects could be held in the next two months or during spring 2015.
A timeframe for the groundbreakings depends on the installation of necessary infrastructure.
“For the first time in this reservation’s 120-year history, tribal citizens are being asked what they want,” Campbell said.
He said the housing program will help build the local economy.
Campbell, of Missoula, went to graduate school at Gonzaga University in Spokane, Wash., with Mark Sansaver of Wolf Point and Felix McGowan, from Poplar and now of Idaho.
Campbell became aware of the work the Make It Right Foundation was doing in New Orleans, La. He said he asked Make It Right if they could share their model with Indian Country.
Make It Right’s work on the Fort Peck Reservation began in June 2013 with meetings with tribal leaders, potential tenants/homeowners, architects and designers.
At that time, the Fort Peck Tribes Housing Improvement Program hired McGowen as a consultant for the program.
He coordinated the public meetings in Poplar in 2013 and planned the three community meetings that were held last week. Campbell conducted the meetings because McGowan was unable to attend.
Make It Right was born out of the devastation created by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Actor Brad Pitt co-founded the organization in 2007.
By 2013, Make It Right had built 90 of 150 safe, energy-efficient and affordable homes for New Orleans families.
Since 2007, Make It Right has partnered with housing programs in Newark, N.J., and Kansas City, Mo., as well as the Fort Peck Tribes. There are currently preliminary conversations with the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota for a future development there.
Make It Right Foundation’s webpage says homes it will build on the Fort Peck Reservation would be available to tribal members whose income levels are at or below 60 percent of the area median income. Homeownership will be available to tribal members and structured through a low income housing tax credit rent-to-own program with ownership transferring to tenants after 15 years of renting.
The homes will have angular shapes and are built with the “cradle to cradle” method, which means building with safe and reusable construction materials. Renewable energy is utilized and Make It Right says on its website that the houses use 70 percent less energy than conventional homes of the same size.

County Budget Adds Up To $3.14 Million Increase

The Roosevelt County Commissioners approved the Fiscal Year 2015 budget, Tuesday, Sept. 30, that reflects a $3.14 million increase over last year’s budget, but not all is gloom as royalties paid to the county for oil and gas production have driven the mill rate down.
Commissioners Duane Nygaard and Jim Shanks voted to approve the budget with no discussion. Gary Macdonald was not present at the meeting.
The FY 2015 budget is for the period that began July 1 and continues through June 30, 2015.
The changes in the larger mill levies from last year are: general fund, from 66.66 last year down to 47.81; public safety, 45.06 last year down to 37.49; roads, 32.67 increases to 34.21 this year.
Clerk/Recorder Cheryl Hansen said non tax revenue went up, including oil and gas production and oil royalties.
The budget has a new fund for the $300 stipend paid to all full-time, permanent county employees.
“We budgeted $455,000, which is more than it actually is,” Hansen said. “That’s going to come from oil and gas production.”
Nygaard cited new commercial properties that have added to the tax base including the new grain elevator in Culbertson, the fertilizer plant that began production in Wolf Point about two years ago.
“Each year the amount they pay increases,” Ny-
gaard said of new businesses.
Of the budget process, he said, “It’s complicated and hard to read that’s why it’s September when we get our final figures.”

Tribes Oppose Ballot Measure To End Election Day Registrations

The Fort Peck Tribes executive board, on Monday, Sept. 22, became the first tribal entity in Montana to urge the public to vote “no” on a statewide ballot measure in November that would end Election Day voter registrations.
The legislatively-referred measure would amend the current law allowing voter registrations up to 5 p.m. on election dates and set the deadline at 5 p.m. the Friday prior to elections.
The executive board passed a resolution opposing the Montana Late Voter Registration Revision Measure, commonly known as LR-126, on the grounds that ending Election Day registrations would be harmful to the constitutional rights of all citizens wishing to vote.
Over 28,000 Montanans have used same-day voter registration since it became law several years ago.
“This resolution [LR-126] is trying to restrict the Native Americans and the poor people from voting,” chairman A.T. “Rusty” Stafne said.
“Whoever proposed this law is really against the Native American vote by keeping those who are not currently registered from voting,” tribal vice-chairwoman Patricia Iron Cloud said.
“I have children who are veterans and when they come home on leave they should be able to register the day of voting,” she said.
“Why wouldn’t we want to change the law?” asked tribal
councilwoman Roxanne Gourneau.
“A law that would make ourselves look weak. If we endorse this law, we are allowing people from the Bakken to take over our communities. It would have been a great law three years ago, but now we see it as a threat,” she said.
“The people who are in colleges away from the reservation and the people who are in the armed forces need to come home, register and vote the same day, and then head back,” councilwoman Pearl Hopkins said.
The Billings-based Western Native Voice took a position opposing LR-126.
Its chairperson Rhonda Whiting issued the following statement, Monday, Sept. 22: “Fort Peck executive board showed real leadership for Montana Indian Country today. Fort Peck became the first Montana tribe to urge citizens to vote ‘no’ on LR-126. We applaud the Assiniboine and Sioux people for taking a stand to protect the right of Native people to register and cast a vote on Election Day.
“LR-126, put on the ballot by politicians in our state’s legislature, will place unfair burdens on Native people, seniors, youth, and working families to cast their vote.
If Montanans vote to pass LR-126, responsible, eligible voters would have their voice unfairly taken away.
“We urge other tribal councils across Montana to follow Fort Peck’s lead in urging citizens to vote ‘no’ on LR-126.”

Culbertson School Board Warned About New Tobacco Product

Principal Mike Olson informed the Culbertson School Board, Tuesday, Sept. 23, of the latest cigarette craze, which is hookah pens. These pens resemble the E-cigarettes but with tobacco instead of water vapor. Any student caught with a hookah pen on school grounds or at school functions will be disciplined in accordance with the tobacco guidelines in the student handbook.
Other business the school board addressed included Student Council president Nica Granada explaining some of the  events for Culbertson’s Homecoming week, which started with a week of collecting coins in jars for each of the secondary grades [penny wars]. The winner was the class with the most coins collected.
Minions and the world’s greatest villain, Gru, hammed it up for spirit week, dressing as minions and posing for an all school photo. Plans for a haunted house at the Old Armory are in the works.
Granada also talked about the leadership conference, Oct. 19-21. She and several students are interested in going to the conference as representatives for eastern Montana. The school board was impressed and eager to have the students step up to represent this area.
Board Chairman Paul Finnicum informed Granada of the need for Student Council members to broaden their knowledge of how legislation and schools work hand-in-hand to better the education of its pupils.
Finnicum was asked to sit on the board for MUST, Montana Unified School Trust. He is the president of the Montana School Board Association as well as the chairman for the school board. Finnicum and superintendent Larry Crowder have been working with the legislation to support and represent small schools in rural areas. Crowder is on the board for the Montana Rural Education Association.
Game time for all Saturday home basketball games will be 1 p.m.; junior high teams, 4 p.m.; for junior varsity games and 5:30 p.m., for varsity games. The time change will help teams get home earlier than in past years.
The board has suggested goals for this school year that include the A.C.T. Scholarship for students scoring 30 points or more on their A.C.T. could receive a $1,000 scholarship and scores of 25-30 would receive a $750 scholarship.  This goal was tabled until the next meeting.
Chris Dunphy, JOM Coordinator, requested the go ahead for an Indian Club to be formed. This club would be open to all students and explore the heritage of the surrounding Native American tribes, customs, art, culture and language. Dunphy also requested to have fundraiser for the club to pay for field trips, etc. This was tabled for the next meeting to give Dunphy a chance to write a plan of action.
The coach for junior high boys’ basketball team will be Gordon Oelkers; for the girls’ junior high basketball team, Valli Hauge; and the high school BPA advisor assistant is Elizabeth Harkins.
Nemont requested an easement on the Nay property which was approved with the stipulation that the school can use the Nay property for teacher housing in the future.
Requests by custodian supervisor Norine Haugland to hire Steve Steege, Dani Green and Jennie Steege for full-time employment were approved pending successful background checks.
The north gym addition is progressing with brick being finished including the awning entrance, classrooms received suspended ceilings, lights, windows and flooring. The sheetrock has been started on the second floor. The elementary addition work has begun. Footings, stemwalls, etc are completed. The bus barn concrete should be poured by the month’s end with boring for the ground source heat also being completed by month’s end.  
Future remodeling will include the outdated playground equipment. The goal is to have a proposal for new playground equipment and layout ready for board approval by December.
The next board meeting will be Tuesday, Oct. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

Senate, Congressional Candidates To Debate In Sidney October 21

The Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture and the Richland County Farm Bureau have announced that U.S. Senate and House of Representative candidates will debate at the Richland County Fair Event Center in Sidney in October.
U.S. Senate candidates Democrat Amanda Curtis and Republican Steve Daines both agreed to face each other in a debate, Tuesday, Oct. 21, at 7 p.m.
Questions from the audience will be submitted to a moderator and presented to the candidates.
U.S. House of Representatives candidates Democrat John Lewis and Republican Ryan Zinke have been invited to debate Monday, Oct. 20, at 7 p.m. Zinke has confirmed.