On Jan. 6, Pat Pierre says a prayer as the morning sun peeks through the windows of the Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribal Government Chambers in Pablo. The prayer comes minutes before a drum circle welcomes leaders voted in during the general election on Dec. 17 and the Tribal Council elects its executive officers for the coming two-year term.
During last month's general elections, CSKT voters ousted four of five councilors from the 10-member governing body. Lloyd Irvine beat outgoing Council Chairman E.T. "Bud" Moran in the Pablo District. James V. "Bing" Matt of Arlee sent James Steele Jr. packing. Ron Trahan beat Charles Morigeau by just 10 votes in St. Ignatius. And Michel Kenmille lost his bid for a third term to Leonard Gray in Hot Springs.
During last week's meeting, the council unanimously elected incumbent Joe Durglo of St. Ignatius the governing body's new chairman. Durglo has a bachelor's in business administration from Montana State University; is President of the Intertribal Timber Council, a nationwide nonprofit dedicated to improving the management of natural resources in Native American communities; and Vice-Chair of the Montana State Tribal Economic Development Commission.
"We do have a lot of challenges," Durglo told CSKT members who gathered in the packed council chambers for last week's meeting. "But with your input...I think we're up to that task."
Among the tribes' challenges will be negotiating an agreement with PPL Montana to purchase the Kerr Dam. An existing Federal Energy Regulatory Commission co-management agreement between the tribes and PPL expires in 2015 and CSKT has made no secret of the fact that it wants to take over the 194-megawatt hydroelectric plant on the Flathead River west of Polson. The dam produces an estimated 1.1 billion kilowatt-hours of power annually.
Another pressing issue for the tribes is negotiating a water compact settlement with the state. Of seven Indian reservations across Montana, the Flathead is the only one that has yet to settle its water rights claims. Those negotiations will dictate future water allocations on the reservation and in surrounding communities.
The tribal council last week also selected Ronan's Carole Lankford Vice-Chair, Rueben Mathias of Elmo Secretary and Ron Trahan Treasurer.