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During the September 12, 2022 full board meeting, the Tribal Executive Board met with IHS Deputy Chief Executive Officer Jackie Hippe for an update of the Fort Peck Service Unit.

In her report, Hippe said they are in the last month of the Fiscal Year and all of their spending has been turned off by the area office. No new purchasing will be done until the next fiscal year.

Neither Julian Shields or Dennis Four Bear have approached Spotted Bird since she was hired, Hippe said. The Health Promotion Disease Prevention Program is there for IHS, but there has not been much communication.

Councilwoman Carolyn Brugh said they [TEB] are there to service the people but when there is a lack of communication it trickles down and affects the patients.

“It’s hard to see them fall through the cracks.”

For example, a Diabetic Clinic check-up years ago would include a stop at the optometrist, a nutritionist, etc. This isn’t happening anymore and most of the people just go and get the minimal test available, usually a blood test of insulin and sugar levels, Brugh said.

Without communication between the Tribes and IHS, the TEB are often the last to know things about problems. Recently, the Diabetes Program stated they won’t be hiring a much needed podiatrist, Brugh said.

For years, it was Lana Mikkelsen who served as the Diabetes Coordinator. She kept things going for years, but it all stopped when the position was taken from her, Hippe said.

It’s something that needs to be revitalized, Brugh said.

Tribal councilwoman Patt Runs Through said the Tribes Health Programs need to meet with IHS so they can discuss related concerns. They are not happy about this and Runs Through said Spotted Bird must be replaced. She has refused to work with the Tribes before and she shouldn’t be there, Runs Through said.

During the pandemic people got vaccination cards after getting the injections. But when some lost them and needed to produce proof they took the vaccine, the IHS did not have records readily available. They (tribal members) should never have to ask for their records without hassle, she said.

Professionals are needed, and the Tribal Council watches the program. There is no presence of Tribal Health or IHS at the Wellness Center, Runs Through said.

“If I had my way, she [Piper] wouldn’t be a CEO,” she said.

Related to that, councilwoman Marva Chapman said Tribal Health has two very dedicated drivers who are running patients back and forth from Billings all the time. This burden can be eased if the Tribes step up, she said.

Contract Health is a working process, and the Tribes met with Northeast Montana Health Services to discuss bills not being paid by patients. It’s their goal to have the finances paid off within a year. Once they figure everything out and put it on a spread sheet, they will figure out who used the hospital from IHS. Their payments will be settled in a one lump sum payment, Chapman said.

Hippe said if Medicaid doesn’t cover a hospital visit then IHS will.

Councilman Terry Rattling Thunder said the TEB is never informed about doctors leaving or being hired. There are not enough doctors to do referrals, so the patients carry the burden for inadequate health care. This is serious enough to warrant emails from the Senate Oversight Committee who want to know what is going on and why, he said.

One of the things the council is doing is looking through the 638 contract and seeing what exactly can be contracted. Then they can recruit to fill these positions and they would like to work with IHS on this but there needs to be more communication, Rattling Thunder said.

As for referrals, Rattling Thunder asked about the doctors at the clinic. Hippe said there are two full time doctors in Poplar: Dr. Arosamina and Dr. Williamsburg. A doctor was here but she moved to work with the Little Shell tribe in central Montana so she could be closer to Lewistown. In Wolf Point, there is Jared Foster and Royal Christian as doctors. There is also one radiologist on staff, and the mental health department is staffed with one. Telepsych helps with mental health, she said.

Lab workers and nurses are currently being contracted. Eight medical social workers are on call, and the IHS is looking at hiring a psychiatrist (a mental health doctor who can issue prescriptions). There is a need for dental hygienists, and right now the medical staff is working double duty until these positions are filled.

Chairman Floyd Azure thanked Hippe for her report.

The following highlights are from the September 12, 2022.

FPHA

Tribal leaders approved a request by Fort Peck Housing Authority to prepare and submit a block grant application.

Unlike other grants, this one has a specific part never listed before: the Tribes giving FPHA the “sole authority” to prepare and submit the grant to the US Department of Housing Urban Development. It’s for $7.5 million on behalf of the Tribes. The Tribal Government is not applying for this grant, and FPHA will be acting independently from the Tribes.

At the full board meeting, Runs Through said she didn’t like the wording in the motion. What does ‘sole authority’ mean, she asked.

Chairman Azure said this routine for FPHA, and they have been coming to the Tribal Council for approval.

Councilman Bryce Kirk said the $7.5 million means FPHA is applying for the full amount.

The final vote was eight for, three (Wayne Martell, Brugh, and Rattling Thunder) opposed.

A related motion for another grant was sent back to committee. According to the motion, this one for $2 million and will be used to put metal roofs on all FPHA homes. It further states the TEB certifies the citizen participation requirements identified in the law for FY 2022 Indian Community Development Block Grant Project.

According to the law, the requirement is to inform all eligible citizens about the money, when they are available, etc.

This motion, along with a motion to permanently give the FPHA Indian Community Block Development Grant on behalf of the Tribes, was sent back to committee for further discussion.

Records

The woman who takes the minutes for the Tribal Council meetings has been given a 30 day extension.

Myah Young was approved for the extension of work takes effect immediately. The final vote was 11-0 (one absent).

Bonuses

Tribal leaders approved of bonus payments to full time employees of the Cultural Resources Program.

The motion states all full time employees who meet the criteria will be given a $1,500 bonus.

Any request to pay a bonus comes from the programs budget. The TEB must give the final approval for any kind of bonus payment 11 to zero.

A similar motion from the Education Committee approved paying an employee incentive of $3,000 for the Education Department. The former director, Megan Gourneau, was recently made the Tribal Operations Manager and Secretary Accountant.

Bonus incentive payments for Head Start employees was also approved by the council. The motion states the payments are $1,000 for full time and $500 for part time.

Another motion later in the meeting authorized Chairman Floyd Azure to approve incentives for program directors for employees on an approved criteria. This passed at full board 11-0.

Tribal Gaming was authorized to develop their own criteria for bonus payments, minutes state.

Head Start

Unless the Head Start on the reservation increases the enrollment of students, they could see a reduction of funding in the future.

Head Start Director Hilary Gourneau provided the council with an update of the program. There are 212 available slots for enrollment, and the main Office of Head Start will be put on a convey of enrolled students and funds will be decreased unless locally they can show Head Start is doing everything to increase enrollment.

Gourneau said they are discussing possibly changing the minimum age for enrollment in the program from three-years-old to five-years-old.

Councilwoman Runs Through said Head Start employees should be going door to door in all reservation communities and leave incentives on the door knobs.

Councilwoman Brugh said three-years-old is too young for some children. Some are not potty-trained by this age and they will attend school when they are ready.

In addition to paying the bonuses, the council included part-time employees current and future who will have completed the training requirements set forth by the Head Start Director.

Before finishing her report, the council voted to nominated the Head Start Director to enter her name forward for the elections for the National Indian Education Director for Zone eight.

Policies and Procedures

The Tribes Policies and Procedures was amended to adopt a rehiring policy for Tribal Human Resources.

All programs are required to add and implement the new rehire policy immediately.

Later, the TEB approved another resolution amending the recruitment and selection parts of the policies and procedures.

Reclassified

A job description with the Tribes Planning Department was reclassified by the TEB.

The Community Planner position is in need of an update, and the final update must be approved by the Tribal Council.

Nemont

Mike Kilgore of Nemont met with the Tribal Finance Committee to update the council on current project statuses.

In the past year, the company worked to install new wiring in all homes on the reservation. Nemont is currently 90 percent done with fiber-optic lines. About 125 customers have been switched over to Nemont’s fiber optic network.

Kilgore also brought a resolution for approval to continue work on the fiber optic lines being replaced.

According to the resolution, the Tribes are recommending and supporting Nemont Telephone Cooperatives request and the Bureau of Indian Affairs grant all of Nemont’s requests placed before it by Nemont. Further, the Chairman is authorized to sign any requisite documents concerning the Nemont reconnect round four fiber to the premise.

This motion passed 10 to one, with Councilwoman Runs Through being the lone dissenting vote.

Weatherizing

A second allocation of the local assistance and tribal consistency fund payments in the amount of $2,272,655 for the over income home owner for repairs/weatherization.

It further allows the payment to come from a separate account under the Tribes and having the application prepared at a later date.

As of press time, applications for weatherization of homes are being offered to residents. Please call 406 768-2300 for further questions.

Water Commissioner

Fred Bighorn was appointed as the newest Water Commissioner for the Tribes.

IRR/TTP

Indian Reservation Roads/Tribal Transportation Program Director Rusty Boxer brought in his weekly report and one resolution to be passed.

The Tribes contract with RCS Inc. was renewed for the remainder of the agreement if the Fiscal Year 2023 authorizing Chairman to sign the contract and to put the Tribal Transportation Program/Indian Reservation Roads program Director, Rusty Boxer, in charge of this contract.

This motion passed with 10 for, and one (Runs Through) opposed.

As for IRR, the mechanics contracts are coming to an end and there is not enough money to retain them on staff, minutes state. The program is considering ending their contract with current mechanics and to go with certified mechanics.

In the past five months, IRR/TTP burned through $75,000, documents state.

All paving work on reservation streets, roads and highways will be complete in October, Boxer said.

OEP

The Tribes Office of Environmental Protection were approved to submit an application, budget, and work plan to the government.

According to the motion, OEP is authorized to apply for the Environmental Protection Agency’s grant for $800,000, minutes state.

The full board approved this 11 to zero.

Sewers

The company building a tribal housing sewer system project are seeking bids to further their work.

Ryan Kopp of Interstate Engineering said they are going to be bidding for the sewer project at the Silver Wolf Casino.

Sewer projects in Brockton and Frazer are paused pending the funding, documents state.

About Post Author

Louis H. Montclair

A journalist on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Owner of tribaltimesnews.com
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By Louis H. Montclair

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