Helena - At its final meeting of the interim on August 31, the Legislature’s State-Tribal Relations Committee approved six committee bills for consideration by the 2017 Legislature. They include:
- Extension of the Montana Indian Language Preservation Program until 2019 and preservation of sung language (LC 304);
- Removal of redundant language from the tribal college reimbursement statute (LC 305);
- Progressive content instruction requirements for Indian language immersion program funding eligibility – at least 30% instruction would be required in the first year, at least 40% in the second year, and at least 50% in the third and subsequent years. Currently, at least 50% instruction is required in any year. (LC 306)
- Authorizing Indian language immersion program funding to be used as matching funds (LC 308);
- Creation of a Native American and rural youth suicide prevention pilot grant program (LC 307); and
- A prohibition on the sale or trade of cultural patrimony and sacred objects (LC 309).
(LC indicates the bill draft number assigned to the proposal for the 2017 session and can be tracked through the Legislature’s LAWS database.)
The committee did not move forward two other proposals that would have funded an annual Indian language summit and provided funding for Indian language immersion programs on each reservation and in Great Falls.
The committee learned about how cooperative agreements might be used to provide supplemental state funding to tribally-controlled Bureau of Indian Education grant schools in Busby and Pablo and how Minnesota, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Washington are helping to fund similar schools. The committee did not take any action, instead waiting to see what the schools might propose after discussions with the Office of Public Instruction (OPI).
The committee also met with representatives from six of the seven tribal colleges in Montana, learning about their funding and programs. The principal of the new Indian language immersion program at Crow Agency also made a presentation to the committee, while OPI presented preliminary findings from the 2016 American Indian student achievement report.
For more information on the committee’s activities, please visit the committee's website (www.leg.mt.gov/tribal) or contact Hope Stockwell, committee staff, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 406-444-9280.