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Rocky Boy members vote on changing constitution

2004-01-08T23:00:00Z Rocky Boy members vote on changing constitutionSHAWN WHITE WOLF - IR Staff Writer - 01/09/04 Helena Independent Record

More than half of the registered voters on the Rocky Boy Reservation voted Tuesday to determine whether to reform parts of their tribal constitution and bylaws.

"This has been ongoing for 10 years now, but we should know the results by Friday (today)," said James M. Montes, field representative of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

Tribal leaders and BIA officials have worked to make changes in their constitution in three areas.

The changes include a reduction in the number of months between the primary and general election and appointing a tribal judge instead of electing the tribal judge at large.

In addition, an increase of penalties and punishment for convictions of the Indian Civil Rights Act of 1968; revision of candidate qualifications regarding prior convictions of felonies in federal, state, and tribal courts; and the deletion of stipulations over tribal membership continuity.

"We need to have over 30 percent of the registered voters to qualify the election, and we are well above that," said Montes.

From there, the amendments will be reviewed by the regional director for approval prior to it being enacted.

"If it passes, then it will take about a month before it is enacted," he said.

Montes said the advantage of reducing the lame duck period between the primary and general elections is helping candidates compete at the general election.

Strengthening the punishment against violations of the ICRA of 1968, Montes said, would protect tribal members.

Theact was initiated to protect American Indians on reservations from abuses of power by tribal governments.

Currently, violations of the civil rights act by Rocky Boy's tribal government could bring six months and a fine of $500.

If it is amended, any person convicted will face a one year sentence, a fine of $5,000 or both.

Proposed changes to laws forbidding potential candidates to run for tribal office until five years after completion of felony convictions involving dishonesty or bribery in federal, state, or tribal courts will now include convictions of use, possession or sale of illegal drugs.

In previous years, tribal members who have lived off the reservation longer than 10 consecutive years were deleted from tribal rolls.

Montes said the amendment to the law would end the loss-of-membership rule entirely.

Reporter Shawn White Wolf can be reached at 447-4028 or shawn.whitewolf@helenair.com

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