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June 13, 2018 06:05 AM

Blackfeet Reservation Settles Water Dispute In Montana

After decades of trying to settle the rights to water on the Blackfeet Reservation in Montana, tribal leadership is celebrating implementation of the water compact settlement that can finally begin.

KELOLAND's Washington Correspondent Alexandra Limon reports the tribe's chairman and Secretary of the Interior, Ryan Zinke, signed paperwork to that effect.

The fight over water on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation is finally taking the first steps to implement a major agreement between the tribe, the tate of Montana and the federal government.

"We are here today to recognize a lot of hard work from a lot good people," Blackfeet Tribal Chairman Harry Barnes said. 

In a ceremony in Washington, Barnes and Zinke, signed documents to implement the agreement.

"It was difficult, it was long, but it was completed, which is a symbol that we can all work together," Zinke said. 

The 471-million dollar settlement was signed into law by President Obama and the tribe voted the approve it in 2017. Secretary Zinke was a part of the process as a Montana state senator, a congressman and now as Secretary of the Interior.

The Department of Interior says the agreement recognizes the Blackfeet tribe's religious and cultural uses of water. 
it resolves water claims by the tribe – to some surface and nearly all groundwater on the reservation.

"I think this water compact has put the Blackfeet nation on a good trajectory a trajectory that will be good for the Blackfeet people," Montana Senator John Tester said. 

There is a pending lawsuit in Montana filed by some members of the tribe who are challenging the agerement.  


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