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Congressional Candidate Rob Quist visits April quarterly meeting

By Alyssa Kelly
Char-Koosta News

PABLO — The spring quarterly meeting on April 7 saw updates from different departments and programs, and was topped off by a visit from Congressional candidate Rob Quist.

US House of Representatives Democratic candidate for Montana Rob Quist introduces himself and gives information on his political platform. “I don’t believe Montana has a voice in congress that represents our values and who we are and that’s why I’m running,” he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo)US House of Representatives Democratic candidate for Montana Rob Quist introduces himself and gives information on his political platform. ďI donít believe Montana has a voice in congress that represents our values and who we are and thatís why Iím running,Ē he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Democratic Congressional Candidate Rob Quist
Ryan Zinke was appointed as secretary of the US Department of Interior for the Trump Administration and Montana’s seat in the US House of Representatives is vacant. Democratic candidate Rob Quist said he hopes to fill it. “This election could not be more important,” he said. “We are literally in a fight for the soul of Montana. It is really that dire.”

The US House of Representatives makes up half of the legislative branch of government, which is responsible for introducing or amending laws and legislation, sets in motion impeachment proceedings against the president, and serves on various committees. The US Senate makes up the other half of the legislative branch; both are elected and intended to represent the interest of the public.

In his campaign across the Treasure state, Quist is making stops at all seven Native American reservations. “I know that to win this it’s going to be very important that I have support from the tribes of Montana,” he said. “I plan to be one of the biggest champions for Native rights in the House of Congress. One of the committees I would like to serve on the Indian affairs committee.”

The singer/song writer for Mission Mountain Wood Band was raised on a ranch north of Cut Bank, where he currently resides. Quist said he grew up around members of the Blackfeet and Little Shell tribes and his family did missionary work on the Blackfeet reservation. In that experience, he said he developed an admiration for Native American values.

“I’ve really incorporated a lot of the Native beliefs into my own core beliefs as well,” Quist said. “The concepts of honoring mother earth and all of her inhabitants… I think the one that’s probably most app for right now is the concept of respecting not the person who accumulates the most wealth but the one who contributes the most.”

In what is being dubbed “The Singer Vs. The Millionaire,” Montana’s special election for Congress will take place on May 25. Quist is campaigning against Republican candidate Greg Gianforte, who moved to Montana from Florida in 1995 and sold his software company for $1.8 billion in 2012.

“My opponent in this race stands with a lot of special interest groups that want to take away our public lands,” Quist said. 29 percent of our land base in Montana is public land. The transfer and eventual sale of our public lands to big corporations is theft against our children and our grandchildren.”

According his campaign website www.robquist.org, the 69-year old supports reforming the tax code to support small businesses and rural areas, he is against privatizing public lands, supports equal pay for women, supports women’s health rights, supports equal marriage rights, and the second amendment to bare arms.

During his presentation, Quist said he has been active in fighting against oil fracking in Two Medicine and he supports strengthening tribal sovereignty. “All these treaty agreements the United States signed are contracts and they need to be honored. Treaty after treaty has been broken and I think we have to live up to these contracts,” he said.

The election caught the attention of Washington recently as Donald Trump Jr. announced his plans to make a four-stop campaign in Montana to support Gianforte, while Independent Senator Bernie Sanders announced his plans to campaign for Quist beginning in May.

“Rob Quist is the only person in this race who understands that we need a government in Washington that works for all Montanans and all Americans and not just the special interests and the billionaire class,” Sanders said in a press release.

Salish language apprentices Naomi Billedeaux, Elisabeth Deroche, and Darryl Fyant have been studying curriculum and working closely with fluent speaking elders. The group will go on to become Salish language instructors. Honor Song: An honor song is performed to show support to survivors of sexual assault. (Alyssa Kelly photo) Salish language apprentices Naomi Billedeaux, Elisabeth Deroche, and Darryl Fyant have been studying curriculum and working closely with fluent speaking elders. The group will go on to become Salish language instructors. Honor Song: An honor song is performed to show support to survivors of sexual assault. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Adult Salish Language Program
The annual Spring Quarterly meeting continued with the adult Salish language program. Instructor Steve Arca introduced the group of apprentices Naomi Billedeaux, Elisabeth Deroche, and Darryl Fyant. The group has been learning the Indigenous language over the past six months using curriculum and working intensively with fluent speaking elders Stephen Small Salmon and Pat Pierre.

The program faced financial hardship recently as its private investor discontinued their support. Arca said the apprentices are being prepared to become language instructors and the program is available to provide support for community members interested in learning the Salish language.

Mental Health provider Gena Montoya (front) leads a group of supporters in an hour of silence to honor sexual assault survivors. Arca: Language instructor Steve Arca shared his experience learning the Salish language as an adult. “We have only a few elders left who speak. I feel bad for how pitiful our people are. We need to start learning our language today,” he says. (Alyssa Kelly photo) Mental Health provider Gena Montoya (front) leads a group of supporters in an hour of silence to honor sexual assault survivors. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Sexual Assault Awareness         
April is national Sexual Assault Awareness month and victim support groups came together to organize an hour of silence in honor of the crime’s “silent victims.” The National Sexual Violence Resource Center reports that 63 percent of sexual assaults are not reported to authorities and only 12 percent of child sexual abuse is reported to authorities.

Tribal Health Department’s Mental Health provider Gena Montoya addressed the crowd. “I’m here to convey a message that impacts us all,” she said. “It’s a difficult message to hear but even more difficult to experience in silence… I believe that it’s important that we stand together as a community and openly support victims of sexual assault to say: ‘yes, we believe you’ and ‘yes, we support you.’”

Sexual assault survivor Jim Hensey shared his story for the first time publicly. The National Alliance to End Sexual Assault reports that one in six boys and one in 25 men are reported victims of sexual assault. “There are a lot of men out there that have been victims and they don’t talk but it’s still there,” Hensey said. “It’s not just a physical thing it’s a spiritual thing. It’s a battle and Creator is there.”

A 2016 Department of Justice report found that Native Americans are 2.5 times more likely to be victims of sexual assault than any other race. Ruth Swaney shared that members of her immediate family had been impacted by sexual abuse. “Little children are at the greatest risk of sexual violence,” she said. “I’m praying that my grandchildren’s generation is the generation to escape.”

The Tribal Law and Policy Institute reported that the high rates of sexual assault in Native communities are directly related to colonialism (including boarding schools), which broke down traditional cultural and social structures. Swaney noted that cultural loss has resulted in suffering. “The loss of our language is one of the reasons our people have suffered things like sexual violence,” she said.

The group encouraged those suffering from sexual assault to seek help. The Confederated Salish and Kootenai Tribes’ Victim Assistance Program can be reached at (406) 675-2700 extensions: 1179 or 1181.

An honor song is performed to show support to survivors of sexual assault. (Alyssa Kelly photo) An honor song is performed to show support to survivors of sexual assault. (Alyssa Kelly photo)

Workforce Enhancement Program
Workforce Enhancement coordinator Salina Kenmille announced that the program would be hosting a series of trainings for job skill development. “We want to make sure that we have the adequate training to go out and fill jobs that provide a high enough salary that we’re not stuck in these middle stages struggling paycheck to paycheck,” she said.

The newly developed program is part of the Economic Development Office’s initiative to help tribal members seek employment and build careers. The project’s  “Build Your Path” concept includes: 1. Creating a career blue print, 2. Seeking the training needed, 3. Planning ahead for potential roadblocks, 4. Finding a job that interests you, 5. Gaining the experience required, and 6.building your career.

For more information on the Workforce Enhancement program and its upcoming trainings call Salina Kenmille at (406) 675-2700, extension: 1276.

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