Jon Tester Montana Politics

Tester not just ‘lesser of two evils’ for Indian Nations

Tonight I was at the Last Chance Community Pow Wow to watch a couple of my students dance (which they did fantastically). First of all, I highly recommend anyone who’s interested in that sort of thing attend; it continues Sunday afternoon. I was obviously impressed by the quality of the dancing, singing, and drumming, but (thanks to a former student I ran into there) I also had a chance to learn a thing or two about how how Jon Tester has improved the lives of members of our Native American Nations.

A quick summary of his accomplishments is available here; interestingly, searching ‘Native Americans for Rehberg’ in Google, the first result is an article on Intelligent Discontent. But unlike so many issues, where Tester seems to be ‘as progressive as we can elect…in Montana’, on the issue of working with Montana tribes to improve the quality of life of their people, Jon tester really has an impressive record. From the Cobell settlement (which Rehberg opposed) to the Crow Water Compact, Jon Tester has shown that he understands the needs of the seven percent of our population (a proportion, by the way, larger than the number of farmers and ranchers in Montana) who are American Indian. Having that kind of excellent representation in the Senate and in the Indian Affairs Committee will be a benefit to 100% of Montanans.

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  • When I went to DC Last november I went with Reps from three tribes from Montana, and they had nothing but High regard for Tester, and our other senator Max. Seems both have been listening quite intently to our Native brother and sisters concerns, and acting on them.

    They thought enough of me to allow me to tag along to meetings and ask questions about health care concern problems some reservations are experiencing right now. Tester and Max both have dedicated staff members for the indian communities in this state, and I was relieved to know they were working digilently with them.

    I gotta tell you going to some of these reservations, is worse then any inner city neighborhood I have been through in New York or California. Its mindblowing, and very tragic. Tester is making a big difference, and I thank him for that!

  • Your link is to a political web site that has little, if any, actual substance. It is littered with flowery language typical of a campaign brochure. Welcome to American politics. If Tester has to do so little to gain support of such an important constituency, perhaps any damned fool can be a successful politician.

    • Why do you click on political links you know you will hate, Mark, when there’s a news link right next to it? American Indians aren’t going to turn out to vote for Tester because his campaign made a webpage highlighting his accomplishments for them (though it’s interesting that Denny Rehberg didn’t do even that). Jon Tester will deservedly win the vote of most American Indians in Montana because of what he has done for the community, bringing in hundreds of millions of dollars where it is absolutely needed most.

      Now, Indians are certainly not a swing vote – the county that voted most solidly in the entire country for Obama in ’08 was the county that includes Pine Ridge. Therefore, you’re not going to see Tester’s campaign putting a lot of money into advertising how much he has done for the tribes, because he’s got their vote already. But pointing out what Tester has done in that regard does show the difference a little perspective makes.

      If your goal is to put a stop to a century of American Imperialism, or reverse decades of wealth concentration, or radically change the way America treats natural resources and the environment, Tester is at best the lesser of two evils. If your goal is to get healthcare for your parents, clean water for your neighbors, a sense of safety for your sisters and aunts, and an education for your kids, Tester is as dynamic and hardworking a Senator as you could ask for. Further, I would go so far as to say that the former goals are not actually political goals, because on those issues the politics merely mirror the state of the society in general. The latter, being attainable, are far more relevant.

  • Of course Tester and Max is their friend. Look at the line at the liquor store.

    I’ve always wondered (other than timely purchased votes) why NA’s are so closely aligned to our Dem Senators. After all if you add up the Max’s Sieban Ranch and Jon’s farm you get more stolen acreage than Denny combined.

      • I have relatives who live in Polson Don. The lines at the Liquor stores we’re almost as long as the banks.*

        But hey, the Muhammad video caused all the mideast violence.

        *And go to the comments Don. They’re complaining to the Missoulian that this picture was “racist”.

        • There’s actually no point in asking you to leave if you post that kind of nonsense. It simply show the moral bankruptcy of your political ideology.

          It’s just astonishing that, 40 years after the Civil Rights movement, we still have people who think nothing about casually throwing off racist remarks.

        • Come on, Ingy, don’t feed the stereotype of the type of person that we THINK you are. Don’t resort to blatant racism, dude. I would really, really like to think that all righties are NOT racist morons. And you’re not helping. And for the record, give a group of bohunks like myself ten thousand bucks, and I guaran-frickin’-tee YOU that the line at the liquor store will be as equally as long as the line gettin’ the money! For you see, with a windfall like that, a honky can afford the GOOD stuff for once in our lives! ‘Sides, with an attitude like yours, how do you get along with your Crow neighbors?

          • I feel so ashamed. Both you guys are right.

            The Corbell Settlement didn’t go to frivolous endeavors but was spent wisely enhancing the Red Man’s plight in an oppressive white rich man’s world.

            And that Denny.

            He’s a stumbling drunken, knee crawling, broke down bastard.

            • You got THAT right! Dopey gives us drinkers a bad name! He’s embarrasingly stoopid! Can’t hold his liquor, and ferchrissakes, the dude’s a politician! Not real bright, Ingy. Not real bright. The ONLY thing he has left to do is to get caught in a bordello! Oh I don’t mind if he goes, but he’s so stoopid he’ll get his butt caught!

            • Don’t let the fact that less than half the settlement went to payments to individuals slow down your fantasy world any, Ingy.

                • No it’s not, Ingy. Regardless of one’s political beliefs, being acknowledged a racist is NEVER a compliment. And to trumpet that fact truly DOES make you all HI says. Sorry, dude, but that’s just the way it is. I feel sorry for you.

                • Come November I’ll be in good company Scary.

                  All those states turning bright red on the election map. Followed by the wailing moans of racists and bigotry.

    • I’m going to choose to use this as a teachable moment, Ingy.

      Those are certainly not purchased votes, and understanding that is one step closer to understanding why Native Americans generally vote Democrat. The money currently being spent from the Cobell settlement, the Crow Water Compact, etc. is not money being given to the tribes because the government violated their rights in some abstract moral way when taking their land. Rather, it is because the government violated their rights in very specific legal ways, breaking the government’s own laws and regulations in the process. So when Denny says that in tough times we have to say ‘no’ to worthy projects, what he doesn’t understand is that these projects are not just worthy, they are legally mandated.

      • I don’t think our NA brothers should have any more rights to “their money” than GM bond holders.

        Which again was a “timely vote purchase”.

        • Again, I don’t think you really understand business that well. There’s a rather big difference between holding bonds in a bankrupt entity and having your assets held in trust by an entity that is no where close to bankrupt. If the US decides to default on its sovereign debt, perhaps they can get out of paying what it legally owes tribal members. If not, it still owes them that money in full. The government is just lucky the settlement isn’t larger.

          • No difference. Washington Post confirms.

            “It is now clear that there is no real difference between the government and the entity that identifies itself as GM. For all intents and purposes, the government, which is set to assume a 50 percent equity stake in the company, is GM, and it has been calling the shots in negotiations with creditors. While the Obama administration has been playing hardball with bondholders, it has been more than happy to play nice with the United Auto Workers. How else to explain why a retiree health-care fund controlled by the UAW is slated to get a 39 percent equity stake in GM for its remaining $10 billion in claims while bondholders are being pressured to take a 10 percent stake for their $27 billion? It’s highly unlikely that the auto industry professionals at GM would have cut such a deal had the government not been standing over them — or providing the steady stream of taxpayer dollars needed to keep the factory doors open.”

            • That would be relevant if the bondholders had bought their bonds after the government took over. However, the government stepped in only after GM declared bankruptcy. The entity to which whose assets the bondholders had bought is gone, replaced by another entity with the same name. Bondholders have to take a steep haircut because the alternative is losing everything if GM shuts down completely.

              • PW, remember Chrysler?

                “The last time Chrysler Corp. faced bankruptcy was in 1979, when a maverick, 55-year-old Lee Iacocca, only one year into his tenure as the company’s CEO, convinced the government to bail out the company and provide $1.5 billion in federally backed loans. He succeeded in reviving Chrysler, starting with the compact to mid-sized K-car line in 1981. Two years later, he followed that successful launch with an even more dramatic breakthrough, the first minivans, the Dodge Caravan and Plymouth Voyager, which drew hordes of families to showrooms and set the standard for family-friendly transportation. Thanks in part to the success of the vehicles he introduced and cost-saving measures he implemented, Iacocca was able to turn the company around during the 1980s, paying back the government loans seven years early. He retired from Chrysler in 1992.”

                “Cost saving measures” like reasonable union wages and re-negotationed H/C plans.

                Here I found more. “Concessions from UAW-represented workers, white-collar employees, suppliers, creditors and lenders kept Chrysler operating despite record losses of $1 .7 billion in 1980. Chrysler cut inventories by $1 billion, reduced white-collar staff by 50 percent and cut its break-even point by 50 percent in its drastic efforts to manage finances.”

                Bond holders paid in full, govt. loan paid in full all because of labor concessions, white collar concessions, and smart marketing.

                • Yes Ingy, the economic situation in 1979 was definitely as bad as it was in 2008, so your analogy is entirely relevant.

                • No it is relevant. The Carter Adm. is similar to this one with it’s economics woes.

                  Let’s take Lee’s solutions. Cut workers, re-negotatiate contracts, sell products the American desires.

                  Fast forward to Obama’s regime and you have bond holders the only ones sacrificed, no one laid off ( except smaller Rep. dealers) and a electric car nobody wants, the Volt.

                • Moreover, the the possibility of paying bondholder in full is not equivalent to a legal obligation to do so. The irrelevance is mounting.

    • Yes but, they FORGOT to include Jonathon’s full name! Windy Boy Dull Knife in Drawer!
      There. That fixes that! Poor Jonathon, he just want’s to be thought of as a Pubbie.

  • Just exactly what has Tester or any politician done to arrest suicide? The future is decided by our youth:

    All the reasons that put young people at risk of suicide in the country at large are amplified on Indian reservations.

    Indian children are more likely to be abused, see their mothers being abused and live in a household where someone is controlled by drugs or alcohol. They have the highest rates of emotional and physical neglect and are more likely to be exposed to trauma.

    “The unfortunate and often forgotten reality is that there is an epidemic of violence and harm directed toward this very vulnerable population,” Dolores Subia BigFoot, director of the Indian Country Trauma Center at the University of Oklahoma, testified a before the Senate Committee of Indian Affairs during hearings on the Indian Youth Suicide Prevention Act of 2009.

    “American Indian/Alaska Native children and youth experience an increase risk of multiple victimizations,” she said. “Their capacity to function and to regroup before the next emotional or physical assault diminished with each missed opportunity to intervene. These youth often make the decision to take their own lives because they feel a lack of safety in their environment. Our youth are in desperate need of safe homes, safe families and safe communities.”

    All the money thrown at the Cobell settlement and the Water Compact haven’t helped one iota towards this most urgent need.

      • Speaking of the Missoulian, there is this:

        Suicide is the second-leading cause of death behind unintentional injuries among Indian children and young adults, and is on the rise, according to the Indian Health Service. Native Americans ages 10 to 24 killed themselves at more than twice the rate of similarly aged whites, according to the most recent data available from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

        On the Fort Peck reservation, five children killed themselves during the 2009-2010 school year at Poplar Middle School – enrollment about 160 – and 20 more of the 7th and 8th graders tried. In the current school year, two young adults have committed suicide, though none at Poplar Middle School.

        Emergency teams from the U.S. Public Health Service descended upon Fort Peck last June after Sioux and Assiniboine leaders declared a crisis. The teams provided counseling and mental health services to assist the overworked counselors and strained resources of the reservation.

        No suicides were recorded during the 90-day deployment of the federal health team. When they packed their bags in October and left a detailed report with a dozen recommendations, the Indian Health Service declared the crisis had passed – a view repeated to The Associated Press last month by IHS behavioral health director Dr. Rose Weahkee.

        But it proved to be only a lull. Two more teenagers killed themselves since October and dozens of other children across the reservation have tried.

  • All of the counseling in the world for the victims of alcohol and drug abuse just doesn’t address the underlying problem:

    American Indians and Alaska Natives have the highest rates of binge drinking, although this problem is more common among men than women. American Indians and Alaska Natives also have high rates of drunk driving and alcohol-related fatal crashes.

    Alcohol abuse also harms the youngest American Indians and Alaska Natives. Fetal alcohol syndrome (FAS) is a problem for American Indians and Alaska Natives. Babies whose mothers drank alcohol while pregnant can be born with FAS. FAS can cause lifelong problems with learning, memory, attention span, communication, vision, and hearing.

    Alcohol abuse is not the only substance problem affecting American Indians and Alaska Natives. Drug abuse is also a serious problem. American Indians and Alaska Natives have higher rates of marijuana, cocaine, and hallucinogen abuse than other minority groups. Methamphetamine use is also a growing problem.

    Drug abuse plays a role in many major community problems. It is a direct cause of many injuries and illnesses. These include car crashes and fatalities, violence, stress, and child abuse.

    Before giving any politician pats on the back for throwing money at constituencies, make sure you hold them accountable for the problems they overlook, especially Tester living so close to Rocky Boy.

    • “Before giving any politician pats on the back for throwing money at constituencies, make sure you hold them accountable for the problems they overlook, especially Tester living so close to Rocky Boy”

      Wow, Craig. Now THAT’S some compassionate conservatism like I’ve NEVER seen! Great job!

      • Um, Ingy, it’s the friggin’ twenty-first century, dude! Get used to it. Once all you old racists are gone, it’s over. Sorry that that scares the hell outta guys like you! BTW, I DIDN’T read anywhere where anyone forced him to resign. The dude must simply luv bein’ a victim himself! Either that or the Big Kockhs are paying him to play the victim. Silly, silly stuff. Religion of ANY sort makes people stoopid, even you Kristyeeans!….who are the worst!

    • There’s a difference between overlooking a problem and not being able to solve it. What can the government do about drug and alcohol abuse on Indian Reservations? Essentially nothing. No amount of law enforcement or money is going to bring down drinking rates. Every person has their own story of falling into alcoholism, and it rarely has anything to do with the government.

      • Gosh, I’m sure there are some smart ideas. Here’s a suggestion. Go back to government run liquor stores for all package liquor. Attach a tax of $5 per bottle of beer and $20 per bottle of wine or spirits. All proceeds go to treatment programs and foster care for children. As to drugs, capital punishment for distributing. Why so harsh? Just look at all the deaths and ruined lives from drug abuse.

        • Even completely dry reservations still have alcohol problems; I don’t think having a tax on liquor will fix the problem.

          • Not by itself. It would have to be with integrated into a coordinated approach that addresses access, ease of access, source of access, and the cycle of broken lives from generational abuse.

            Back to your main point on patting Tester on the back for bringing the “money” to the reservation and Swedes sarcasm, Tester has NO plan and has done nothing to address the suicides and alcohol/drug abuse that is crippling progress for Native peoples. Just look at the sorry mess going on at Browning over the divided council regarding corruption allegations. How did money help here? But as to Swedes point regarding where the money goes, IMHO it is irresponsible to hand over money to a population that is at least 40% alcohol and substance addicted and not realize that an infusion only enables further destructive outcomes. Such money should go to building the infrastructure to successful lives.

            • “Such money should go to building the infrastructure to successful lives.”

              That’s why it is, Craig. The majority of the Cobell settlement (which is not what Ingy’s link was referencing, by the way) is going to consolidating fractionated tribal lands, infrastructure development, and scholarship programs. Hopefully a more hopeful economic and social situation will reduce rates of desperate behavior like drug abuse and suicide.

              You also correctly note that both an effect and cause of alcohol abuse and suicide is domestic abuse. That would be why Tester supported this act:


              Wanna guess whether Denny got behind it?

        • Surprised to see Craig advocate for a gov’t run business, significantly increased taxes, and expanded health care services. On second thought, it fits his narrative for today, so anything’s possible.

          Regarding Craig’s capital punishment suggestion, he must not love the Constitution because that would be “cruel and unusual punishment” for simply distributing.

      • “What can the government do about drug and alcohol abuse on Indian Reservations? Essentially nothing. No amount of law enforcement or money is going to bring down drinking rates. Every person has their own story of falling into alcoholism, and it rarely has anything to do with the government.”

        This is one of the most ignorant statements I’ve seen you write, PW. I’m not even going to tackle it here, but go and listen to this podcast by Dr. Gabor Mate, who is the preeminent expert on addiction in native communities in Canada, their causes, and how to begin to address them.

        There is much that the government has done to increase the incidence of addiction (i.e. “war on drugs”), and there is much the government can do to both reduce the incidence of addiction, and to treat existing illness. But reinforcing the false notion of addiction as moral, individual failure negates everything that modern science is telling us about the disease.

        Mate offers many ideas and actual things the government can do to help alleviate the prevalence of addiction both on the reservation and in our cities.

        As this is a post about Jon Tester and water, what I really was going to do was ask the question about what does Jon think about the current negotiations of the water compact for the Flathead Reservation, as I am an irrigator here and pay into the Flathead Irrigation Project for water. But I can’t find any statement from Jon about the ongoing negotiations.

        As you segued and stumbled onto the topic of addiction on the reservations, I’d ask you to maybe provide some information on what Jon Tester might think about ideas like Mate’s, in order to deserve the praise (“Jon Tester has shown that he understands the needs of the seven percent of our population”) you have heaped upon him. And how to begin to move “the government” to a place where it can recognize its responsibility as both a driver behind, and a potential source of some solutions to the scourge of addiction in our society.

        • I’m not arguing that government policies are indeed a huge driver behind addictions. I’m more skeptical that the government can now turn it around by addressing the problem directly. Once alcoholism is entrenched in a family or a community it is very difficult to uproot. No, I didn’t listen to the podcast labelled ‘Capitalism Makes us Crazy’, but I will say this – alcohol addiction as a societal ill is certainly older than capitalism. Russia is an instructive example – alcoholism was a major problem under the Soviet Union, through the period of intense poverty at the beginning of the Federation, and continues even through Russia’s current prosperity.

          Government policies clearly contributed to the rise of alcoholism and drug addiction in the Native community, but I don’t know that the government really has the capability right now to really reverse that. Certainly attempting to improve conditions on the reservations has to be a part of that, but as I was noting for Mark, there exist societal trends and conditions the government can do very little about.

          As to the Flathead water compact, I don’t think Jon Tester has gotten involved in that, though I know he has been involved in the Blackfeet Water Compact. As far as heaping praise, I’m not sure I’d call that heaping. But I think it’s hard to deny that since Tester has been on the Indian Affairs committee, a great deal has been accomplished for the tribes. The Cobell Settlement and Crow Water Compact alone will be bringing hundreds of millions of dollars into the community, and more than that, it will be putting millions of dollars into consolidating tribal lands to make them more viable, infrastructure development, especially in rural areas. It is possible he could do more, but he has certainly shown to be an ally of our tribal nations, managing to secure directed funds for them even with the current popularity of austerity theories in DC. Most importantly, he understands the actual situation better than most. It’s not, as Rehberg believes, a case of charity, even for a ‘worthy cause’, but rather a legal and diplomatic obligation, agreed to and then neglected by the US Government.

          • “alcohol addiction as a societal ill is certainly older than capitalism”

            If you’re going to keep making assertions like this, you owe it to yourself to listen to, or read Mate (read In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”). Neither I, or him, or anyone else who follows the research on addiction lays the blame on one market system. Rather, the market system a society uses, and how the government regulates it has everything to do with family stress, trauma and childhood development. Which in Mate’s lifetime of professional experience and extensive review of research literature is the leading cause of addiction. Yes the seeds of the disease are sown as a form of development disorder from the womb to 3 years of age.

            But if you ignore that bit of information, then you don’t have to feel any societal obligation to doing things like having the government help to solve the problem of addiction on the rez, or the inner city, because, you know, it’s a personal failing. The government can do “essentially nothing.”

            And here’s one huge “societal trend and condition” the government can do something about: end the war on drug users, and quit shifting funding from education to prisons and an incarceration society.

            Pure defeatism, PW. You really owe it to yourself to challenge your own preconceptions once in a while.

            • JC – I have better uses for my time than a website entitled ‘capitalism makes us crazy’. The title itself is both hyperbolic and flippant and I’ve got better uses for my time. Yes, we can end the war on drug users. Sure thing. I support it, a lot of people do.

              But if you’re expecting government to solve the problem, you’re going to be disappointed. I’d like you to think back to our last conversation, where you ended by admitting that you don’t believe you can get the majority to believe in and vote for a society you would be happy with. You were right when you said that. You’re not going to get a majority in favor of doing what it’s going to take to end the drug war, you’re not going to get a majority willing to do what it would really take for the government to make a dent in alcohol and drug abuse. That’s going to have to require a powerful societal movement. Arguing that Jon Tester should somehow be solving a centuries-old societal problem is not a very good argument against Jon Tester.

              • It’s not a “website entitled ‘capitalism makes us crazy'”, it’s an audio program that’s played all over the world. But if you are that easily dissuaded by a simple title, then maybe you won’t go and listen to a similar program at the more orthodox Democracy Now.

                And it’s no wonder we have such social problems when people who bill themselves as progressives won’t even listen to something because they have preconceived notions (“hyperbolic and flippant and I’ve got better uses for my time”). It’s really sad to think that the problem with much of what’s wrong with our society is due to an inability of those who think they are so enlightened that they never would even consider listen to something with a “hyperbolic and flippant title.”

                And you are just building a strawman here — I never was arguing anything about Jon Tester being able to solve “a centuries old societal problem.” I just happen to think that it would be interesting to hear his views — and you were the one raising the issue, not me.

                The argument I wouldn’t make, and that Mate and many others are not doing, is to assume that what the government needs to do is “to make a dent in alcohol and drug abuse”. No, the government needs to institute policies and laws that do not result in improper childhood development, the driver behind the levels of addiction that we have. You, know, preventative medicine and all that…

                But no, let’s quibble about the title of a podcast that makes you squeamish (and allows you to continue to be in denial about the role government can take to change things). And we can continue to live in a deteriorating society with huge human and monetary costs deriving from a disconnect between politics and ideologies and basic human biology.

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