Opponents seek ouster of Blackfeet council

2013-09-03T17:34:00Z 2013-10-14T13:41:06Z Opponents seek ouster of Blackfeet councilThe Associated Press The Associated Press
September 03, 2013 5:34 pm  • 

An opposition group pushed for the ouster of Blackfeet Tribal Business Council members Tuesday during a rally outside the tribal offices that attendees said led to at least six arrests.

Critics of Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. held the rally after the traditional customs court, a board led by tribal elders, banished Sharp and four others from tribal government under an Aug. 25 order.

But Sharp indicated he had no plans to cave to the critics' demands, telling the Flathead Beacon that the customs court "has no legal authority over the tribal council."

The customs court order would replace Sharp and his allies with a 13-person interim council that would remain in place until an election is held. Overseeing the council would be a new eight-member Cultural Council whose members were chosen at the time the customs court made its ruling.

None of the current Tribal Business Council members were selected for the interim council.

Roberta Crossguns, an attorney for suspended council member Cheryl Little Dog, says the sitting council showed no signs of leaving.

At least six people were arrested at Tuesday's rally, Little Dog among them, Crossguns said. Those who participated planned to keep up their offensive against the council until its members step aside, she added.

"We're trying to be peaceful. We don't want confrontations," she said.

She said attempts to get the Bureau of Indian Affairs to intervene have gone unanswered.

BIA representatives did not immediately respond to telephone calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Little Dog is one of five council members suspended or ousted since last summer, along with dozens of tribal authorities, in a year of bitter political infighting among Blackfeet leaders.

Sharp has since governed with a smaller council under an emergency declaration, as opponents protest their rule as illegal.

The political unrest has been heightened by the arrest of state Sen. Shannon Augare, one of the sitting council members, on charges of obstructing a peace officer and drunken and reckless driving from a traffic stop in May.

Augare's father, Delyle "Shanny" Augare, also was arrested with other leaders of a Blackfeet program for troubled youth on allegations they embezzled money from the federal program.

Both the father and son have pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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