The current Blackfeet Nation governmental structure was created under the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act. The governing body is the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council (BTBC) which consists of 9 members, each elected for 4 year terms (changed in recent years from the original 2 years terms to promote political stability). Elections are held in even-numbers years, and terms are staggered. That means that, for example, 5 BTBC members terms expire in 2010, and 4 expire in 2012.
This is a much larger tribe than it was in 1934 with much more complex business to conduct, so another change from the original policies is that BTBC members work full-time and often meet several times a week.
Relevant portions of the Constitution and Bylaws appear below:
Constitution and By-Laws For the Blackfeet Tribe Of The Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Montana
-Last Amended 1978
We, the adult members of the Blackfeet Indian Tribe, pursuant to the authority vested in us by Section 16 of the Act of June 18, 1934 (48 Statutes at large, page 986), and amendments thereto, do hereby organize for the common welfare of said tribe and the members thereof, and for such purpose do adopt the following constitution for the government, protection, and common welfare of the said tribe and members thereof.
Section 1. The governing body of the Blackfeet Tribe shall consist of a council known as the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.
Section 2. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council shall consist of nine (9) members duly elected from the four (4) districts of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation which are designated as follows: Browning District, Heart Butte District, Seville District, and Old Agency District. The election of all Tribal Council members shall be submitted to the entire electorate of the Reservation, provided that no one shall be elected as a councilman who has not resided within the exterior boundaries of the Blackfeet Reservation for a period of 1 year immediately prior to being a candidate and who has not resided in the district from which he or she is a candidate at least six (6) months immediately prior to the time when he or she shall become a candidate for such office.
(AMENDMENT I & IV SUPERSEDED BY AMENDMENT IX APPROVED APRIL 28,1978)
Section 3. In lieu of the districts herein described the tribal council shall have the power to establish communities, and the basis of representation on the tribal council from such communities, subject to popular vote.
Section 4. (a) The tribal council so organized shall elect from its membership: (1) A chairman; (2) A vice chairman. (b) The tribal council shall elect from within or outside of its own membership: (1) A secretary; (2) A sergeant-at-arms; (3) Such other officers and committees as may be deemed necessary.
Section 1. Members of the Tribal Council shall be elected for a term of two (2) years by the eligible voters of the Blackfeet Tribe.
Section 2. Members of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council shall be elected to specifically enumerated seats as follows: Positions one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight and nine. Position one, two and three shall be from the Browning District; four and five from the Heart Butte District; six and seven from the Seville District; and eight and nine from the Old Agency District.
Section 3. (a) A primary election for Tribal Council membership shall be held on the first Tuesday in June of even numbered years, commencing in the year 1978. (b) The two candidates receiving the largest and second largest number of votes for each of the positions enumerated in Section 2 shall be certified as to their nominations as candidates for the general election by the Blackfeet Tribal Election Board within seventy-two (72) hours of the closing of the polls of the primary election. In the event of a tie vote in any one position, those candidates tied with one of the top two will be certified as to their nominations as candidates for the general election.
Section 4. (a) A general election for Tribal Council membership shall be held on the last Tuesday of June of even numbered years commencing in the year of 1978. (b) The candidate receiving the largest number of votes for each of the positions enumerated in Section 2 shall be certified by the Blackfeet Tribal Election Board to the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council as having been elected to the position sought on the Blackfeet Tribal Council within seventy-two (72) hours of the closing of the polls of the General Election.
Section 5. The terms of office of the members of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council shall expire on the second Thursday in July of even numbered years.
(a) Each qualified candidate for the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council shall file a notice of candidacy with the Blackfeet Tribal Election Board at least twenty (20) days prior to the primary election and shall at that time declare the one position sought.
Publication in a newspaper of general circulation on the Blackfeet Indian r, Reservation shall constitute two such postings.
Section 7. All elections shall be held in accordance with the rules and regulations laid down by the Blackfeet Tribal Council or by an Election ~ Board appointed by the Tribal Council.
Section 8. Voting places shall be designated by the Tribal Council, or, if so authorized by the Council, by the Election Board.
Section 9. All elections shall be by secret ballot.
Section 10. Any member of the Blackfeet Tribe eighteen (18) years of age or older shall be eligible to vote when he or she presents himself or herself to the polling place wherein he or she is assigned to vote. ~;
(AMENDMENT II & VIII SUPERSEDED BY AMENDMENT IX i APPROVED APRIL 28,1978)
Section 1. If a council member or official shall die, resign, permanently leave the reservation, or shall be removed for cause, the council shall declare the position vacant and shall elect to fill the unexpired term, provided that the person elected to fill the unexpired term shall be a resident of the district in which the vacancy occurred.
Section 2. The Blackfeet Tribal Business Council may expel a member for cause by two-thirds (2/3) or more members of the entire Blackfeet Tribal Business Council voting for expulsion. Before any vote for expulsion is taken on the matter, such member shall be given an opportunity to answer any and all charges at a designated council meeting, and the decision of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council shall be final.
Section 3. Any member of the Blackfeet Tribe who has ever been convicted of a felony in any court for which he has not received a pardon or a restoration of civil rights shall be ineligible for office and any tribal council member or other tribal officer found guilty by the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council of gross neglect of duty, misconduct reflecting on the dignity of the tribe or Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, habitual drunkenness, or repeated unexcused absences from official functions shall be expelled from office and shall be barred from holding any tribal office for the next succeeding term.
(AMENDMENT IV APPROVED AUGUST 3,1964)
Section 1. Enumerated Powers - The council of the Blackfeet Reservation shall exercise the following powers, subject to any limitations embodied in the statutes or the Constitution of the United States, and subject further to all express restrictions upon such powers contained in this constitution and the attached by-laws.
(a) To negotiate with the federal, state and local governments on behalf of the tribe and to advise and consult with the representatives of the Interior Department on all activities of the Department that may affect the Blackfeet Tribe.
(b) To employ legal counsel for the protection and advancement of the rights of the Blackfeet Tribe and its members; the choice of counsel and the fixing of fees to be approved by the Secretary of the Interior.
(c) To prevent the sale, disposition, lease or encumbrance of tribal lands, interests in lands or other tribal assets, without consent of the tribe.
(d) To advise the Secretary of the Interior in regard to all appropriation estimates or federal projects for the benefit of the Blackfeet Tribe prior to the submission of such estimates to the Bureau of the Budget and Congress.
(e) To manage all economic affairs and enterprises of the Blackfeet Reservation, including all oil teases on tribal lands and the disposition of all oil royalties from tribal lands, in accordance with the terms of a charter to be issued to the Biackfeet Tribe by the Secretary of the Interior.
(f) To make assignments of tribal lands to members of the Blackfeet Tribe in conformity with Article VII of this constitution.
(g) To manage tribal affairs in an acceptable and businesslike manner arid in accordance with the administrative plan, called the Plan of Operations, and by amendments as necessary, subject to approval by the Secretary of the Interior or his duly authorized representative. All salaries or remuneration shall be paid as set forth in the Plan of Operations. The tribe shall pay only for services officially authorized in the administrative plan and actually received. The amount shall be a matter of public record.
(AMENDMENT VI APPROVED AUGUST 3,1964)
(h) To regulate and license all business or professional activities conducted upon the reservation, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior and to levy assessments for public purposes, provided that any assessments upon nonmembers trading or residing within the jurisdiction of the tribe shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.
(i) To exclude from the land owned by the tribe or its members persons not legally entitled to reside thereon, under ordinances which shall be subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior.
(j) To requisition community labor for public purposes of the tribe and to purchase land from members of the tribe under condemnation proceedings in courts of competent jurisdiction, subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior.
(k) To promulgate ordinances for the purposes of safeguarding the peace and safety of residents of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation, and to establish minor courts for the adjudication of claims or disputes arising amongst the members of the tribe, and for the trial and punishment of members of the tribe charged with the commission of offenses set forth in such ordinances.
(1) To regulate the inheritance of real and personal property other than allotted lands within the Blackfeet Reservation, subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior.
(m) To encourage and foster Indian arts, crafts, culture and traditions.
(n) To enact ordinances not inconsistent with Article II of this constitution, governing adoption and abandonment of membership, and to keep at all times a correct roll of the Blackfeet Reservation.
(o) To provide for the appointment of guardians for minors and mental incompetents, by ordinances or resolutions, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. 6
(p) To promulgate rules and regulations governing fishing, hunting and trapping of the Blackfeet Reservation.
(q) To adopt resolutions regulating the procedure of the council itself, and of other tribal agencies and tribal officials of the reservation.
(r) To delegate to subordinate boards or to cooperative associations which are open to all members of the tribe any of the foregoing powers, reserving the right to review any actions taken by virtue of such delegated powers.
Section 2. Manner of Review - Any resolution or ordinance which, by the terms of this constitution, is subject to review by the Secretary of the Interior, shall be presented to the superintendent of the reservation, who shall, within ten (10) days thereafter, approve or disapprove the same. If the superintendent shall approve any ordinance or resolution, it shall thereupon become effective, but the superintendent shall transmit a copy of the same, bearing his endorsement, to the Secretary of the Interior, who may, within ninety (90) days from the date of enactment, rescind the said ordinance or resolution for any cause, by notifying the tribal council of such decision. If the superintendent shall refuse to approve any resolution or ordinance submitted to him, within ten (10) days after its enactment, he shall advise the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council of his reason thereof. If these reasons appear to the council insufficient, it may, by a majority vote, refer the ordinance or resolution to the Secretary of the Interior, who may, within ninety (90) days from the date of its enactment, approve the same in writing, whereupon the said ordinance or resolution shall become effective.
Section 3. Future Powers - The council of the Blackfeet Reservation may exercise further powers as may in the future be delegated to the council by the members of the tribe or the Secretary of the Interior or by any other duly authorized official or agency of the state or federal government.
Section 4: Reserved Powers - Any right and powers heretofore vested in the tribe or band of the Blackfeet Reservation, but not expressly referred to in this constitution, shall not be abridged by this Article, but may be exercised by the people of the Blackfeet Reservation through the adoption of appropriate by-laws and constitutional amendments. 7 i i
Section 1. Suffrage - Any member of the Blackfeet Tribe, eighteen (18) years of age or over, shall be eligible to vote at any election when he or she presents himself or herself at a polling place within his or her voting district.
(AMENDMENT VIII APPROVED MARCH 7,1974)
Section 2. Economic Rights - All members of the tribe shall be accorded equal opportunities to participate in the economic resources and activities of the reservation.
Section 3. Civil Liberties - All members of the tribe may enjoy without hindrance freedom of worship, conscience, speech, press, assembly, and association.
Section 4. Rights of Accused - Any member of the Blackfeet Tribe accused of any offense shall have the right to a bond, open and public hearing, with due notice of the offense charged, and shall be permitted to summon witnesses on his own behalf. Trial by jury may be demanded by any prisoner accused of any offense punishable by more than thirty days imprisonment. Excessive bail shall not be required and cruel punishment shall not be imposed.
Upon a petition of at least one-third (1/3) of the eligible voters of the Blackfeet Tribe, or upon the request of a majority of the members of the tribal council, any enacted or proposed ordinance or resolution of the council shall be submitted to popular referendum and the vote of a majority of the qualified voters voting in such referendum shall be conclusive and binding on the tribal council.
This constitution and by-laws may be amended by a majority vote of the qualified voters of the tribe voting at an election called for that purpose by the Secretary of the Interior, provided that at least thirty (30) percent of those entitled to vote shall vote in such election; but no amendment j shall become effective until it shall have been approved by the Secretary `' of the Interior. It shall be the duty of the Secretary of the Interior to call , alection on any proposed amendment, at the request of two-thirds n e (2/3) of the council, or upon presentation of a petition signed by x one-third (1/3) of the qualified voters, members of the tribe. f
BY-LAWS OF THE BLACKFEET TRIBAL BUSINESS COUNCIL OF MONTANA ARTICLE I To be eligible for membership on the Blackfeet Indian Tribal Council, it will be necessary that the Indian be a member of the Blackfeet Tribe, living on the Blackfeet Reservation for at least one (1) year and in the district from which he or she is a candidate for at least six (6) months immediately prior to the time at which he or she shall become a candidate for such office. The council in office shall determine whether or not he or she is an eligible candidate for the district which he or she proposes to represent.
(AMENDMENT IX APPROVED APRIL 28,1978)
The newly elected candidates to the tribal council shall be installed in office at the first regular meeting of the council after certificate of their election has been issued.
Polling places shall be established as follows until otherwise provided by ordinance of the tribal council: Browning district; Seville district; Heart Butte district; Old Agency district; Agency Community Hall; Babb Ranger Station; Agency Community Hall; Heart Butte Community Hall; Little Badger Community Hall; Old Agency Community Hall.
On each election day there shall be employed and stationed at each polling place three (3) election judges and two (2) clerks, who shall be named by the council in office. The judges shall judge the election and the clerks will record and tally votes.
(ARTICLE V AMENDED BY AMENDMENT VII APPROVED AUGUST 3,1964) ARTICLE VI - DUTIES OF OFFICERS Chairman: The chairman shall preside at all council meetings. Vice Chairman: Should the chairman not be present at a meeting, the vice chairman shall preside in his stead. Secretary: The secretary shall call the roll at the opening of each meeting. He then shall read the minutes of the previous meeting. The minutes shall be approved by the council, after which it shall be the secretary's duty to call to the attention of the council any unfinished business of the
Section 1. A regular Blackfeet Tribal Business Council meeting shall be called on the first Thursday of each month, and special meetings may be called by the Chairman of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council at such times as are deemed necessary. Meetings will be held at the Tribal Headquarters in Browning, Montana. Regular Blackfeet Tribal Business Council meetings will be open to the public and from time to time the public will be invited to participate in the discussion of matters of importance to the tribe.
Section 2.'lwo-thirds (2/3) of the members of the entire Blackfeet Tribal Business Council must be present to constitute a quorum to legally transact the business of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council.
Section 3. All decisions shall be by a majority vote of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council members at meetings at which a quorum is present; with the exceptions that a two-thirds (2/3) vote of the entire Blackfeet Tribal Business Council shall be necessary to rescind any former action of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council, and that this section shall not supersede any Article in this Constitution that requires a vote in conflict with this amendment. previous meeting.
Further, the secretary shall read to the council all communications which, during the month, have been received by said council.
It shall be the duty of the secretary to answer all correspondence after it has been discussed and a decision made by the council.
Sergeant-At-Arms: It shall be the duty of the sergeant-at-arms to keep order at all council meetings.