Posted: May 23, 2012 10:44 PM by Tara Grimes (email@example.com)
A heated debate continues as Blackfeet members argue over whether enrollment should be opened up or not, and on Tuesday evening, those against open enrollment stood up to make their voices heard at a rally in Browning.
With 17,000 enrolled tribal members living on and off the reservation, the debate about whether or not to eliminate the 1/4 blood quantum has severed the nation into two, and the Blackfeet Against Open Enrollment, or BAOE, wants their voices heard.
Those who want open enrollment say if the tribe doesn't open up enrollment, it could become extinct.
But it's a statement that BAOE member Glenda Comes At Night says is simply false; she stated, "There was a time when we were only down to 300 in the Blackfeet Nation, we were 300 strong. And today we're over 17,000 and growing."
In fact, BAOE says, open enrollment could cause explosive growth.
The group's spokesman, Titus Upham, says right now there are 112,000 living descendants.
They worry that those coming in from off the reservation will overtake their culture.
Upham said, "Our descendants have the mindset of the dominant society's way of thinking. Should the rolls open, we're basically going to allow that mindset to come in to our reservation."
Comes At Night added, "They're going to get the power, they're going to get this, and this, and this. And then us, as Blackfeets, we've always been pushed aside."
Another large issue surrounding the debate is state and federal funding; those who want to open enrollment say that with more enrolled members will come more funding.
But Upham says tribes are given the same amount of money and they must divide it equally among their members, telling us, "We're right around 70 percent unemployed. Right now the money that does come to the Blackfeet nation from DC, from the area offices, isn't really sufficient enough to meet the needs of 17,000."