State agencies, advocates, nonprofits and businesses gathered at the Helena Civic Center Wednesday to take part in Tribal Relations Training.
The governor's office puts on the yearly training with the goal of providing the skills and knowledge to more effectively work with tribal governments.
This year had the largest number of attendees, with well over 400 people taking part.
The event featured a fireside chat with Gov. Steve Bullock and Chairman Gerald Gray of The Little Shell Tribe, a fashion show and keynote by Carol Mason of the Blackfeet Tribe, panels on government policy, workshops and more.
State Director of Indian Affairs Jason Smith said the event also serves as to build mutual understanding.
“The people who come here and present have stories from where they come from, stories from the homeland,” said Smith. “That’s really giving you more of the information to build a friendship, and with a friendship it’s easier to do more business together.”
Smith says just like any relationship, working with tribal governments comes from a foundation of trust.
“I’ve been working with tribal governments for over 10 years,” said Smith. “If I make a mistake and own up to it, we can still move forward because we’re friends and vice versa.”
Smith said the event was a little bittersweet since it will be the last Tribal Relations Training under the Bullock administration.
“Hopefully after we’re gone the next administration will continue to build on this work,” said Smith. “I would also like to see more younger people in the [Governor’s Office of Indian Affairs] bringing their own ideas on how to effectively work with governments, and bringing fresh ideas on how state governments and nonprofits can be friends to tribes.”