LARRY MAYER/Gazette StaffKarmelita Plains Bull Martin organized the first Tea Party protest by Crow tribal members in Hardin on Monday, February 15, 2010. Tea Party members from Billings, Great Falls, Townsend, Bozeman, Big Timber and Miles City drove to Hardin to show support for the newest Tea Party chapter near the Crow Indian Reservation.
The Crow Nation 1825 Peace Treaty Allotee Land Commission joins the Tea Party movement in hopes to end government control on the Crow reservation.
HARDIN — Calling for new tribal leadership and a break from the federal government, founders of the first Crow Indian Tea Party movement rallied Monday in Hardin.
Leading the new Crow Nation Tea Party was Adrian Bird Sr., a former tribal chairman candidate who recently filed a civil complaint against the Crow executive branch alleging malfeasance for mismanaging tribal funds.
Bird, his wife, Lavanna, and fellow Tea Party founder Karmelita Plains Bull Martin are seeking to impeach the tribe’s four executives and take the Indian government in a different direction.
“We want them out of there because they are mismanaging tribal funds,” Bird said. “We need to get the people together.”
The Birds and Plains Bull Martin accuse the administration of mismanaging “tribal funds regarding education, employment, housing, casino finances,” and they accuse the tribal leadership of “total disregard of our laws and policies as the Crow Nation.”
Bird said the tribe would be better off if it developed the natural resources on the reservation, lived by tribal laws and declined federal government assistance.
Chairman Cedric Black Eagle, who could not be reached for comment at his office Monday, must respond to the civil complaint this week. He earlier said he was consulting with an attorney on how to proceed.
Plains Bull Martin said the new Tea Party group also objects to the management of the Indian Health Services, which guarantees coverage only to Indians living on the Crow Reservation and doesn’t offer preventative care.
“It’s a crisis facility. There’s no intensive or preventative health care,” Plains Bull Martin said.
Former IHS pediatrician Dr. Michael Garver backed Plains Bull Martin’s concerns, calling IHS “probably a way of not feeling guilt ridden for putting them on a reservation” for the federal government.
Garver, who now practices in Great Falls, said American Indians would be better served if they were placed on Medicaid, which would provide them with better coverage no matter where they lived.
By tying health care to the reservation, the government has put American Indians in the position of choosing poor housing and economic conditions in order to receive health care, critics say.
Plains Bull Martin and others also accused the Crow Nation of not using the Indian Child Welfare Act to give native families first preference for Indian foster children and to notify immediate family members of where child relatives were being placed within the foster system.
“It’s human trafficking, and Crow Nation kids are not for sale,” Plains Bull Martin said. “The tribe is not using the Indian Child Welfare Act.”
Other Tea Party members from across the state joined the Crow Nation Tea Party in demonstrating at Hardin’s only downtown stoplight. The groups gathered at every corner of the intersection with placards denouncing health care reform, climate change legislation and excessive federal government.
They elicited honks from passersby during the noon rally.
“We just wanted to be supportive of these people,” said Ken Champion of Bozeman. “Anybody who stands for freedom and liberty and opposed to unrestricted government spending, we want to support.”