Saturday, February 24, 2018

Crow Speaker of the House Pat Alden Jr. addresses executive officials including Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid (far right) during the tribe’s January general council meeting last Saturday afternoon.

Keeping it real

Crow executive, legislative officials agree to cooperate for tribal prosperity
Crow Executive, Legislative and Judicial branches joined for the first general council meeting of 2018 in a spirit of cooperation and readiness to update their constituents on the tribe’s financial, housing, hiring, and land and energy development issues. Nearly every tribal official was present – with the exception of Associate Judge Kari Coversup for Chief Judge Leroy Not Afraid’s speech. She was charged recently for an alleged attack on her partner.
This gathering represented a marked difference from the Crow Tribal General Council meetings of July 2017, where the Executive and Legislative branches hosted competing events due to a legal disagreement over the legitimacy of their 2001 Constitution. Crow Chairman Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid stated in a late December interview that, despite the branches’ differences, “things are looking good” now and legislative senators “also want prosperity.”
During the meeting, held last Saturday at Crow Agency’s Multipurpose Building, Speaker of the House Pat Alden Jr. told the assembled general council that communication between branches was crucial for “moving forward.” If they don’t reopen channels of communication that closed over 2017, he continued, “we can’t go anywhere.”
In Crow government, Alden explained, the Executive Branch serves as negotiators for issues that affect the tribe, while the Legislative Branch chooses whether to approve their plans. Currently, the largest issue for the tribe on a monetary scale – which Not Afraid spent a significant portion of 2017 trying to fix – is their deficit, which he stated in late December was “at least $50 million.”
“If we don’t come together at all, how does that serve the people?” Alden asked the general council. “We know we all have problems. We have a lot of problems. But what’s it going to do if we’re sitting and complaining about every problem? We’ve got to come up with solutions.”
The meeting left a strong impact on tribal member Noel Two Leggins, as indicated by his Facebook post mid-meeting. 
Two Leggins served as a senator for the Black Lodge District from 2008-13 and currently works as chief of staff for Vice Secretary Shawn Backbone. As a young man, he began learning tribal politics starting with the adoption of the 2001 Constitution by former Chairman Clifford Birdinground’s administration.
“In all my years as a member, elected, advocate and constituent of our tribal government, [I have] never seen all elected officials of the Crow Tribe come together to address the issues and concerns of our tribe,” he wrote. “It’s so easy to be negative and bash, but let’s not do that today; if we don’t come together, we will not stand.”
As he took notes for the meeting, Two Leggins said, he “finally started to see the constitution doing its job.”
“When I saw the head of each branch of government there, along with the elected officials, I knew our constitution was finally trying to kick into gear,” he said. “There are some people who agree and some people who won’t but – you know what? – we’re all human and we’re all entitled to our own opinions.”
According to Kirby King, who told the council he has been serving “more or less as interim chief finance officer since mid-July,” executive and legislative officials have passed a total budget for the 2018 fiscal year of about $10.1 million. To pay their consolidated debt, he continued, the tribe intends to take out a long-term loan of about $68.7 million.
Though it is a year late, the tribe’s audit for 2016 is set for completion by King’s birthday on Feb. 23. He said it remains to be seen whether this will be a good or bad birthday present.
“Once we get through this audit, we hope things will move much faster,” he said. “We do see light at the end of the tunnel.”