The first week of September, I sent a letter to Sidney Longwell, the Baton Rouge speculator, whose lawsuit to drill for oil threatens Montana's Badger-Two Medicine wildlands, bordering Glacier National Park. Fracking the "Backbone of the World" would desecrate both the integrity of this landscape and the cultural identity of present and future generations of Pikuni-Blackfeet people.
Within the Badger-Two Medicine, there are numerous landmarks whose narratives form the foundation of our Pikuni Sun Dance, which is a central religious ceremony in our tribe. For traditional Blackfeet, its promise of renewal can be likened to the role of Easter within Christianity. Two of these landmark mountains are Feather Woman and Scarface.
Feather Woman connects us to a long ago union between an Earth woman and Morning Star. She is entrusted with celestial teachings and subsequently returns to her Earth people. These teachings are manifest within our Sun Dance.
From the union of Feather Woman and Morning Star there survived a son, Scarface. He ventures, courageously, to the Lodge of the Sun. On route, he is assisted by Wolf, Grizzly, Badger, Wolverine and, finally, Trumpeter Swans. In communion with the Sun, Scarface gains additional rites that further complement our Sun Dance. The odyssey of Scarface is forever memorialized by the mountain sentinels of the Badger-Two Medicine. These parables are but a fragment of the ancient narratives associated within the landscape in which Sidney Longwell, the Louisiana "purchaser," intends to drill.
The drilling lease that Mr. Longwell clings to is the soiled residue of an egregious error made by the U.S. government more than 30 years ago. Under the Treaty of 1855 and the Agreement of 1895, our people reserved traditional rights in this area that include pre-existent religious freedoms. Pilgrimages, within social and individual settings, are fully incompatible with the industrialization of these watersheds.
The most considerate option for Mr. Longwell is following the path of other energy speculators who have found mutually beneficial alternatives, relinquishing their leases in our Badger-Two Medicine. Mr. Longwell would deliver our people a compliment by abandoning his lawsuit. I encouraged him to work with both the federal government and with Montana's congressional delegation to capitalize on the 2006 lease withdrawal legislation. There is still time for him to exchange his claim for opportunities elsewhere.
The Badger-Two Medicine region is a refuge for our Blackfeet, one of the last geographical strongholds for our ancient culture. The site of his lease, Hall Creek, is a pristine component of that refuge. I am invested in its protection, for it serves as a keystone in our cultural memory.
I conveyed to Mr. Longwell that my spiritual perspective springs from twin sources. From my Blackfeet grandmother, I inherited the parables of my ancestors. My recollection of her faith challenges me to place principle before personality, profit or pride. As a matter of principle, I maintain it is immoral to vandalize the headwaters of our cultural identity for the sake of profit or pride.
In the Judeo-Christian tradition I inherited from my Euro-American ancestors, Old Testament prophets respectfully removed their shoes when standing before God. If sandals are to be shed upon sacred ground, then how can bulldozers, fracking rigs and flare stacks be deemed acceptable? Recently, a Native elder reminded me, "Our way is to venture into the mountains to converse with God." I cherish the poetic essence of both of these time-honored traditions.
I have invited Sidney Longwell to the "Backbone of the World," where we can deepen our understanding of each other's motives and visions regarding this land we both treasure. As of Sept. 23, there has been no response from Mr. Longwell, who dwells in the state where Montana's waters fold into the Gulf of Mexico.
Jack Wallace Gladstone
Ravalli County Commissioners Suzy Foss, Ron Stoltz and Jeff Burrows voted against us on Friday. They refused to accept our taxpayer dollars back from the federal government for our family planning services, which provide us and our neighbors with cancer screenings, STD screenings, birth control and pre-natal care to name a few (see "etc.," Sept. 19). Lack of screening leads to disease. Lack of birth control leads to pregnancy or abortion.
Hundreds of people took off work for three long meetings last week to voice their support for family planning funds, which do not include abortion. Since two of them were Board of Health meetings, only Mr. Burrows was required to be there. Ms. Foss and Mr. Stoltz, who also voted against accepting the funds, missed 5-plus hours of testimony from the public, even though their presence was requested.
The family planning office will be closed for good on Sept. 30. Patients who have appointments on Oct. 1, 2, 3, 4, etc., will have to scramble for an appointment. It takes a minimum of six weeks to get an appointment in an affordable Missoula clinic. Ms. Foss, Mr. Stoltz and Mr. Burrows voted to close down a clinic within 30 days without offering anything to replace it.
Your rising insurance costs will be thanks to Ms. Foss, who said that the hospital will have to absorb the costs of the preventative care of the 400-plus patients who need someplace to go.
Remember these votes. They voted against you. Vote against them. Vote against Suzy Foss in 2014. Vote against Ron Stoltz in 2014. Vote against Jeff Burrows in 2014.
If you need cancer screening or family planning services, please call the commissioners at 375-6500 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
I am Murat Kalinyaprak, a serious candidate for Polson City Council. Many of you already know me as a friend or a customer, because I lived and been a businessman in Polson for 21 years. Many of you may have already heard my name, because I have attended city council meetings almost as regularly as a councilman for 8 years. Hopefully the rest of you will get to meet and know me during my election campaign.
Well knowing and braving the consequences, I always stood up for not only for my own but also for your freedom of speech, your right to equal treatment, your right to participate in open government, your right to have access to public information, your right to hold government responsible in spending your tax dollars.
As the city council records would attest, my efforts and expenses resulted in many public policy improvements and in actual savings of several hundred thousands of your tax dollars.
Over those years, I accumulated considerable insight, education and experience about how the city government works. If elected to the city council, I will have a better standing in order to accomplish even more than what I was able to do as a mere citizen.
As a councilman, I will never make any decisions before I hear and heed the public. Nor will I make any decisions without being careful to not violate city, state and federal laws or universal values of ethics.
Who the best candidate is depends on what voters will expect in return for their votes. I know that most of you are displeased with how the Polson city government has been operating for the past decade. I decided to be a candidate in order to give Polson citizens a choice and an opportunity to cause change.
My record shows that I am capable of effecting change for the better. So, if you would like to see change, please consider me as the best qualified candidate for the job and vote for me.
When Ravalli County Commissioners choose to reject funding for a necessary public service, we must, of course, ask the question “why?” The Ravalli County Commission’s decision to reject Title X Family Planning funding is unprecedented in 40 years of public service. The 400 community members who will lose their health care are surely asking the same question. Why?
Is it because young people have the privacy to access their own health care? That has been mentioned as a concern; however, the truth is that only one client was under the age of 16 last year. Is it because the public health clinic offers contraceptives? The truth is that over 99 percent of women who have been sexually active have used contraceptives. Or is it because the 400 people affected are largely women of low economic status who may often be marginalized from the public policy discourse? Maybe the commissioners voting against the funding don’t think that this move will hurt them politically.
But it will.
As we have seen across the nation, public officials choosing policies that hurt women end up damaging their own careers. We will not be silent. We will not allow big government to get between a woman and her healthcare provider. We will fight back.
Commissioners Burrows, Stoltz and Foss: Now is the time to reconsider. Bring back Title X funding to Ravalli County. Women and our allies are watching.
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana
Thanks for a more historical and balanced article on Fred Van Valkenburg’s professional career and values, especially in relation to the DOJ investigation and the marijuana enforcement issues (see “Still fighting,” Sept. 5). As a resident of Montana, mostly in the western third of the state, for 40 years, I have found him to be the kind of person I wanted in public service: possessing honesty and integrity, abiding by the law with a full heart.
I remember him in the legislature (I lived in Helena then and sipped Saturday morning coffee listening to committee hearings) and his body of work in Missoula (lived in Missoula County the last 20 years). So thank you, Jessica, for your in-depth article. And thanks to Fred Van Valkenburg for his many years of service to Montanans! I for one appreciate him and wish him the best in retirement—no criticism here, only kudos!
Kudos to Alex Sakariassen for covering ALEC’s influence in the Montana Legislature (see “No-love letter,” Aug. 29). The school charter bills weren’t the only “model legislation” that ALEC’s policy thugs shoved down our legislative throats. One of ALEC’s biggest national efforts is to disenfranchise voters, read as: making sure low-income people, students, and people of color don’t vote. Their attempt to eliminate same day voter registration failed by the stroke of a veto pen but it will be back before voters via ballot initiative next fall. Stay tuned. The free luncheons offered to Republican lawmakers are literally held inside the halls of the Capitol and they are buying your democracy and taking your rights.
State Rep. Ellie Hill
It is an incredibly exciting and challenging time for the reproductive justice movement in Montana. With new leaders at both NARAL Pro-Choice Montana and at Planned Parenthood of Montana, we have an amazing opportunity to educate the public and legislators on what it means to be pro-choice and why it is so important to ensure that privacy and individual freedoms are secure in our state.
As a leader of the reproductive justice movement, I would like to clarify what it truly means to be pro-choice. First, being pro-choice means we believe that everyone should have access to all reproductive health options—this includes access to birth control, infertility treatments, sterilization, and, yes, abortion. However, being pro-choice also means advocating for preventative techniques that reduce the need for abortion. This means believing in access to affordable birth control and family planning resources, as well as honest and accurate sex education for young people. It is through these techniques, as well as advocating healthy relationships and reducing sexual violence against women, that we will reduce the number of unintended pregnancies, making abortion rare. When faced with an unintended pregnancy, the decision to parent, adopt or terminate the pregnancy is an incredibly private and personal one—one that should be made only by a woman with council from her family, loved ones and physician—not politicians. This is what being pro-choice truly means.
As I begin my tenure here in Montana, I will work consistently to bring these pro-choice beliefs from the public to the legislature. We must ensure that reproductive rights and privacy for personal decisions are secure in our state. My goal is to grow our dynamic cadre of activists from all backgrounds and provide them with a direct line to the elected officials who represent them. I also strive to ensure that every young person has comprehensive, medically accurate sex education, which includes information on sexuality, gender identity and healthy relationships. In short, my goal is to ensure that every Montanan has access to affordable reproductive healthcare, is fully informed of their choices and has the freedom to plan their family how they see fit. Lofty goals, yes. But I am certainly not alone in the fight.
I would like to thank the Montana Reproductive Rights Coalition for their commitment to reproductive justice and support of NARAL Pro-Choice Montana in the past and into the future. Organizations like Planned Parenthood Advocates of Montana, Blue Mountain Clinic, the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence, Montana Human Rights Network, and the ACLU of Montana bring important perspectives and enthusiasm for our goals. I am honored to be a part of such an amazing team.
I am committed to working alongside our allies throughout the state on issues of reproductive justice. There are many ways you can support NARAL Pro-Choice Montana. Go to prochoicemontana.org for more information. I welcome your conversations, ideas, and activism as we work hard every day to protect all Montanans’ civil rights.
NARAL Pro-Choice Montana
Quite coincidentally, I arrived back in Missoula after five years of being away, pulling up in a 26-foot U-Haul just weeks before the Independent's article "The Good Ol' Days" appeared in the recent Fresh Facts special issue. During that time, my wife Joyce and I spent three years in Bend, Ore. (we likened it more to Bozeman than to Missoula) and two years exile in New Jersey, where the stereotypes of rude people are stereotypes for a reason. That being said, it's hard to list all the things we missed and are now happily rediscovering again: from the new Top Hat and Kettlehouse to the Big Dipper and Shakespeare and Co. Like everywhere, Missoula has changed and stayed the same. Also like everywhere, locals—as the article alluded to—are proud and smug of where they live. The difference is in Missoula they have a right to be. A place where happy hour means something, and I'm just another guy with a ponytail cycling by.
I am extremely concerned that Missoula has no zoning regulations regarding homeless shelters or soup kitchens. The yet-to-be-built Poverello Center has a permit to run a hostel. The Union Baptist Church wants to open a soup kitchen, life skills center and residence for "recovering" addicts. Under current zoning regulations this is a "daycare." The lack of proper zoning forces these establishments to fall into a category with very few safeguards to protect the public.
Safety, sanitation, parking, handicap accessibility and oversight regarding the qualifications of staff to deal with extremely volatile populations are but a few of the issues that need to be resolved. The city has a responsibility to protect its citizens. The lack of regulations regarding these kinds of businesses must be addressed before these projects continue.
The residents of the Westside need the support of all Missoula residents. This is not a "Westside" problem. This is a citywide problem. Just like you, our neighborhood is made up of women and children, senior citizens and hard working people. We are being put in harm's way. Please stand beside us, your neighbors, and help us make this change for the better for our city, our home.
Dan Brooks just wrote the manual on being too clever by half in last week's opinion piece (see "Inventing solutions," Aug. 29).
It always smarts to be mocked and when you're the object of ridicule from someone with the writing chops of Mr. Brooks, it's hard not to defensively fire off ad hominem attacks. So I'll first acknowledge what is right in what he wrote—the retroactive aspect of the ordinance is a murky-at-best way to respond to a relocation decision that displeases neighbors.
The rest, unfortunately, is straw man stuff. Mr. Brooks characterizes opposition of the Union Gospel Mission's relocation as a petty, selfish desire to whisk away the inconvenience of seeing the homeless. He so poorly captures the sentiments of westsiders like myself that I wonder if he's actually listened to anyone who has spoken up about it.
I'm hoping he might listen to me.
Three-fourths of the children my kids go to school with are at or below the poverty level. They play at our house. Their parents, living paycheck to paycheck, move all the time. I go down the street and I walk by trailer courts and middle class houses and low-rent apartments and nod at people who just got off the Greyhound as we pass on the sidewalk. Most of my neighbors are poor.
I like living here. I'm reminded on a daily basis that so many people have it way worse than me. That my sons are lucky that they haven't had to move three, four, five times in a year. We know, better than probably any other part of town, how poverty impacts the lives of Missoula.
And here is where it gets complicated and where Mr. Brooks' rhetorical savvy stings with the two-pronged sword of condescension and trivialization. I also see on a daily basis five "discount" motels, the YWCA, three thrift stores, HomeWORD, two tattoo parlors, Missoula Youth Homes, a liquor store and casino, and of course the "coming attraction" of the Poverello and the Union Gospel Mission.
Stay with me now. I don't object to the location or merit of any one of those establishments individually. But when you look at it combined and as a whole and you see that it's the southern border of a neighborhood with all of the issues described above, it seems reasonable to me that some of us wonder why so much of Missoula's economic strife is consigned to such a narrow part of town.
We have little to no say in what goes where in our neighborhood. The ordinance is, at best, an imperfect way of dealing with the subject. But I support it because I think we should at least have a public forum to talk about not just what homeless services should be and how they should function, but where they should happen. And call me crazy, but it would be nice if this issue could lead the city to talk about that section of West Broadway in a way that addresses the symptom and the disease. Then maybe we won't need Mr. Brooks' cute invention after all.