Chippewa Cree Tribe ordered to pay $648K to ousted chairman

Ken St. Marks. Photo from Native News Project / University of Montana

The Interior Department has ordered the Chippewa Cree Tribe of Montana to pay $648,430.35 to ousted Chairman Ken St. Marks for repeatedly retaliating against him.

St. Marks has been elected three times as chairman. His fellow council members have removed him three times, each time accusing him of various misdeeds.

But St. Marks has noted that he's never been charged in tribal or federal court. On the other hand, at least 18 former leaders, employees and their associates have been convicted or pleaded guilty in connection with a wide-ranging federal corruption probe on the Rocky Boy's Reservation.

The probe largely stems from the tribe's misuse of federal funds from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. Since St. Marks came forward with allegations about the wrongdoing, he was granted whistleblower status under the law, a decision upheld by DOI last week in a final disposition.

"I am happy my name is cleared but it is unfortunate it took so long," St. Marks said in a press release that was posted by Turtle Talk. "Thankfully, the tribal members and the Havre community continued to believe in me despite such an awful smear campaign."

And even though DOI sided with him and ordered back pay, St. Marks is accusing the Bureau of Indian Affairs of becoming complicit with the corruption on the reservation. The agency continues to recognize a slate of leaders whom he said are not legitimate.

"This is way out of hand, and yet the United States has continued its government-to-government relationship with these non-elected members," St. Marks said. "That isn’t right."

The Guardians Project at the U.S. Attorney's Office in Montana has put Montana at the top a nationwide list of judicial districts with the most government corruption prosecutions.

Get the Story:
Feds order Chippewa-Cree to pay St. Marks $650K (The Great Falls Tribune 4/29)
Interior Department upholds whistleblower status for ousted tribal leader (The Billings Gazette 4/29)

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