An Invitation To Southeastern Montana Economic Development Corporation
In 2013, the Southeastern Montana Economic Development Council (SMEDC) held seven community meetings in Ashland, Colstrip, Hysham, Miles City, Broadus, Lame Deer and Forsyth to get community input on developing a comprehensive economic development plan and assess the state of those communities. They also developed an online survey to reach people that wanted to contribute but couldn't attend an in-person meeting. Each meeting was based on a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis and a brainstorming session for proposed projects. In a total of seven community meetings they had 113 people attend. Total. This was more than they had ever had in seven years of community meetings. Six people filled out their online survey. A total of 119 people out of a total population of 22,000 gave them feedback on their economic strategy and plan. That is .005% of the total population. From what I can tell from their meeting reports, it seems like about three people came to the Lame Deer meeting. Let's take a step back and think about this for a second. If my job was to develop a regional economic plan and I was getting paid mostly out of taxpayer dollars and I only got 113 people to attend my meetings, I would hope someone would have the good sense to fire me. Hell, I'd fire myself.
My Invitation To Southeastern Montana Economic Development Council:I have some experience organizing community meetings. If you want to do it right and have a good turnout it takes quite a bit of planning and forethought. I would love to help you organize a meeting on the Northern Cheyenne Reservation so you could come listen to the strengths, challenges and opportunities that people are facing with small business development, healthcare, education, infrastructure and the countless other issues facing the community. You could meet some folks that want to start businesses but need some technical assistance. You could meet people that you would never meet in the tribal government building. My constant frustration is that when our elected leaders, decision makers and agency staff come to Lame Deer, they only stay within the bounds of the tribal government. They very rarely look beyond the formal structures and try to meet directly with members of the community. Here is a short summary of what the folks at SMEDC may have missed in the past couple years.
- June 2011: Twenty Northern Cheyenne tribal members attended a two week training by Henry Red Cloud from Lakota Solar Enterprises on how to build and install solar air heaters. Two of those members have jobs working in the solar industry now and one wants to start a business on the Reservation. Everyone else now has a free source of supplemental heating in the winter and lower energy bills.
- March 2012: Over 220 Northern Cheyenne attended the Grandmother's Gathering to learn about opportunities in renewable energy and climate change impacts.
- August 2012: Over 100 people turned out for a renewable energy and coal mining gathering in Lame Deer.
- November 2012: 75 Northern Cheyenne tribal members came to two separate Tongue River Railroad scoping meetings in Lame Deer to speak out against the Tongue River Railroad.
- January 17, 2013: 200 Northern Cheyenne tribal members attended the Otter Creek public scoping meeting in Lame Deer and spoke out against it and for renewable energy.
- February 2013: Over 250 Northern Cheyenne attended an Inter-Tribal No Coal gathering in Lame Deer to show support for renewable energy and opposition to the Otter Creek coal mine. Tribal leaders and activists from the Yakama Nation, Southern Cheyenne, Oglala Lakota and Three Affiliated Tribes also attended.
- March 6, 2013: 170 Northern Cheyenne tribal members submitted detailed and substantive comments to the Montana Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) asking for a thorough, transparent and comprehensive study of the proposed Otter Creek coal mine in southeastern Montana.
- Summer 2013: Hundreds of Northern Cheyenne have signed up during powwows and community events to learn about renewable energy opportunities with ecoCheyenne, a grassroots organization on the Reservation.
- September 2013: 100 community members from the Northern Cheyenne and ranching community came to the Otter Creek Valley to witness the blessing of a Lummi Totem pole and show support for protecting the land.
- April 26, 2014: 125 Northern Cheyenne tribal members turned out in Lame Deer for a community clean-up and clean energy rally.