Native American Equity in Montana

Native Americans have lived here for thousands of years, long before the state of Montana existed. 78,000 people of Native American heritage currently live in Montana, on the seven reservations as well as throughout our urban areas. It is a growing population. They make up 6.6% of the state’s population and they make up 13.7% of the total student population in our public schools.

Each tribal nation has a proud history and unique cultural heritage and language. Each also has a legal relationship to the Federal Government based on a long history of treaties and various laws. The Government to Government relationship which recognizes the sovereignty of these tribal nations is the basis of the relationship with the Federal Government and the State of Montana.

Native American people face many challenges in their daily lives, both on and off reservation.  Solutions can be found through cooperative efforts and support between the tribal nations and Federal, State and Local Government systems. The following are some of the challenges:

  1. Severe Health Care Disparities: The Montana Health Care Foundation reports that American Indians in Montana die at a median age of 50 years (more than 20 years earlier than non-Indian Montanans). Death rates for specific illnesses, including heart disease, cancer, respiratory illnesses, injuries, and suicide are substantially higher as well.
  2. For 2014 and 2015, the highest rate of suicide in Montana is among American Indians (35.5 per 100,000) followed by Caucasians (28.1 per 100,000) according to the Montana 2016 Suicide Mortality report.
  3. Educational achievement is improving, but American Indian students face higher dropout rates, low graduation rates and lower achievement levels than their non-Indian peers.
  4. American Indians have over-representation in our prison and legal systems.
  5. Violence against Indian women and missing American Indian women is a state and national issue.
  6. Substance abuse, poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing are persistent problems.
Big Sky 55+ will:
  • Support the sovereignty of Montana’s tribal nations and the government to government relationship.
  • Support the inclusion of American Indian history and culture in our K- higher education systems as outlined by our state’s constitution and state statutes.
  • Support increased access to health insurance, preventive and primary health care to reduce health care disparities.
  • Support efforts to reduce the high rates of incarceration in our criminal justice systems.
  • Support efforts to improve the social and economic well-being of Montana’s Native American families both on and off reservation.
  • Support increased participation in the political systems, including supporting progressive candidates and increased access to voting through satellite voting centers in our reservation communities.