Tribal, State Relations Committee work brings nations together

Mike Bellmore, Features Editor
Dave Oehlke

The Tribal And State Relations Committee will hold its first meeting in Belcourt at 9 a.m. on Oct. 22.

State Senator Dave Oehlke of Devils Lake is a member of that committee that deals with issues involving five different tribes.

The committee is not new – it has been in existence for nearly 4 sessions dating back to around 2000.

“It can be very convoluted,” Oehlke says of the issues they deal with.

“But we address problems on the reservations we can do something about. And that's because we all care.”

Committee members include Representatives Merle Boucher,     Kari L. Conrad, Jim Kasper, Don Vigesaa and Senators Stanley W. Lyson, Tim Mathern and Oehlke.

The upcoming meeting will also include the Native American Tribal Citizens Task Force to study tribal-state issues.

That includes government-to-government relations, delivery of services, case management services, child support enforcement and issues related to the promotion of economic development.

Oehlke says it can be frustrating, convoluted and confusing at times, but committee members try to do their best.

“Like out here at Fort Totten, their school gets state money but part of it is a BIA school too,” Oehlke says.

“Roads are big issues and what we try to do is smooth out the edges. But a lot of it gets bogged down in federal issues. You can do this but you can't do that.”

Oehlke refers to the committee as a relationship-building group.

Politics and sovereign nation issues can often drag on and on and on.

One big issue involved how to re-establish family living, Oehlke added.