Tribal leaders from around the state discuss issues with Senators Tester and Cantwell

By:  KBZK Bozeman, Montana

Some heavy hitters were on the University of Montana campus to address problems that have plagued Indian Country for decades.

The dialogue was lead by Senators Jon Tester of Montana and Washington's Maria Cantwell on the UM Campus on Wednesday.

They heard an earful from tribal leaders from around the state who said help is needed on key issues like poverty, education, jobs, and water rights.

"It's a wide array of issues, and a lot of time we get a lot of positives that happen in Indian Country also, but with the sequestration, some of the budget cuts, most of the agencies that deal with tribes are historically underfunded, around 45 percent of funding, so we continue to press that subject," Ivan Posey, Tribal Leader Council Chairman, said.

Senator Tester said, "Look money is hard to come by in DC, and sequestration has really hurt these folks very very badly, but the bottom line is that we have to make sure there's programs that actually work."

"In order to do that, we have to more meetings like this, we got to visit with the folks that are on the ground, and know what the challenges are, what the problems are so we can figure out the best ways to address them with limited amounts of money," he said.

Tester said one of the issues he's most concerned about is making sure Native Americans get health care. Both Senators toured parts of nearby Indian Country on Wednesday, and will continue to do so on Thursday.