Colville Tribal members have until Aug. 11, to return a referendum ballot on whether enrolled members want to have the tribe disburse another 30 percent of settlement funds. Members received about $4,000 each last Friday, which amounts to 20 percent of a $193 million settlement with the federal government.
Tribal election officials said ballots need to be postmarked by Aug. 11, and they didn’t know when the ballots would be counted.
The Colville Business Council made its pitch to retain the money and invest in reservation needs in an explanatory sheet that went out with the referendum ballot.
The referendum was a result of a petition from tribal members to increase the amount another 30 percent, which would be half of the government settlement.
The attached sheet stated that if members voted “no” it would:
- enable the tribes to meet their environmental restoration obligations for forest, land and water.
- help the tribes devote more tribal dollars for cultural and linguistic preservation, education, and retention; land purchase; and cultural objectives.
- invest in the tribal economy, job creation and workforce development now and in the future.
- invest in tribal self-sufficiency and allow tribal government to follow though on a holistic goal that will benefit future generations.
The information to voters continued and stated if enrolled members voted “yes” on the added distribution it would:
- increase members’ financial resources this year, but members would have to pay taxes on the amount they receive.
- allow them to pay immediate bills, but decrease resources for community needs as a whole.
- boost one’s bank account, but would also require having a Social Security Number before checks could be issued.
- allow recipients to spend the money the way they want to as they make their own decisions, but would affect their eligibility for federal, state, or tribal programs, such as aid to families, housing, unemployment financial aid, Medicaid, Veteran’s Affairs benefits, and more.
If the measure passes, tribal members could expect an increase in demand for tribal health and social services across the board, the information sheet said.
The petition with 1,706 verified signatures on it prompted the outgoing Business Council July 12, just before the new council was sworn in, to come up with the plan for a referendum vote. The contentious issue is seen as a significant factor in the defeat of six Business Council members.
If tribal members vote to distribute another 30 percent of settlement money, it would mean each enrolled member would get about another $6,000, infusing tens of millions of dollars into the reservation economy.