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Northern Cheyenne tribe sues feds over grant to create police force on reservation

Posted at 8:34 PM, Dec 16, 2020
and last updated 2020-12-17 12:03:44-05

The Northern Cheyenne tribe has filed a lawsuit to force the Bureau of Indian Affairs to approve a $1.2 million dollar grant to improve law enforcement on the southeastern Montana reservation.

The suit, filed Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Billings, alleges the BIA improperly delayed the tribe's application first filed this summer to fund an eight-member police force run by the tribe.

The BIA currently employs six officers to police the reservation, and tribal officials say that's not enough, according to the suit.

"As a result, the Tribe and Reservation membership have paid the high price of violent crime, including missing and murdered indigenous women, unlawful drug use and distribution and other crimes," tribal officials said in a news release.

According to court documents filed by the tribe, the BIA responded to the tribe's application at least twice, seeking additional information on the request.

Tribal officials said they responded to those requests but delays from the BIA caused them to miss a Nov. 12 deadline to submit the full application.

The suit names Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, who oversees the BIA, and BIA Director Darryl LaCounte.

The BIA and Interior have not responded in court to the suit.