More than a dozen supporters and family members drove to the hearing in Great Falls from the Blackfeet reservation, but they were not allowed in the courtroom because of a lack of space. They say the charges are trumped-up and instigated by a faction of the tribal council at odds with St. Goddard.
Four of the nine tribal council members have been suspended in the struggle for control between Chairman Willie Sharp Jr. and the minority faction that had been led by St. Goddard and Wells. They allege St. Goddard’s dismissal and the suspension of four other tribal members was illegal.
The big-game charges are a case of tribal politics spilling over into the court, said Paul McEvers, another suspended councilman.
The hunts were conducted with the knowledge of the full council, McEvers said. They were seen as a way to raise the reservation’s profile through the television exposure and to raise money by bringing the musicians to perform concerts on the reservation, he said.
But the tribal council members turned on each other, and the five-member faction led by Sharp used the big-game hunts as an excuse to boot St. Goddard from the council in March 2012, McEvers said. It not only exposed the divisiveness of tribal politics but also ruined a program that had been gaining momentum, he said.
“Now nobody’s going to come,” McEvers said.
The Tribal Business Council responded to McEvers in a statement that said politics has nothing to do with the charges, not every council member was aware of the hunts, and the tribe received no money from the hunts or the concerts.
“This is a case of these three men enriching themselves at the expense of the entire Tribe and acting as if they were doing the Tribe a favor by wining and dining professional musicians and opening up the treasure trove of all the Tribe’s bountiful wildlife to them as if it were the private hunting preserve of St. Goddard, Wells and Skunkcap,” Sharp said in the statement.
The hunt and Thompson’s visit were well-publicized on the reservation. An Oct. 27, 2010, article in the local Browning newspaper described the hunt in detail along with Thompson’s concert, which it said was attended by Sharp and the rest of the council.
Sharp told the Glacier County News then that he bought $500 worth of tickets to hand out around town.
Barbara Takes Gun said prosecuting the hunts is inappropriate when there are many violent crimes that remain unsolved on the reservation. Her brother, Gordon Takes Gun, was murdered 20 years ago, she said.
“To this day, nothing has ever been done. And he is a human being, and that is a moose,” she said.
If convicted, St. Goddard, Wells and Skunkcap face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each of five of the counts. The sixth, theft from a tribal government receiving federal funds, the maximum prison sentence is 10 years.
Online:View Entire Story
By Elaine Donnelly
Extending sexual misconduct to combat units
Independent voices from the TWT Communities
Straight talk on climate science, energy economics, and public policy.
Television commentary, reviews, news and nonstop DVR catch-up.
Entertainment News and Reviews from Washington, D.C. and beyond.
Benghazi: The anatomy of a scandal
Vietnam Memorial adds four names
Cinco de Mayo on the Mall
NRA kicks off annual convention