A special report on race in Montana by The University of Montana School of Journalism
Northern Cheyenne
Fort Peck
Rocky Boy's
Ft. Belknap
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  Photo by Rebecca Stumpf

Dolores Plumage was elected a Blaine County commissioner in 2002. She is working hard to bridge the gap between tribe and county officials.


A Place at the Table
Dolores Plumage is the first Indian and first woman on the Blaine County Commission. She has an uphill road.

Story by Brooke Hewes
Photos by Rebecca Stumpf



Tom Jones, a game warden at Fort Belknap Fish and Wldlife, closes the gate to the bison range, where in 2004 five bison escaped to neighboring land during a snowstorm.

The Assiniboine and Gros Ventre tribes manage a 700-head bison herd. After a neighbor shot bison that had escaped the range, the tribes sought reimbursement, but were unsuccessful. Range managers put the loss at $10,000. The neighbor was charged with obstruction of justice.

Family plays an integral role in Plumage's life. Her granddaughter Sage, 4, jumps at any opportunity to spend time with her grandparents, Dolores and Jack. Plumage's work in Blaine County seat is laying the groundwork for future generations of Indians, such as Sage.

Road maintenance is the responsibility of the tribe because Ft.Belknap is considered a closed reservation. Only a little less than 4 percent of the land, which includes 10 miles of state highway, is the responsibility of the county.

Don Swenson is 1 of 3 county commissioners in Blaine County. After a redistricting in 2001, a small square of land of the reservation previously in Don's district was lost to District 1, now Dolores' district. As a result, Done no longer travels to the reservation to work with the Indians.

A sign in Lodge Pole welcomes visitors to the small community on the Ft.Belknap reservation, where Dolores serves as the Blaine County Commissioner.

Tribal President and Vice President, Julia Doney and Raymond Chandler both agree that there is a lack of a working relationship between the county and the reservation.


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