This West Is OUR West

Censorship by Contractual Agreement?


June 27, 2018

I am sure that most of us agree with Thomas Jefferson, but what happens if you are silenced due to the actions of others, up to and including self censorship through “political correctness”?

In our neck of the woods, expecting our local media to truthfully report on issues, or to allow honest public discourse in the opinion pages of their “newspapers,” has become the very definition of insanity.

How many local folks have had their letters to the editor blacklisted, or the content of your letters revised because an editor thought it to be “offensive?”

Comments on internet news are also becoming a thing of the past, disabled so that readers don’t know what others think about any given issue.

And yet it seems that the other side of an editorially determined “sensitive” issue gets unfettered access to local opinion pages.

Is this simply a new kind of  ” hear no evil, see no evil” journalism, “agenda and biased driven journalism” or is it more of a “leaving the masses ignorant” editorial philosophy?

Pick your poison.  One is just as repugnant as the other.


In 2014, we posted an article entitled A Glimpse Into Our Future with a Unitary Management Ordinance.  The post included this video excerpt related to tribal retribution against those who speak out against the CSKT or their agenda:

The tribal blacklisting of and retribution against businesses and people who rankle the sensibilities of the tribal elite, or cast doubt on their agenda is well known to those of us living within the exterior boundaries of the reservation.

Rest assured, for as bad as all of that is, individual tribal members often get worse treatment by their government, because it is the price they must pay for membership into the tribe’s special interest corporation and a $1,200 annual per capita payment.  Contractual or implied, it is a condition of membership.

Remember the People’s Voice and the wringer the tribe put them through a few years back?


As to the subject of censorship, while state open meeting laws require certain standards with respect to public participation, it is much easier to stifle public comment in a tribal venue.

And that is exactly what happened at the February 2018 county commissioner meeting in Pablo.  The tribe not only refused to allow any recording of the meeting, they also squelched all public comment.

Aside from the fact that the tribal council should not be part of the county decision making process, their past and current violations of Montana’s open meeting laws dictate that the commissioners not meet at tribal council headquarters.


We’ve documented some of the escapades of state legislators and agencies that have become little more than lobbyists for the tribes:

Bruce Tutvedt: CSKT Lobbyist or Legislator?

FARM, Grassroots, Astroturf, or Something Else?

For the Record:  They Care Not What They Do

How to Subvert House Rules and the Montana Constitution in 40 Minutes

The legislators whose actions have been documented in these articles are an embarrassment to the people they represent, but nonetheless, they have been tasked by the tribe to do much of the heavy legislative lifting for advancement of a tribal agenda.  It is amazing to see how far a little bit of taxpayer funded tribal money can go.

But let’s not talk about legislators who already drank the kool-aid, and focus instead on elected officials who haven’t taken the tribal advocate leap.


We are now seeing the undercurrent of another form of censorship that is far more insidious that many may not be aware of, the notion of censorship of local government representatives by agreement. 


Faced with a significant shortfall of tax revenue because of the tribe’s takeover of Kerr Dam, our Lake County Commissioners have been looking into many of the issues that brought us to such a dire situation:  Public Law 280, Fee to Trust land conversions, and the Growth Density Map, and various other important issues.

As you can imagine, none of this sits well with the CSKT tribal government.  Issues such as these are supposed to be ignored by county government, as they have been for decades.

In February 2018, the Lake County Commissioners attended a kinda sorta public meeting in Pablo.  The meeting was intended to be an ambush of county commissioner Gale Decker, and that is exactly what it was.

As a resident of Lake County, it was embarrassing to watch our three commissioners, seated before an “all powerful tribal government”, their backs to the public, being berated for daring to speak out publicly and to the media about serious issues that involve the tribe.

During that meeting one of the commissioners mentioned a proposed 2016 agreement between the tribe and the county that the three current commissioners had previously been unaware of.

In June, we now have some context concerning that agreement.  In a letter to CSKT tribal council members in October 2017, Gale Decker made the following comment:

On a side note, Mr. Rushe did not shy away from advocating for a clause in a failed mediation agreement between CSKT and Lake County in the fall of 2016 that would have taken away the Constitutional first amendment rights of the Commissioners.

The clause read, “The County, and its Commissioners in their official or individual (my emphasis) capacity, will refrain from taking any adverse positions to the Tribes in the media, in any litigation, or for the purpose of influencing any legislative body pertaining to the following….” Rushe then lists the water rights debate, and the NBR (National Bison Range) Transfer draft bill.

Suggestion of such a restriction on any individual’s right to free speech is repugnant.

For the record, Mr. Rushe is an attorney for the CSKT, and the drafter of Jon Tester’s S. 3013.

A copy of the complete letter written by Commissioner Decker can be found here.

Can you imagine the public outcry if this situation were reversed and Lake County attempted to get the CSKT Tribal Council to agree to sit down and shut up about anything?  We can.


It is an interesting thought, but a reasonable person cannot help but wonder if the CSKT have made or attempted to make any other similar agreements, and if so, with whom?

Perhaps with the media in exchange for advertising, or with state agencies and appointed or elected officials in Montana. How about our United States Congressional delegation?  Denny Rehberg went the dark money route, but how about Jon Tester who gladly introduced S.3013, written by tribal attorneys?

But alas, it is more likely that drinking the tribal sovereignty kool-aid makes such agreements unnecessary for the most part.

After all, it is a reservation, and this is how the tribe does things “on the reservation.”

Just ask tribal attorneys Rhonda Swaney, and Ryan Rushe.

NOTE: If anyone has a copy, we would very much like to track down a copy of the proposed “mediation agreement” mentioned by Gale Decker in his memo.