Lt. Gov. Angela McLean attended a Main Street Montana Project meeting at Stone Child College in Rocky Boy's Indian Reservation Thursday, looking for feedback from the community.
Main Street Montana Project is an initiative from Gov. Steve Bullock that aims to vitalize communities around Montana. The project creates relationships between communities and state government to kickstart economic development, including on reservations.
"We want to get feedback directly from the Rocky Boy community," McLean said.
At Rocky Boy, McLean's crew opened up conversation about what those at the meeting thought Rocky Boy needed most to help the area move along economically. Attracting and retaining businesses and education were some of the more popular choices of those in the audience.
McLean said that the most important part of the project is to get the government and the tribes talking to each other so that they may better know what the tribes need.
She said that she thought the meeting on Fort Belknap Indian Reservation Wednesday was good and the state opened up communication with the community.
"There was a really good exchange of dialogue that took place (at Fort Belknap)," McLean said. "We need to make sure we maintain the dialogue. A big part of this is we need to make sure the communication lines are open."
McLean said that once they identify the major common needs of the community and the best ways to help them, they will be going back to them.
She added that one of the biggest issues they are hearing in their traveling meetings is the need to train and educate the citizens of the reservations.
McLean said she hopes the time people put into the meetings will be easily translated into real initiatives in the tribes that will boost their economies.
Casey Lozar, the director of the State Tribal Economic Development Committee, said the meetings at Rocky Boy and Fort Belknap went well.
"We did a good job in reading interest from the community to participate in the conversation to identify some focus areas," Lozar said. He added that they spoke of the challenges the community of Rocky Boy faces and looked at opportunities to move the economy forward and kickstart economic development on the reservation.
"The individuals at the meeting are the ones who are moving everything," Lozar said.
Lozar said in Fort Belknap, they held their meeting at the Aaniiih Nakoda College and had a good mixture of people there. He added that they end up at tribal colleges often because tribal colleges are big forces in tribal communities in pushing for economic development in the areas.
The STEDC travels to tribal lands all over Montana and will be going to urban areas where there are high populations of Native Americans who are working on starting businesses and other economic initiatives.
McLean and her crew will be heading to Fort Peck next, on July 15.
"It's going to be a pretty large meeting," Lozar said. "We've been anticipating the conversation for weeks now."