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Blackfeet Public Information Officer James McNeely noted the abundant smoke pouring into Blackfeet Country this week and said Air Quality Director Tony Sinclair rates it at “unhealthy red,” calling for restricted activities outdoors. While some of the smoke is coming from the West Coast, one incident, the Drumming Fire, is closer to the Blackfeet Reservation.

“It’s still not on the Reservation,” McNeely said on Monday morning. “It’s about five miles southwest of the border near Heart Butte.” 

Reassuringly, the path of the Drumming Fire goes into an area that was burned recently which will almost certainly keep it from entering the town and should burn itself out. Currently, he said the U.S. Forest Service out of Helena is working with Blackfeet Fire Management and Incident Command in monitoring the blaze.

The stipend checks for support during the COVID-19 emergency are being mailed starting Sept. 9, McNeely said. The Tribe is sending out two batches of checks per day. In light of the pandemic, they decided not to allow in-person check pickups. All the checks will be mailed instead.

Meanwhile, all the restrictions announced earlier remain in place. While there may be changes coming in the future, McNeely said Incident Command is watching the CDC and IHS, as well as the state for guidance. 

As of Sept. 13, McNeely said there were 13 active cases on the Reservation, a number he said compares favorably with other locations in Montana.

Finally, in what he said he hopes is a “return to normalcy,” McNeely announced the Homecoming and Native American Heritage Parade will be held a week from this Friday at noon on Sept. 25. Parade routes are posted in this week’s edition and will be published again next week. 

Folks are encouraged to keep in family groups around their vehicles on the route. There will not be floats with crowds of folks on them this year, he added.

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