A federal judge ordered First Interstate Bank Friday to unfreeze about $2.5 million in Crow tribal fund to Chairman A.J. Not Afraid after two other tribal officials asked the bank to suspend the account.
The order comes after Not Afraid and Vice Chair Carlson Goes Ahead made competing claims that each should be recognized as chair.
U.S. District Judge Susan Watters ordered First Interstate is restrained for two weeks from preventing Not Afraid from accessing the accounts. A hearing is scheduled for 9:30 a.m. Feb. 14 in Billings.
In her ruling, Watters noted that tribal members could suffer “serious harms” during this cold patch of winter without access to the accounts, which pay for heat, electricity, food, water and medical transport.
First Interstate Bank filed a complaint for interpleader on Feb. 1 amid the power struggle within the tribe, noting it could not determine who was in charge. The action was made at the request of Goes Ahead and Vice Secretary Shawn Back Bone, who were seeking to access the tribe’s money.
Goes Ahead and Backbone filed a recall petition on Jan. 3 and had argued that they had successfully removed Not Afraid. However, Not Afraid pointed to a Jan. 19 order from the Crow Tribal Court, which restrained Goes Ahead and Back Bone “from performing government functions or assuming and occupying the Chairman’s position, title or duty and or financial authority.”
Both Crow Attorney General Ron Arneson and the tribe’s legislative argued that Not Afraid was the legitimate chair and the bank was taking funds without proper authority.
In her order, Watters agreed.
“The Court respects the Crow Tribal Court’s orders,” she wrote.
Reporting by David Jay for MTN News