As several U.S. states consider public bathroom policies similar to the one that passed in North Carolina this spring, a Native American reservation in Montana is facing criticism for passing its own version of the law. The Fort Peck Reservation in northeastern Montana has likely become the first Native American group to say that tribal members must use the public bathroom corresponding to their gender at birth.
On May 23, the executive board on the 2 million–acre reservation, which is home to roughly 10,000 members of the Assiniboine and Sioux tribes, passed a motion “regarding transgender use of public bathrooms to mirror the position the state of North Carolina has taken,” according to the minutes from the meeting, obtained by a local media outlet.
“What people do in their bedrooms is their business. How public bathrooms are used is [my] business,” Tribal Councilman Edward Bauer said during the meeting.
Bauer told a local outlet that the policy was meant to reinforce an existing one and also respond to the United States Department of Justice and Department of Education mandate in May that public schools must allow transgender students to use bathrooms for the gender with which they identify, not necessarily the one on their birth certificate. On May 25, 11 U.S. states sued the federal government to overturn that directive. The Fort Peck Reservation in Montana, where people are pictured here playing, approved of a bathroom policy similar to North Carolina’s recent legislation. Ellen Wulfhorst/REUTERS
“We just have a problem with male adults using bathrooms with young girls,” Bauer told the press. “We have enough problems here with death and drugs, so maybe we’re just a little protective…. I’m more concerned with being physically correct and protecting our children than being politically correct.”