A.J. Not Afraid on Helping Save Montana Coal and Boosting Crow Economy


When President Donald J. Trump was introducing Alvin “A.J.” Not Afraid at the White House, he referred to him as “a man whose name I want to use.” That was in November of 2019 when Not Afraid and other tribal leaders met with Trump when he introduced an executive order establishing the Task Force on Missing and Exploited Native Americans. The photo-op between Trump and Not Afraid was no mere ceremony, however. The Crow Chairman has been working around-the-clock to help the Crow Tribe solve various problems with creativity and courage. And one of these problems – a lurking one – is how to deal with the drastic cut in coal revenue to funds many different governmental programs and grants that aid the well-being of the Crow.

The Montana Daily Gazette has broke several stories about this that have since gone viral, ostensibly because it’s good news in what is mostly a negative news cycle. Amidst escalating COVID-19 figures, wrecked state economies, and widespread civil unrest, there is something positive going on that could provide solutions to environmental, economic, and energy problems and Chairman Not Afraid is at the very center of it. Not Afraid is working with Montana PSC Commissioner Randy Pinocci in a novel if not genius solution to Montana’s coal trouble.

As previously explained, the plan is simple; turn the world’s cleanest coal into America’s currency of foreign aid to curtail waste and help American allies while saving American jobs.

The Montana Daily Gazette spoke with Not Afraid about the Pinocci-Crow Plan to save coal and he explained the probable positive benefits of putting the plan into action with the cooperation of the federal government.

When asked about the potential benefits of the plan, Not Afraid said, “I believe that the increased revenue stream for both Montana and the Crow tribe and an increase in jobs is a great thing. Along with that will come an increase in electrical power for both Montana and the Crow tribe. Those factors are advantageous to us both.”

Not Afraid is certainly correct. Montana could definitely use the jobs in a post-Covid economy where people are still struggling. Both the Crow and Montanans from elsewhere stand to benefit greatly.

Referring to the skeptic who wonders if there’s really a market for coal with recent environmental concerns rising to the forefront, Not Afraid told the Gazette, “What we sometimes fail to see is that as coal plants are going down in the United States, they’re going up internationally. We are also seeing that the cost of electricity on the rise because coal is a more affordable and economically feasible source for energy.”

The chairman said, “It creates a stimulus in Montana communities to offsets a lot of cost for judicial needs, the police force, domestic programs for youth, the Boys and Girls Club, and various services to the people.”

The program, as proposed by Pinocci, has many moving parts but each part seems to address a real-world need and provide a solution. It is, if anything, creative.

Not Afraid said, “This is creative problem-solving. As the population has grown, revenue has been on the decline. In coal revenue, we probably have a quarter of what we had ten years ago. But ten years ago, we had enrollment numbers at less than ten thousand. But now we’ve grown to 13 thousand. We rely on coal to provide those various streams of services.”

But the problems relating to a down-turn economy aren’t unique to the Crow. As Not Afraid pointed out, every community suffers when it can’t provide services.

He asserted, “You can compare us to any community in the United States. If they don’t have revenue coming in, how do you tax that? You really can’t. And that means you can’t provide services for something like rehab or treatment. But if you can’t help provide rehab or treatment, your need for community services just grows. For us, coal is a major source of this funding and without it, we are at a disadvantage.”

Not Afraid added, “I believe that with the Trump Administration supporting coal, it’s a great solution because we give so much in tax dollars out to other countries. But what do we the taxpayer get out of this? Meanwhile, as important as it is to help Third World Countries, there are Third World Countries right here in the United States and we stand to help everybody.”

The Crow chairman explained what people could expect next for the process, saying, “The next step is formulating a gameplan with the U.S. and getting direction from the federal government on how to tread those waters. We have found various routes on the business end to deliver coal. And to deliver to the Asian market we need help opening up coal ports on the East Coast.”

When asked by the Gazette how many departments of the federal government would have to be involved, and listed were the Department of Commerce, the Department of Energy, and the State Department, Not Afraid said, “All of the above, because when you look at the law all those offices need to be engaged.”

It’s certainly important for the Crow Nation to have consistent leadership to navigate these upcoming challenges and affectively implement the Pinocci-Crow Plan. The tribe’s election is in October.


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