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Bakken Oil: An Elder Speaks To Power

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The BIA is allowing these lucrative agreements between the oil companies and the BIA"knowing that it was not fair market value"The Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Office of Trust Services have failed in their fiduciary responsibilities to the enrolled members of the tribe.

The BIA did not respond.  

August 1, 2008, the Governing Body of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation passed a Resolution that noted:  

WHEREAS the Three Affiliated Tribes has become aware of the possibility of the assignment or "flipping" of allottee mineral leases without the consent of the  Allottee Mineral Owners and with little or no additional compensation to the  Allottee Mineral Owners"Three Affiliated Tribes Tribal hereby request the Bureau of Indian Affairs - Fort Berthold Agency to amend the standard Oil and Gas Mining Lease for Fort Berthold to include the following provisions. (h) Assignment of lease. Except as provided herein, Lessee agrees that it shall not assign any interest in this Lease except (i) with the written consent of the Lessor; (ii) with the approval of the Secretary of Interior; and (iii) for any consideration received by the Lessee for any assignment of any interest contained under the Lease, the Lessor shall be entitled to eighty percent (80%) of any additional consideration. . . .

The BIA ignored the request, according to court documents.  

There is a poignant passage in the complaint that does not read so much as a legal statement of fact, but more as a moral call to arms. Reminding the Court of the USA's historical failures to protect and preserve land at Fort Berthold, the complaint resurrects the specter of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark. Sakakawea, who is immortalized on the US dollar coin, was a Hidatsa woman (kidnapped from the Shoshone) who guided and interpreted for Lewis and Clark. A Mandan chief, Ankedoucharo or Acitaneeshnu (Eagle Feather), escorted Lewis and Clark back to Washington, D.C. where he died and was buried in Richmond. Virginia.

The Two Shields federal class action lawsuit was ultimately closed and dismissed  when the court ruled that the plaintiffs were already involved in a similar a class action suit pending in District Court for the District of Columbia in Cobell, et al. v. Salazar, et al.  

The plaintiffs had not opted out of this similar class action suit that was eventually settled in December of 2012. 400,000 Native Americans from numerous tribal groups received $1,000 checks.

On August 1, 2013, the Claims Administrator mailed letters detailing its second determination of eligibility to all persons who filed a request for reconsideration in Cobell v. Salazar. See this website for updates on the trust fund.  

Doing Things in the Right Manner

"Our organization is not pro-development nor are they anti-development. But they are for doing things in a right manner," Marilyn said as we studied several documents with her. "So many of our regulations are being wiped away in this rush to harvest the oil."

"Did you see the March issue of National Geographic?"  We had just asked Marilyn for directions to Thunder Butte, a sacred site and also the name of a refinery scheduled for construction on the reservation. But that is another story. The photo she wanted us to see said it all. A lined pit containing borehole and fracking wastewater festered at the base of Thunder Butte.

Open wastewater pit at Base od Sacred Site by National Georgraphic

As I bent over the photo and literally rubbed elbows with Marilyn, I thought about a something I heard activist and orator Winona LaDuke say in the introduction to a film produced by the Sacred Land Film Project.


"Sacred places are like the spiritual recharge areas. Where we are not only always careful, but prayerful." (00:48)  

Discussion around Marilyn's kitchen table centered on lack of up-to-date health data for the tribe, lack of funds for the struggling Fort Berthold Community College, which is under threat of losing its accreditation.  

Road deterioration, accidents, noise, and the ever-present haze of dust in the air relate directly to health concerns. The "Halliburton Loophole," which exempts oil companies from some provisions of the Clean Water Act threatens already dwindling clean water supplies.  

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Georgianne Nienaber is an investigative environmental and political writer. She lives in rural northern Minnesota, New Orleans and South Florida. Her articles have appeared in The Society of Professional Journalists' Online Quill (more...)

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Three years ago estimates indicated 577 billion ba... by Georgianne Nienaber on Sunday, Sep 8, 2013 at 1:00:48 PM