Why is the MHA Nation fighting for recognition of its property rights to the minerals below the Missouri River?
We are fighting to protect what is rightfully ours from any attempted theft. Ten times the federal government has recognized our property rights to the Missouri riverbed and the minerals below it. But on June 8, 2018, Department of Interior and North Dakota state officials issued a “Partial Suspension and Temporary Withdrawal” of the 2017 Department of Interior legal opinion that reaffirms our property rights to the minerals below the Missouri and riverbed on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. This means we are denied access to the oil revenue from the mineral resources below the river that are legally ours.
What is the history of the tribes’ ties to the Missouri River?
We are River people. For thousands of years, long before colonization, the Missouri River has been a part of Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara cultures and economies. The river was an economic trade center for our peoples, who lived, fished, traded and harvested vegetables, fruit, and plants for their social and economic needs. Even after our population was decimated, villages flooded, and people relocated, we survived because of our relationship with the River and its life-giving resources.
What is the tribes’ legal claim to property rights below the Missouri River?
The U.S. government has affirmed MHA Nation’s property rights to the minerals below the Missouri River 10 times. Beginning with the 1825 Treaty of Mandan, to the 1936 Legal “M” opinion by the Department of Interior (DOI), and more recently in 2017 with a supplemental Legal “M” opinion by the DOI Interior (see chronology for complete list).
How can MHA Nation’s property rights be recognized?
Federal and state governments must halt all attempts to deny what is rightfully ours and the DOI must affirm the 2017 supplemental “M” Opinion along with all prior legal agreements.
What is MHA Nation’s plan once its property rights are recognized?
Fighting for our property rights is about protecting our home. There is nothing more important than protecting our ancestral homelands and the Missouri River bottomlands where we have lived and survived for millennia. To become fully self-sufficient again, we must re-establish our own economies, generate our own power and export our own goods. The reaffirmation of our mineral rights by the current administration, and ability to realize revenues from these rights, would help make this possible.
Who is opposed to MHA Nation’s access to their rightful riverbed mineral resources?
Politics, and not facts, are at play. The U.S. and North Dakota governments are working to deny us our legal property rights in an attempt to take our revenues for the state of North Dakota.
What is happening with the current oil revenue from the riverbed minerals?
The revenue from the mineral extraction from below the Missouri River on Fort Berthold reservation is being held in a state account until the issue is resolved and “M” opinion affirmed. This prohibits the MHA Nation from being able to provide for its community and offset the extensive health and infrastructure disparities that result from ongoing oil and gas development.
Does MHA Nation support oil and gas development?
We are survivors who have seen our ways of life and our homes destroyed over the centuries. Our goal is to eliminate the practical need for federal dollars and live freely and independently as our ancestors once did. In order to become self-sufficient again, we must use the resources available to us in order to re-establish our economy and provide for our people, while also working to minimize impacts to our lands.
Once the tribes’ property rights are reaffirmed, what will MHA Nation do with the revenues?
Since 2008, the oil industry has brought great wealth to our region but it has also had a disproportionate impact on the health of our people and quality of our lands and infrastructure. To account for the disparities, the tribe invests in education, health, law enforcement and infrastructure in order to move towards wellness and self-sufficiency. MHA Nation built dental and kidney dialysis centers, invested more than $16 million in education, built veterans and elders centers, and opened a $25 million in-patient opioid treatment facility. The revenues from mineral resources afford us the opportunity to fund critical needs of our community.