Blog

As Protesters Continue Opposition to Dakota Access, Another N.D. Tribe Enjoys Prosperity Brought By Pipelines

Penny Starr
By Penny Starr | December 5, 2016 | 3:28 PM EST

Mark Fox is sworn in as chairman of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation on Wednesday, Nov. 5, 2014 in New Town, N.D. Fox defeated tribal attorney Damon Williams by fewer than 150 votes in the Nov. 4 election. Fox says he hopes to restore transparency to tribal government on the oil rich Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. (AP Photo/Josh Wood)

Native Americans and other activists vow to continue their protest over the final stretch of the Dakota Access pipeline under the Lake Oahe near Standing Rock, N.D., but at another reservation in the state, Native Americans are happy about the prosperity that pipelines have brought to their community.

“One hundred fifty miles up the Missouri River from Standing Rock, pipelines and pumpjacks are plenty on the Fort Berthold reservation,” an article posted on the Inside Energy website on Nov. 23 said.

“More than 4,000 miles of pipe carrying oil, natural gas and wastewater criss-cross the reservation in the heart of the Bakken oil patch,” the article said, noting that Fort Berthold is home to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara tribes — known as MHA Nation.

“We are in this oil play already,” Edmund Baker, tribal environmental director, said in the article. “We want to be able to do it responsibly. We want to be able to do it competently. We want to show other tribes that it can be done.”

“Many people on the reservation have found prosperity in the oil industry,” the article said, including T.J. Plenty Chief, who owns the Red Rock Trucking business that he started in 2012.

He said his business helps him support his nine children and that truck drivers in the oil fields can make $90,000 a year.

“Before the boom, I had to work a lot harder and work in other jobs I didn’t really care for as much, working at the casino or whatever,” Plenty Chief said in the article.

Inside Energy reports that even a decade ago there was no oil activity there, but now some 1,400 wells “dot the reservation” and that MHA’s own oil company, Missouri River Resources, operates several wells.

“We’re trying to create a nation that really sustains itself through economic development and through its own abilities,” CEO Dave Williams said in the article.

Williams said he calls this concept of self-sufficiency “economic sovereignty.”

“MHA Nation has brought in substantial money from oil production on its lands — $800 million in tax revenue since 2008, according to North Dakota’s tax commissioner’s office,” Inside Energy reported. “Plus, MHA Chairman Mark Fox said the nation’s collected $800 million in royalties.

The tribal nation has also built new apartments for residents, established a new health care system and made payments of $1,000 to each tribal member three times a year.

The article stated that that the nation, however, isn’t in favor of all proposed pipelines on their land.

“We are not against all pipelines,” Fox said, “but what we are against is when pipeline (companies) come onto Fort Berthold through other entities and think they are going to develop or utilize pipelines without the approval of our tribe.”

Inside Energy reported that the MHA Nation has tried to halt construction of two lines with a cease and desist order, but the pipeline company filed suit, and a federal judge allowed construction to continue because the company had necessary permits from the Army Corps of Engineers.

The case is still in court, according to Inside Energy.