NEW TOWN, N.D. (KXNET) — Questions from Indian landowners were answered on Wednesday at the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Q and A in New Town with topics ranging from minerals, royalties, and land rights.
North Dakota lands are rich with minerals and resources, and the same can definitely be said for our tribal lands.
And on Wednesday, some of the Tribal landowners got the chance to ask some questions and get some answers from the federal government.
One question many of the landowners are asking is why are they not receiving the correct amount of payout for their royalties.
Joletta Birdbear who is an allottee and one of these landowners, encourages land and mineral owners to speak up about these issues because they’re not alone.
“They should be getting paid for their property in a timely manner as happens off the reservation. There is a difference between what happens here on Fort Berthold in processing mineral payments in comparison to off the reservation. And that is an issue that is probably almost a civil rights issue because it is a difference in how people are treated,” said Joletta Birdbear, an individual allottee oil mineral owner.
The Office of Natural Resources works with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which approves and issues Indian leases, facilitates the leasing process, and ensures minimum requirements are met for Tribal land and everything being produced on them.
But overseeing the landowners is not always helping especially when it comes to actually receiving the royalty payment.
Marcus Wells, the owner of Marcus Wells LLC, is representing mineral owners to make sure they get the payment they earned and not adjusted payments, which are often way less than originally agreed upon.
“They should just report what that person is getting paid for whether it be for Swede oil, or gas, or residuals. That way they can quickly look down and see if they are getting their fair payment for the oil and gas that was produced,” said Wells.
Wells’s concern is mostly with the oil and gas leases and when he looks at the receipts, he reports there’s a problem.
In 2016 and 2017 this is what happened:
“But when we matched up our production they were the same but when matched up what people were getting paid it was different. Our people want to get paid what pro rata was. Pro rata just means how much percentage of ownership. If you own 50% and there is 5,000 barrels you get paid for 2,500 barrels. But most shares are 5%, 10%, 12% and there is nobody following that through,” said Wells.
Wells said he used to work with the Bureau of Indian Affairs in 2004.
There were a good amount of workers then but now, there is hardly anyone working, or anyone available to help.
There is not enough workforce to help papers move quicker for owners to get their royalties sooner.
Wells is working hard to receive the money that the tribes and individual mineral owners have not received from oil production, our wells have already seen.
In addition to royalties these landowners need to receive another concern has to deal with taxes.
According to the landowners there, many are being taxed on their trust income which they say is not supposed to happen.
This issue has been addressed and noted by the federal government too.