Barriers to Justice: MHA Nation Chairman outlines a path to increased autonomy

Local News

According to more than a dozen sources included in our week-long series, “Barriers to Justice,” the solution to justice and equality for Native Americans in North Dakota is increased sovereignty.

As a former U.S. Attorney told us in December, there has been movement in this direction since the 1970s, when the federal government began recognizing Tribes as their own nations. For the last 50 years, each Tribe has been growing and determining its own path, many creating tribal councils for the first time.

Chairman Mark Fox says for the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, the road to independence means moving their government to more closely mirror that of the U.S.

He tells us, in his final two years as Chairman, his top priority is to make a couple more revisions to the Tribe’s Constitution, including creating a three-branch government with a separation of powers and setting term limits.

Fox says he also pictures a tribal judiciary that will handle all tribal and federal cases.

“One of the branches would be an attorney general elected by our membership at large, and then underneath the attorney general would be our court system and law enforcement and making sure that both tribal and federal laws are followed the way they’re written and designed to be carried out. And so that would be a separate governmental authority that would have a huge autonomy to the rest of the council (or the executive or legislative branches). But there would still, like the United States government, be checks and balances,” Chairman Fox explained.

He says he’s been advocating for this even before taking up his current position. The MHA Tribal Council still has to adopt these changes before any tribal law can be changed.

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