MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox says “it’s all about the money” for the state of North Dakota.
Over the summer, the Tribe sued the U.S. government over mineral rights under the Missouri River, with more than $100 Million already hanging in the balance.
Chairman Fox filed suits in both the Court of Federal Claims and the U.S. District Court for the District of North Dakota asking for their mineral rights back.
Since the 1930s, opinions from the Department of the Interior have said the Missouri River, where it crosses through the Fort Berthold Reservation, belongs to the Tribe.
In May, a new opinion overruled that and gave the land to the State.
Fox says MHA is a riverine Tribe, meaning their people rely on the flowing stream, and that has always been a part of their culture. It was also used to facilitate trade between tribes, which Fox says existed for thousands of years.
He says there was no choice but to file suit, and he and the Tribal Council have made it clear to the state, they are not willing to compromise.
“I hear people saying, ‘Why don’t you Native Americans pull yourself up by your bootstraps? Why don’t you do things for yourself? Quit depending on the federal government’. And when we do that, we assert our rights, we develop our economy, we thrived in our economy, we get stronger, then they say, ‘Woah, woah, woah. We didn’t mean that. Sit back down. Get back to your place,” Chairman Fox said.
“That’s one thing I won’t tolerate. And at the end of the day, you’ll see our reservation regained what it once had, that was taken away from us.”
Chairman Fox says the lawsuit could be resolved in a year or less, but he has a gut feeling it will take several years, including more appeals.