Interior Department reverses 2020 ruling that stripped Tribe of riverbed ownership

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The Department of Interior has reversed an opinion that gave ownership of the Missouri Riverbed on the Fort Berthold reservation to the state.

Since the 1930s, opinions from the U.S. Department of Interior have said the Missouri River, where it crosses through the reservation, belongs to the Tribe. The now overturned May 2020 opinion stripped that right away from the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

In a statement Monday, Interior officials said that ruling under the Trump administration did away with decades of existing precedent, and the reversal will allow the department to review the issue.

MHA Nation, under Chairman Mark Fox, filed two federal lawsuits last summer as more than $100 million in mineral royalties hang in the balance.

The Chairman says it unclear at this point what the reversal means for those cases.

“Now that the determination has been made, will there be a need to continue on with the case? Will the case, you know, be dropped or concluded?” posed Chairman Fox. “We don’t know.”

“Basically, we call on the state to, you know, to defer or to stop itself from trying to use any means of asserting ownership over what has belonged to us for thousands of years,” he added.

Chairman Fox says he expected the Interior Department to review the opinion, but he was surprised and excited by how quickly it took place.

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