US sends 16,000 offers to buy back tribal lands
The buyback program stems from the settlement of a nearly 17-year lawsuit over more than a century's worth of mismanaged trust royalties.
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#1 Mar 31, 2014
Land Grab Cheats North Dakota Tribes Out of $1 Billion, Suits Allege
Native Americans on an oil-rich reservation have been cheated out of more than $1 billion by schemes to buy drilling rights for lowball prices — and the federal government failed in its legal obligation to ensure a fair deal, lawsuits claim. This is a story as old as America itself, given a new twist by fracking and the boom that technology has sparked in North Dakota oil country. Since the late 1800s, the U.S. government has appropriated much of the original tribal lands associated with the Fort Berthold reservation in North Dakota for railroads and white homesteaders. A devastating blow was delivered when the Army Corps of Engineers dammed the Missouri River in 1953, flooding more than 150,000 acres at the heart of the remaining reservation. Members of the Three Affiliated Tribes — the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara — were forced out of the fertile valley and up into the arid and barren surrounding hills, where they live now. "Mr. Secretary, this company, Dakota-3, like the other companies in the oil business will turn around and sell the lease," wrote Russell Mason Sr., a tribal elder, to the Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs in a December, 2007 letter. "We are making a plea to you that you exercise your trust responsibilities.""T he United States has uniformly failed in its duties to the Indian landowners," states one lawsuit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. that was brought by tribal landowners seeking restitution for the Dakota-3 leases sold to Williams.
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