Yellow Bird: There's good and bad in oil development
"I spent last week looking into the oil boom on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation — for a news story, yes, but also for my own information. I want to look a little closer at the potential effects of the oil revenue on the people on the reservation.

Many of the allottees (landowners) on the reservation who’ll have land with a well pumping and spouting oil are just one category of many owners. Many years ago, after Christopher Columbus and the Little Big Horn battle but before SUVs, the federal government — in its infinite wisdom — decided that American Indians shouldn’t live in villages on reservations but have their own land, build houses and raise chickens and crops.

So, when you hear the people at Fort Berthold are up to their ears in oil revenue, know that it’s a lot of revenue but also a lot of ears.

I have to smile at my sisters and brother. We didn’t get large sums, but a windfall of a couple of thousand dollars is still a windfall, and we appreciated it. We quickly used it to pay bills, and life is now back to our old ways.

So far, my family didn’t follow the lead of another man on the reservation, who quit his job in anticipation of a big oil payoff. He still is waiting. Not all land on the reservation has been leased for oil.

The Three Affiliated Tribes still are at the leasing-for-bonuses stage. As I understand it, the oil companies leasing on the reservation now have cleared the leases and designated where they will drill, but no drilling has begun.

Unfortunately, getting a good, true and fair answer isn’t easy because there are so many agencies having their say.

I suspect it’ll be a different story when the leasing phase is over, and the oil revenue flows — and again, there will be fewer who’ll be the lucky ones to see big oil royalties."

Get the Story:
Dorreen Yellow Bird: Oil will bring bad as well as good (The Grand Forks Herald 5/31)

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