Yellow Bird: Oil on the Fort Berthold Reservation
"In less than three months, the last time I was home, the scene on the Fort Berthold reservation in western North Dakota has changed dramatically.

We are standing on a precipice. The oil boom is here, and we are at a point of great change. How we work through that change will determine our future.

This isn’t the first North Dakota oil boom, but it is first time the discovery targeted the Fort Berthold reservation. In the early ’60s, there was oil across the Missouri River in the Williston Basin west of New Town. Many of those rigs stopped pumping for some reason — either the price didn’t make it worthwhile or the wells were exhausted. The tribe is taking over some of these oil units. They are repairing and making them work again.

As luck would have it, I was able to hitch a ride with some tribal people on one of their trips out to the wells to see for myself. I was able to do that because my brother, Don, also works for the Three Affiliated tribes. And as his older sister, I outrank him.

J.D. Smith, tribal field inspector, drove for us. Smith has years of experience in working those wells. He started as a “roughneck” and worked the rigs until he had an accident. Tongs at one site snapped and severely injured his face, he said. He was hired by the tribe and is adamant about oil well and drilling safety. I can see how important he is to oil projects on the reservation.

The dangers on and around a wells site are numerous. Poisonous gases, explosions, falls and getting caught in equipment are just some of the things workers worry about."

Get the Story:
North Dakota at point of great change at precipice of oil boom (The Grand Forks Herald 5/24)

More Dorreen Yellow Bird:
Yellow Bird: Recycle and live lightly on the Earth (5/12)
Yellow Bird: Leaps in America's multiracial society (5/7)
Yellow Bird: Diversity in the United States (5/5)
Yellow Bird: Pollution a threat to North Dakota (4/30)
Yellow Bird: Program graduates Indian nurses at UND (4/21)
Yellow Bird: Recovering from brain aneurysm surgery (4/17)
Yellow Bird: A fight for oil on the reservation (03/31)
Yellow Bird: Excitement in North Dakota's weather (3/26)
Yellow Bird: Thoughts on Sen. Obama and race (3/24)
Yellow Bird: Pray for rain in western North Dakota (3/19)
Yellow Bird: Grandchildren are the greatest gift (3/17)
Yellow Bird: UND powwow survives budget woes (3/10)
Yellow Bird: Stereotypes and Hillary Clinton (3/5)
Yellow Bird: Celebrating 125 years of UND history (3/3)
Yellow Bird: High hopes for Indian health bill (2/28)
Yellow Bird: More Plains foods that are good for you (2/25)
Yellow Bird: Chokecherries, the wonder fruit (2/20)
Yellow Bird: Sadness on a trip to Standing Rock (2/18)
Yellow Bird: It's time for a change in music (2/11)
Yellow Bird: 'Sioux' drives Indian students away (2/7)
Yellow Bird: Another cold January in North Dakota (1/30)
Yellow Bird: Tribal casinos should be alcohol free (1/28)
Yellow Bird: Race and gender in presidential race (1/23)
Yellow Bird: Barack Obama is my choice for 2008 (1/16)
Yellow Bird: Artman right on off-reservation gaming (1/9)
Yellow Bird: Barack Obama's big win in Iowa (1/7)