As a resident of Fort Berthold Reservation, I have mixed reactions to the actions taken by the Biden administration as they relate to tribal lands and Indigenous people.
The nomination of Deb Haaland, an enrolled citizen of the Pueblo of Laguna in New Mexico is an important step in having Indigenous representation in decision making positions. We hope when she is confirmed she will look at the tribal fossil fuel programs to ensure our sacred land, air and water is protected.
I cautiously support the leasing of BLM public minerals. Although the tribes are exempt from the pause in U.S. drilling federal program. For the past ten years Fort Berthold Reservation has been heavily extracted in the Bakken oil field. I support a full Environmental Impact Study (EIS) and a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) on Fort Berthold Reservation. These studies can determine the impact extraction is having on the health of the environment and the people. Health impacts such as drug use and distribution, and increased crime (including more murdered and missing indigenous women) need to be included in any HIA as they exploded with the heavy extraction of the Bakken. The government has an obligation to reevaluate the impacts of drilling on tribal lands and I urge the Biden administration to do so on Fort Berthold Reservation.
The U.S. government has trust responsibilities, the Interior Secretary must consider the rights and voices of Native Americans who are protected by national environmental laws. Oil and gas are onetime resources, they must be managed more wisely with strict laws, enforcement, and regulations so when they are extracted, they don’t kill the land or the people who will be around a lot longer than the oil and gas. I know we can do better.