June 8, 2012 Mandaree, ND Oil Traffics Blatant Disregard for Tribal Laws: Our People at RiskTweet
By: Twyla Baker-Demaray
The video you are watching was sent to me by Ruth Buffalo, a citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes, or TAT) from Mandaree, ND. As many know, the Three Affiliated Tribes and western North Dakota is experiencing one of the largest oil booms in history. While it has been a boon for some, for many, the fallout has been catastrophic. Housing was already an issue prior to the coming of the boom; the tribe now struggles to find homes for its approximately 4,000-person tribal population that resides on the reservation. Infrastructure has always been a challenge for our highly rural reservation; emergency services, roads, health care, law enforcement, and many more resources and services are being stressed far beyond the breaking point with the changes the boom has brought.
As you can hear in the video, Ms. Buffalo spotted four semis traveling through the Mandaree city limits on BIA Highway 12 Ms. Buffalo was able to catch the last two, which appear on the video. Roads into Mandaree are clearly posted stating that truck traffic is not allowed through town; most recently signs have been posted saying that a $1,000 fine will be levied for any oil trucks/semis caught taking Hwy 12. These signs are disregarded regularly, as you can see from the video. Enforcement is a serious issue for our reservation, as our police force must serve a people spread out over roughly 1 million acres in land segments separated by man-made Lake Sakakawea.
As reported in the Bismarck Tribune in September 2011, the state and local law enforcement agencies that police the reservation roads have been stymied by jurisdictional boundaries that keep them from enforcing criminal penalties. State and county agencies have little jurisdiction on the reservation, while Tribal authorities have no criminal jurisdiction over non-Native Americans.
The TAT Tribal Business Council took matters into their own hands at that time, and passed a civil motor vehicle code on Aug. 11, 2011. On Sept. 14, 2011, the tribe passed a special resolution, named for four people killed in a crash on the reservation.
The Tribune reported that On Sept. 11 (2011), a truck under contract with Wylie Bice trucking of Killdeer and driven by Alvin Martinez, of Vernal, Utah, collided with a pickup driven by Sarah Darlene Johnson, 21, on Highway 22 near Mandaree. Johnson, along with Gracie May Canyon Fox, 5, Layla Little Owl, 2, and Adrian Ross Little Owl, 26, were killed in the crash. (Bismarck Tribune, Sept. 22, 2011 Three Affiliated Tribes Enact Motor Vehicle Code.)
Enforcement of said laws and resolutions appears to be the greatest shortfall, however, as we see with the video taken by Ms. Buffalo. This and a great many other incidents occur daily and are now something that the residents of Fort Berthold and the rest of western North Dakota simply attempt to prepare themselves for when they hit the road. Anecdotal reports of aggressive driving, near-miss accidents, and even bullying and road hogging by truck drivers working for oil companies are commonplace on Fort Berthold, with little recourse for its citizens. This footage and this article will hopefully serve to shed some light on a truly deadly problem the people of Fort Berthold and western North Dakota face, each time they take the wheel in their own homeland.