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Heitkamp an Asset for Indian Country

A column by Delvin Cree about Heidi Heitkamp.
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Several Indian tribes in North Dakota will soon pay more attention to the many energy resources we have in this state and on tribal lands.

So far the non-Indian population has benefited from a number of the state's energy opportunities by tapping into our natural resources—many which have come in the form of coal, wind energy and most notably, oil and gas exploration. There's additional minerals which have been beneficial to the state and thus far, the American Indian population has been struggling to be part of this profitable industry.

As tribal communities search for solutions; state, federal and other entities need to collaborate more with the state's tribal population in their efforts of being part of a sustainable environment.

One leader who will help tribe's in finding ways to improve relations is Heidi Heitkamp. Tribes need to make her the next United States Senator.

Heitkamp is campaigning hard to occupy the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by North Dakota's DFL Senator Kent Conrad, another democratic leader who has supported Indian causes. Conrad currently sits on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington.

In a State which is home to five reservations, Heitkamp, the former attorney general has been working hard to attract the votes of the state's tribal communities. The state has about 40,000 tribal members.

If elected, one of the priorities Heitkamp will do, is gain a seat on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs in Washington and continue her efforts of advocating for the American Indian population—much like Kent Conrad has done for Indian country. Heitkamp will also be a great asset when creating better tribal communities which has been plagued with a number of problems; many which have been ignored by politicians not honoring our sovereignty status and treaty/trust obligations.

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In her campaign pitches, Heitkamp has pointed out she is a supporter of reducing our dependence on foreign oil by producing more domestic energy sources like oil and natural gas. The state of North Dakota is one of the largest oil producers in the country. The state sits above the Bakken Formation and other oil and gas formations. This same area includes tribal lands.

Heitkamp is also supportive of renewable energy such as wind energy and solar power.

One thing to note, North Dakota tribes should be able to gain more benefits associated with the energy industry such as additional employment opportunities, economic development, infrastructure and further education. Elected officials and tribal communities should continue working with all interested parties within the energy industry to protect the environment.

Heitkamp on September 24, 2012 attended the Turtle Mountain Native Vote Launch event and presented her priorities if elected. She outlined the many areas she will represent North Dakota tribes in Washington. She and other DFL candidates enjoyed an evening of entertainment which consisted of traditional performers as well as other performances. In one of her remarks she stated, " I will always remember you! I will do everything in my powers to make things better for you!"

Recently she passed through Turtle Mountain a second time while on her final campaign tour. A couple of her prior visits in North Dakota included the Standing Rock and Fort Berthold reservations. Another stop was at Spirit Lake Nation.

Heitkamp and her crew have been busy campaigning hard throughout the state. The recent polls say she and her opponent, Republican Rick Berg, are head to head. Prior polls have stated she has been in the lead. Tribe's are hopeful and are confident she'll pull through and win.

Heitkamp will represent tribal communities well and she knows the issues. Having Heitkamp as senator in Washington would benefit Tribes in North Dakota.

Delvin Cree is the former oil and gas specialist for the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa. He is also a freelance journalist.