The Tribal Council of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians has preemptively banned the oil extraction process known as fracking on reservation lands. The move followed a presentation to the Tribal Council by a group called No Fracking Way Turtle Mountain Tribe, according to the Minot Daily News.
Carol Davis, a member of the group, described the presentation as "Fracking 101." "I know there's an oil boom and it's providing a lot of jobs," she added, "but we can't risk contaminating our water on the Turtle Mountain Reservation for the sake of money."
Fracking is the common term for hydraulic fracturing, a process by which oil or natural gas can be extracted from an unconventional source like shale buried deep below the earth's surface. In fracking, a mixture of water and chemicals is pumped into the shale at extremely high pressure, fracturing the rock and allowing oil to flow into the well.
The Turtle Mountain Band's tribal lands are in Rolette County, North Dakota, and sit above the massive Bakken shale formation.
The ban on fracking will have immediate impact on other recent actions taken by the Turtle Mountain Bureau of Indian Affairs. Another Minot Daily News story, published the same day that the Tribal Council passed its resolution, revealed that the tribe is preparing to accept sealed bids from oil and gas developers on 45,000 acres of allotted Tribal lands. The resolution states that the bids will still be accepted and remain sealed, and the companies will be informed that the fracking technique may not be used. It remains to be seen whether any will still be interested if fracking is off the table. "They have a right to cancel the bid," Davis said.