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JoVonne Wagner
Buffalo’s Fire

MISSOULA, Mont.– Tex Hall, a former chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, enters the race in 2022 answering a call to bring representative leadership to the TAT Tribal Business Council. If elected, this would mark a fourth term for Hall.

Hall told Buffalo’s Fire he’s been listening to tribal citizens of the Fort Berthold Reservation. He said they want tribal government accountability and need greater representation for water and land owner rights. Hall said he will address citizen concerns about the current tribal administration, which has failed to bring transparency to the people of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation.

“They're really upset about it and they want change,” said Hall. “I was fine. I ran three times. I been there and did that. They told me that ‘this is a runaway train where we lost our rights and we want you to run, return our rights back to us.’”

In addition to addressing wayward natural resource codes, Hall is asking the people to support the creation of a general council through a constitutional amendment. This new legislative body would oversee funding and the budget of the Tribal Business Council. MHA citizens – who would comprise the general council -- would be able to vote on spending and other issues.

“You need to have a voice and a place at the table and a general council will put you at the table,” he said. “You decide. Not seven members of a tribal council who are not listening to you. That's what I'm standing for. It will be defended and I’ll give you that opportunity to get back your rights.”

(Related: 2022 tribal council elections so far)

Hall belongs to the Ah Waa Xaii, or the Dripping Dirt Clan. He’s also a long-time resident of Mandaree, N.D., a community on the west side of the Fort Berthold Reservation. He’s previously served as MHA Nation chairman for three terms. In addition, Hall’s held key leadership positions across Indian Country, including serving as president of the National Congress of American Indians. He’s officially registered to seek his fourth term as chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

Hall graduated from the University of Mary with a bachelor’s of science degree. He earned his master’s degree in education administration from the University of South Dakota. He put his academic experience to work in the public school system for 13 years where he worked as a coach, principal and superintendent.

It’s been eight years since he served in the Three Affiliated Tribe’s chairman role. Today, he’s a small business owner, rancher and president of the Fort Berthold Allottee Land & Mineral Owners Association. As an allottee spokesman, Hall has been addressing allotted landowner and water rights stripped away by the tribal government.

In 2019, the TAT Tribal Business Council approved and adopted the Tribal Water Use and Administration Code. The water code resolution states the tribe has duty effectively manage and protect the Fort Berthold Reservation's water resources.

Hall takes issue with current tribal council leaders who voted on the water code that allegedly allows them to take control over water resources on the reservation. Tribal allottees now need a permit from the Tribal Water Resource Commission. Hall told Buffalo’s Fire the tribal council did not have consent from landowners and that the code has never been approved by the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

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As a result of the unapproved code, Hall explained that companies are now told the tribe is selling water. Businesses now need to contract water resources directly through the tribe’s Section 17 operation and the Tribal Water Resources Commission. The process has interfered with tribal landowners use of water resources for private business.

“It's illegal,” said Hall. “It's an unconstitutional taking. The tribal council has no authority to have an illegal taking without consent or compensation of your water.”

In addition, tribal leadership has allowed trespass to occur on allottee lands. This happens when flat hoses are allowed to cross allotted lands without a valid right of way. The tribe is using the rural water pipeline to sell water to fracking companies.

The chairman candidate told Buffalo’s Fire he would dissolve the tribe's existing water code and work toward quantifying water rights to ensure future sustainability for the MHA Nation. By establishing a better, fair and equitable water permit system, landowners would be able to sell their own water to vendors such as oil companies.

As president of the Fort Berthold Allottee Land & Mineral Owner Association, Hall has helped lead landowners in battle against the Tesoro High Plains Pipeline, a subsidiary of Marathon Petroleum Corp.

“The Fort Berthold landowners, 400 landowners, have fought against Marathon&'s nine-plus plus years of trespass while they've made billion dollar profits and enriched themselves unjustly at our expense,” he said. Allotted landowners “had to fight against Big Oil and the BIA who endorsed an unjust compensation.”

Furthermore, he said, the Tribal Business Council and Mark Fox administration signed an ill-fated contract with Tesoro High Plains Pipeline. During contract negotiations, the tribe used allottee land – without allottee input – to reap a higher rate per acre compared to allottees.

The Tesoro pipeline trespass that began in 2013 ended in defeat last month. Marathon, the BIA and Tribal Business Council failed to get the 51 percent signatures required for new ROW, said Hall. In an Aug. 29 letter to landowners, the Bureau of Indian Affairs acting superintendent Rick Clifford wrote: “Settlement discussions to resolve the trespass and for a grant of a new right of way have ended.”

It’s been a long battle, said Hall, one that’s not over: “So now we pursue the damages claim separately, then a new 20-year right of way.”

The primary elections for the MHA Nation will be held September 20. For any questions concerning polling locations or the election, contact the Tribal Election Board at (701) 627-6135.

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This article was first published by Buffalo's Fire and appeared in AP Storyshare.