National Congress of American Indians statement on legal filing by Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation regarding illegal taking of Nation’s Missouri riverbed property rights

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Department of the Interior urged to immediately withdraw Solicitor’s Opinion M-37056 as an unwarranted threat to longstanding tribal trust assets

News Release

National Congress of American Indians

Yesterday, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (MHA Nation) took steps to prevent the illegal taking of the Nation’s property rights to minerals beneath the Missouri River on its Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota. The National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) holds firm its position in support of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation’s land and mineral rights, and has advocated for government-to-government consultation between the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation and the Department of the Interior’s Office of the Solicitor to confirm the longstanding Executive and Congressional actions declaring that the Missouri River bed within the Fort Berthold Reservation is owned by the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation.

“The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation’s rights to the Missouri River bed minerals have been reaffirmed through a history of longstanding, well-settled, and still applicable legal precedents, and there should be no question as to the validity of the Nation’s claims,” says National Congress of American Indians President Fawn Sharp. “We cannot reiterate strongly enough that consultation with tribal nations and upholding treaty obligations is not optional. It is mandatory.”

For these reasons, National Congress of American Indians urges the Department of the Interior to immediately withdraw Solicitor’s Opinion M-37056 as an unwarranted threat to longstanding tribal trust assets. The fiduciary obligation of the United States is to protect and preserve tribal trust assets in order to ensure tribal nations have the resources needed to provide permanent homelands for present and future generations of their citizens. Instead, M-Opinion 37056 does the opposite, and completely reverses course on the Department of the Interior’s longstanding legal position with little or no rationale for doing so. National Congress of American Indians stands with the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation in its fight to preserve its trust assets.

To view National Congress of American Indian’s resolution on this issue, please click here.

About the National Congress of American Indians

Founded in 1944, the National Congress of American Indians is the oldest, largest and most representative American Indian and Alaska Native organization in the country. National Congress of American Indians advocates on behalf of tribal governments and communities, promoting strong tribal-federal government-to-government policies, and promoting a better understanding among the general public regarding American Indian and Alaska Native governments, people and rights. For more information, visit www.ncai.org.

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