North Dakota Today, Washington State Tomorrow?



By: Water4fish


TAHOLAH, WA (5/6/15)– The exploding oil train near Heimdal, North Dakota early Wednesday morning serves as the latest reminder that the oil trains traveling the tracks here in Washington are unsafe, according to Fawn Sharp, President of the Quinault Indian Nation.

“This was just the latest in a series of oil train derailments that have resulted in crashes, followed by explosions, mountains of thick, black, toxic smoke and inevitable spills of poisonous oil that at some point make their always way into water systems, streams, rivers or marine waters,” she said.

  “Let there be no doubt. These trains are dangerous, and we are seeing more and more of them on our tracks all the time. Tribes are very concerned about them for many reasons. Not only do they jeopardize our citizens, because they are explosive and too heavy for the tracks they travel on; the oil that inevitably spills from them poisons our treaty-protected waters and aquatic resources. Also, fossil fuels are the primary cause of climate change. We all need to make some important decisions about the future.  Do we accept the major expansion of these poisonous fuels and the impacts they have on our environment, or do we opt to be good stewards of the land and work to phase them out and replace them with clean energy sources and wiser choices?”

 “These are our choices here in the Northwest, and in states across the country.  At Quinault Nation we have taken a stand against the proposed expansion of oil train traffic and terminals,” said President Sharp. Sharp is also President of the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, an organization of 57 Tribes encompassing six Northwest states, and Area Vice President of the National Congress of American Indians, a national organization of more than 500 Tribes.

This morning’s derailment is very similar in many ways to all the others, which have occurred in Alabama, Virginia, West Virginia and Pennsylvania, as well as numerous close calls, including Seattle, she said.  Cars run off the track, the tanks are pierced, and a spark ignites the highly volatile crude, which either comes from the North Dakota Bakken fields or oil sands in Alberta.

 In the case of this morning’s accident, a waterway known as the Big Slough runs north of the tracks near Heimdal and drains into the James River.

There were no reported injuries from the derailment of the BNSF train near Heimdal, thank God. All the residents of the tiny town did have to be evacuated, as did farms anywhere near this morning’s explosion. That was only a few dozen people. But it could have been Aberdeen, or Seattle. Then it would have been thousands, and timely evacuation could be a virtual impossibility.

 The National Transportation Safety Board sent five people the site, and the Federal Railroad Administration sent 10 investigators. But inspecting is about all they could do.  The fires caused by these explosions must burn themselves out. They’re simply too hot to handle. Some of the oil leakage could be stopped, but not much, said Sharp.

 Last week, federal regulators passed new safety rules governing crude by rail, which has become a booming business thanks to the growth in U.S. oil production. Nearly 450,000 tankers of crude moved through North America last year, up from just 9,500 in 2009.

 “The Washington State Legislature just passed a bill to enhance safety, as well, and although all safety efforts are welcome, the fact is they are not enough. The simple truth is there is no such thing as a safe oil train, no matter how strict safety standards might be.  Rail and bridge infrastructure is in desperate need of repair and renewal. But even if and when that is achieved, there will be absolutely no guarantee of safety,” she said.

“The only safe oil train is one that has no oil in it. And as painful as it may be for the oil industry to consider, the best option is to phase out the use of fossil fuels. That will take time. But this is a critical situation that needs more focus, and investment, now,” she said.

North Dakota Natives Win Eagle Feather Fight for Graduating Students

Change.orgA Native American group in North Dakota has won the fight for students to wear eagle feathers to graduation ceremonies.
A Native American group in North Dakota has won the fight for students to wear eagle feathers to graduation ceremonies.


Indian Country Today Media Network


After conversations with the Native American Parent Committee, a more than 20-year-old policy at Grand Forks Public Schools is changing and Native American students will be allowed to wear eagle feathers on their graduation tassels.

“We are in unanimous consensus that our district’s high schools will allow Native American students, who have earned the eagle feather honor, to wear their eagle feather attached to their cap’s tassel during high school graduation ceremonies,” says a letter to the committee from Dr. Larry P. Nybladh, superintendent of schools.

The social media world was happy about the change in policy as well. Leah Thaldorf @leahjoy0523said: “Thank you GF public schools for being willing to learn about why eagle feathers are sacred and a cultural right #LetTheFeathersFly.”

Others were proud of the Natives who stood up and made it happen. Dani @xodanix3said: “#LetTheFeathersFly is another example of Natives making things happen. When you stand up for what you believe, you can make change.”

In his letter, Nybladh even commented about the learning process. “The input received during the Native American Parent Committee meeting on January 14, 2015, regarding the sacred history, symbolism, and origin of the eagle feather is useful. In a follow-up meeting with my administrative staff who were in attendance at the meeting, I understand the meeting was an opportunity for constructive and meaningful dialogue.”

Before the decision was even made Tracy Jentz, Grand Forks Public Schools Communications Coordinator, told ICTMN that the “administration has a greater understanding of the eagle feather” after meeting with the committee. She said the meeting was “very informative” and that the parent committee provided information “about the significance and history of the eagle feather” that administrators had not been aware of before.

Other Twitter users thanked the school for the change. Twyla @Indigeniasaid: “As a former long-time resident of GF, I commend the @GFPublicSchoolsfor their decision. #RightSideOfHistory #LetTheFeathersFly.”



Native American populations ‘hugely at risk’ to sex trafficking

Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. Carrie Snyder / The Forum
Sadie Young Bird, the director of the Ft. Berthold Coalition of Domestic Violence, listens during a breakout session during the 2014 statewide summit on human trafficking put on by North Dakota FUSE at the Bismarck Civic Center in Bismarck, N.D. on Thursday, November 13, 2014. Carrie Snyder / The Forum


By Amy Dalrymple and Katherine Lymn, Forum News Service, Bismarck Tribune


NEW TOWN, N.D. – As the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation reels from the impacts of producing a third of North Dakota’s oil, the reservation must add human trafficking to its list of increasing hazards.

“We’re in crisis mode, all the time, trying to figure out these new ways, these new crises that are coming to us that we never thought we’d have to worry about,” said Sadie Young Bird, director of the Fort Berthold Coalition Against Violence. “No one was prepared for any of this.”

The Three Affiliated Tribes are implementing a new tribal law designed to combat human trafficking at Fort Berthold.

“I’m really hoping to send a message that we are not tolerating this on our reservation,” said Chalsey Snyder, a tribal member who helped draft the law.

Meanwhile, victim advocates and leaders of tribal nations in neighboring Minnesota and South Dakota worry about reports of American Indian women and girls being trafficked to the Bakken.

Suzanne Koepplinger, former executive director for the Minnesota Indian Women’s Resource Center, said she started to hear anecdotal stories in 2010 and 2011 about a boyfriend or friend telling women and girls, “Let’s go to North Dakota over the weekend and make some money.”

“Because of poverty and high rates of mobility with Native people, it’s not unusual for them to go up to White Earth for a party and then say, ‘Let’s just buzz over to North Dakota and see a friend of mine,’ and then she’s gang-raped over there,” Koepplinger said.

Since 2010, Indian girls in Minnesota have reported to service providers that family members or friends have tried to talk them into going to North Dakota.

“Their girls go missing and then show up in the North Dakota child protection system, or are picked up by law enforcement in Williston, Minot,” Koepplinger said.

Erma Vizenor, chairman of the White Earth reservation in western Minnesota, said sex trafficking of women and girls has been a concern there for a long time, and the proximity of North Dakota’s oil boom adds to that concern.

The White Earth DOVE Program (Down On Violence Everyday) has identified 17 adult victims of sex trafficking last year, said Jodie Sunderland, community advocacy coordinator.

The DOVE program received funding through the Minnesota Safe Harbor law and is connecting Indian youth who are victims of sexual exploitation with services. The efforts will include collaborations with Red Lake and Leech Lake reservations in northwest Minnesota.

The vulnerability of Indian populations to become victims of sex trafficking, particularly at Fort Berthold with the impacts of the oil boom, is a major concern, U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, D-N.D., said.

“The grooming of the candidate for trafficking tends to go to lower income, tends to go to kids who’ve been victimized in the past, so automatically that puts them in a category that is hugely at risk,” Heitkamp said during a discussion hosted by the McCain Institute for International Leadership and moderated by Cindy McCain.

Mark Fox, recently elected chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes, said he hears concerns about human trafficking at Fort Berthold from law enforcement and social services. He’s also noticed it himself.

“You can’t help but sometimes, walking around the casino, you see individuals who would be highly suspect,” Fox said.

Young Bird, whose program has seen a significant increase in domestic violence victims, has assisted some sex trafficking victims, although the women and girls don’t usually identify themselves as victims. Some have returned to South Dakota reservations, she said.

“We see that most of the human trafficking victims want to leave, they just want to get out, they want to go back to where they came from, they want to go back somewhere safe,” Young Bird said.

The domestic violence program, which has a new shelter in Mandaree and a new safe house elsewhere in the Bakken, primarily serves Indian women, but also will serve non-tribal members.

A meth epidemic on the reservation contributes to the violence Young Bird sees, including more severe sexual assaults.

“You can tell when there’s no meth around and you can tell when there’s a new shipment of meth around. The severity is worse when the meth is gone,” Young Bird said. “When the new shipment comes, it’s more that they head out and they leave and they leave their family with nothing. They spend all the money. Then when the wife is asking for money, that’s when the violence occurs.”

Heroin is a major problem for the reservation, too, she said. In one sex trafficking case, the pimp kept the woman compliant using heroin, Young Bird said. The woman did not want to press charges.

“They all want to leave. They don’t want to stay around. And we can’t force them. We’re the advocates; we’re not law enforcement. We’re there to support people,” she said.

A recent law change will allow the tribal court to prosecute human trafficking cases that don’t rise to the level of being charged in U.S. District Court.

“This law allows our reservation to take back ownership and take back the prosecution and penalties,” Snyder said.

The law is called Loren’s Law in memory of Loren White Horne, a behavioral health specialist from Fort Berthold who used to deal with sexual abuse and sexual assault cases on the reservation. White Horne was a driving force behind raising awareness about trafficking and working toward a new law before she died in a vehicle accident in 2013, said Snyder, who continued her work.

The law also requires defendants to pay for any expenses incurred by the victim, such as drug abuse treatment.

“These victims can seek help and they can get help without having to worry about any financial obligations,” Snyder said, if the convicted trafficker has resources or such resources were seized.

Statistics show that minorities represent a disproportionate amount of sex trafficking victims.

That has been true in South Dakota, where the U.S. Attorney’s Office has prosecuted sex trafficking cases involving several dozen victims. About half of those victims were American Indian women and girls.

In most cases, the victimization did not occur on the reservations, but in Sioux Falls and other larger cities.

“Most often, it is girls and some women who come from the reservation to Sioux Falls,” said. U.S. Attorney Brendan Johnson. “When they are here, if they’re coming without a lot of resources, they’re often targeted by these guys.”

Transparency a focus of North Dakota tribal election

By Josh Wood, Associated Press

NEW TOWN, N.D. (AP) – In just a few years, oil development has transformed North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Indian Reservation from a place where unemployment was rampant to an area where open job listings drone on for minutes on the local radio station between drum songs and public service announcements.

Tribal business council chairman Tex Hall has been at the helm of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, known as the Three Affiliated Tribes, for the bulk of the boom. Hall, also former president of the National Congress of American Indians, previously served as the tribes’ chairman from 1998 to 2006 before being re-elected for a third term in 2010.

On Sept. 16, the tribes will hold a primary election to determine the two candidates who will meet in the Nov. 4 election for chairman. Out of 10 candidates who filed to run, half were disqualified by the election board, though several are appealing those decisions.

The tribe’s spokeswoman did not respond to several requests for an interview with Hall about the election.

Many of his opponents in the chairman’s race, including tribal attorney Damon Williams and tribal business council member Ken Hall, are calling for more openness in tribal government.

“The people are looking for a change in leadership, they really are,” Ken Hall said. “They want transparency, they want to know and they have the right to know.”

Some are wary of the potential environmental impact of rapid oil development and also question the personal business dealings of council members.

Williams said revenue has steadily increased over the past several years, but no one knows where the money’s going.

“I think that’s a question every enrolled member has to ask,” he said.

Fort Berthold produces more than 300,000 barrels of oil a day – nearly one third of North Dakota’s total production and a figure that would rank the reservation among the top oil producers in the nation if it were a state.

Marcus Levings, a former chairman who was defeated by Hall in 2010, is one of the candidates appealing his disqualification from the primary. Though he believes the tribe does need to be more transparent and develop a plan for its newfound wealth, he acknowledged that problems were likely inevitable.

“The council have done, what I believe any council would have done with new money – they purchased and they approved development that came in front of them,” he said. “Now is the time for a long-range plan that we knew how to do and we’ve always done but we had no money.”

Like most of the tribes’ 14,000 or so enrolled members, Charles Hudson lives off the reservation. It is almost impossible to know what is happening on Fort Berthold, he said.

“I’m looking for a tribal chairman and council that takes a more comprehensive approach to the needs of our people: education, health, the environment and economic development, rather than throwing all our eggs into oil development as it appears now,” Hudson said.

Tester Begins Hearings on Sex Trafficking in Indian Country

Courtesy Sen. Jon Tester/FlickrAbout 100 people gathered for a listening session with Sen. Jon Tester on August 28 to discuss the increased trafficking of mostly young girls and women in Indian country.
Courtesy Sen. Jon Tester/Flickr
About 100 people gathered for a listening session with Sen. Jon Tester on August 28 to discuss the increased trafficking of mostly young girls and women in Indian country.


Suzette Brewer, 9/3/14, Indian Country Today


As the trafficking of Native women and girls becomes more prevalent in an expanding radius around the Bakken oil fields of North Dakota, politicians and indigenous leaders are seeking to protect these young victims—and help the survivors heal.

“Human trafficking is a serious issue afflicting our region and much of Indian country. Tribes from Washington State to New York have felt its terrible impact,” said Montana Senator Jon Tester during opening remarks at a listening session he held at Ft. Peck Community College on August 28. “Montana and North Dakota have been especially hard-hit by increases in crime, including human trafficking, due to the explosive influx of people and resources following the oil and gas boom in the Bakken.”

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The listening session was aimed at gathering more information from tribal leaders and local law enforcement regarding the spike in sex trafficking of underage girls, as well as other related crimes that have increased since the oil boom began in the Bakken region. Also among the panelists at Thursday’s session was United States Attorney Mike Cotter, who appeared at the event to voice the growing alarm shared by he and his colleagues in Montana, the Dakotas and Wyoming, about the exploding industry of human trafficking involving mostly Native girls aged 12 to 14 who are being sold for sex.

“If you look around the rural regions of Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming, you would not expect to find 12-14 year old girls sold for sex on the Internet, or lured by an adult for sex or forced into a life of servitude by predators to sell their bodies to strangers,” Cotter told the audience of about 100 tribal leaders, community members and law enforcement. “It is hard to imagine but it is here in our region, and this corruption occurs with too much frequency and is more prevalent than one would imagine.”

Cotter underscored the fact that human trafficking is a global, national and regional problem that has snared millions of men, women and children into being trafficked for labor and commercial sex. Situated on the energy-rich Williston Basin, the Bakken Oil Patch is located in North Dakota. Since the energy boom in that state began, crime rates in the multi-state region have also spiked, including sexual violence, domestic violence, multiple murders and an increase in the use of meth and other drugs.

“We’re dealing with drug cartels, we’re dealing with people who don’t come to the door with a shotgun, they come to the door with a sub-machine gun,” said Tester. “And it’s very different. A lot of law enforcement agencies have seen a real uptick in crime, but haven’t seen an uptick in police officers or staffing or training.”

Typically, traffickers target mostly young girls who average between 12 and 14 years in age and are usually from low-income homes where one or both parents are absent. Additionally, many of the girls are already victims of child abuse and neglect, and many are struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. In South Dakota alone, Tester said, at least half of the sex trafficking victims are Native girls. Many of the girls, he said, are lured during times of vulnerability, when they may be homeless or struggling in other ways.

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Tribal leaders across the region have also begun to feel the burden of the crime rates in their own communities, which are often underfunded, understaffed and ill-equipped to take on Mexican cartels, who they say have infiltrated the region and are well-organized and armed with heavy weaponry, including machine guns, which heretofore have been a rarity in the Northern Plains. The Fort Peck Indian Reservation, for example, is located approximately two and a half hours west of the Bakken region. Still, their tribal chairman said, his community is feeling the downside of the boom.

“Because of our proximity to the Bakken oil field, we are already seeing the negative effects of oil and gas development without any financial benefits,” Chairman Rusty Stafne of the Fort Peck Tribes of Montana, told the audience. “Washington has been quick to promote the exploitation of natural resources, but slow to provide the necessary funding for the increased demand on our services and infrastructure.”

“Adding to the problem is the lack of treatment available to survivors,” said Tester. “The survivors are often children or young adults from impoverished homes with broken family ties. Help for them is rarely available in the Native community—or even within a manageable drive.”

The negative impacts of the rise in crime is also being felt among tribes in South Dakota and Wyoming, both of whom have had an increase in the trafficking of their young girls.

“Energy development is bringing tremendous new opportunities to the region, but with the good comes the bad,” said Tester. “Many of the small towns on reservations and surrounding areas are being inundated with new businesses and more jobs, but also with infrastructure challenges and bad actors attracted to the profits and free-wheeling environment.”

Cotter said the Department of Justice launched the Human Trafficking Enhanced Enforcement Initiative in 2011. In 2012, the Montana U.S. Attorney’s office created the Montana Human Trafficking Task Force to confront the “complex, multi-dimensional crime of human trafficking, which includes sex crimes, violent crimes, immigration crimes, labor exploitation, fraud, money laundering and organized crime.

Among the attendees were Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Tex Hall, Montana State Director of Indian Affairs Jason Smith, Roosevelt County Sheriff Freedom Crawford and Annie Daumiller of the Annie Casey Foundation.

“As Chairman of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, I am very aware of the economic and social challenges facing the tribes in the region. And it’s understandable that no tribe is prepared to deal with the rapid changes affecting the Bakken,” said Tester. “Tribal police departments lack the resources to investigate and detain human trafficking offenders, most of whom are non-Native. By no fault of their own, departments are often ill-equipped to root out the players in trafficking rings that can span reservation, state, and national boundaries.”

Tester added that even though the passage of the Violence Against Women Act had allowed tribes more authority to prosecute crimes committed on Indian reservations by non-Indians, “there is so much more to do.”




Bakken: $3M in grants to address violence against women in rural, tribal communities

A Whiting Petroleum Co. pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont., on Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)
A Whiting Petroleum Co. pump jack pulls crude oil from the Bakken region of the Northern Plains near Bainville, Mont., on Nov. 6, 2013. (AP Photo/Matthew Brown)

By  Associated Press

FARGO, N.D. — Federal authorities have named recipients of $3 million in grants to address violence against women in rural and tribal communities in the oil patch of North Dakota and Montana.

The money from the Office on Violence Against Women will be used to help provide services to victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and stalking in the Bakken region, which has seen an increase in population and crime because of the oil boom.

Victims in a “vast rural region like the Bakken” have trouble accessing life-saving services, Associate Attorney General Tony West said.

“With this new, targeting funding, tribes and local communities will be better equipped to respond to the increased need for mental health services, legal assistance, housing and training,” West said.

The grants will be divided among the First Nations Women’s Alliance and Three Affiliated Tribes in North Dakota, the Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana, the North Dakota Council on Abused Women’s Services, and the Montana Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence.

“The organizations that will receive funding through this project play a critical role in addressing violence against women in the Bakken region,” said U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp, who organized visits to the oil patch by two of the nation’s drug czars. “By bringing top administration officials to North Dakota to hear firsthand about the emerging challenges, great strides have been made to make sure local law enforcement and organizations receive needed support to address these challenges and help our state maintain our treasured quality of life.”

Department of Justice officials also announced that the Fort Beck and Fort Berthold reservations will each receive three-year, $450,000 grants to pay for tribal prosecutors who will be cross-designated as special U.S. attorneys.

Tribe: Problems linger with child protection

By HENRY C. JACKSON, Associated Press

WASHINGTON (AP) – The chairman of the Spirit Lake Indian Tribe said Tuesday that his reservation in northeastern North Dakota still has difficulty handling child protection issues and finding resources.

“The problems still remain,” Leander R. McDonald told a House subcommittee hearing organized by U.S. Rep. Kevin Cramer. “We continue to struggle to meet the child protection needs of our community.”

McDonald said the Spirit Lake Indian Reservation is trying to change its culture and improve the way it handles justice and child care issues. But he said tribal officials have struggled to fill key social worker positions and have found limited help from the federal government.

Cramer, a North Dakota Republican, said he pushed for the hearing because he is trying to gauge whether Congress needs to take action in order to improve conditions at the reservation. He said he was disturbed by repeated cases of child abuse and two cases involving child deaths on the reservation.

“The system is failing,” he said.

Spirit Lake has had numerous documented cases of child abuse, and last year federal prosecutors successfully tried two cases involving child deaths on the reservation. The tribe has ousted a former chairman and taken other steps to fix what officials have called a broken child protection system, since it initially came under fire in 2012.

Last year, the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs intervened, taking over some operations to try and improve conditions. The agency assigned seven agents to the reservation.

Tribal members agreed about a year ago to remove Chairman Roger Yankton Sr. in a recall vote, saying his administration was corrupt and ineffective and had allowed a culture of child abuse and child sexual abuse to worsen on the reservation. Yankton has denied the allegations.

Members of Congress seemed skeptical Tuesday that enough was being done to correct dire problems on the reservation. Earlier in the hearing, Cramer and other members of the House Natural Resources subcommittee on Indian and Alaska Native Affairs pressed federal officials about why more wasn’t being done.

Rep. Don Young was dismissive when addressing remarks from Michael S. Black, director of the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Young said he was annoyed the bureau had not accomplished more during its stewardship of Spirit Lake.

“This is good words,” the Alaska Republican said. “It doesn’t necessarily accomplish something.”

Black and another federal official, Joo Yeum Chang, an associate commissioner with the Administration for Children and Families, defended the federal response and said they were doing the best they could with limited resources.

Black said conditions had improved but that his agency simply didn’t have enough resources to deal with all of Spirit Lake’s issues.

“We’re reaching a point where we’re talking to other tribes to try and recruit some of them,” he said. “To have them come up and address issues they can help us resolve.”

He added, “I think we as a community have been making progress.”

Sen. Heitkamp Reflects on Historic Presidential Visit to North Dakota

Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today


In the wake of the historic Presidential visit to Indian country by President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama, Senator Heidi Heitkamp [D-ND], talked to ICTMN about being the receiving Senator of the day.

Soon after the President and First Lady arrived in North Dakota, Heitkamp joined them on Marine One and made their way to the Standing Rock Sioux celebration in Cannonball where the President and First Lady met with tribal leaders, talked with Native youth and enjoyed a powwow celebration.

Heitkamp also had an opportunity to speak at length with the Obama’s to share her concerns about Indian country and her recent initiatives to include her cosponsored legislation to support Native American language immersion programs and her first Native American Veterans Summit to connect Native vets with resources, support, and benefits.

For more information about Senator Heitkamp, visit

Last week [week of June 13] was quite a week for Indian country.

The country got some insight into a powwow announcer.

You were the receiving Senator of the President and First Lady. How did that feel?

We shared such a concern for all of these issues. I was proud to show him the great traditions that we have down in Standing Rock. I was proud to be part of the day but this really was about a day for the Standing Rock Sioux Nation.

Yes, I was there and I was given a chance to participate, but what I really appreciated was how respectful they were of tribal sovereignty.

What types of things did you talk about with the President and First Lady – including the issues of course, but anything else?

I spent a lot of time visiting with the President about Native American housing, I think that is one of the critical issues and concerns that we have regarding how we are going to revitalize and improve conditions for Native American people.

I also spoke about the critical need to not only build more housing, but we need to destroy the housing that I think is dangerous to kids, such as houses with black mold. We need to make sure those homes are replaced.

We also spent a lot of time talking about education and the need for nutrition, including some of the work that the First Lady is doing in keeping our kids healthy.

We also gossiped a little bit about the Senate. (laughs)

Can you tell me any gossip? (Laugh in return)

No, I am not telling you that.

Was this the first time you’ve met them both at the same time?

This was the first time they were in North Dakota together, but it was also the first time I have been with the both of them.

It was an impressive day. What was the Presidents take?

If you take a look at where the President’s priorities are as it relates to Native American people, I think you will see a very sincere appreciation for the culture but also to the challenges in understanding the role that the federal government plays in making things better for Indian country.

Considering you are Senator of North Dakota, there is a lot to share about Indian country.

We have five tribes that are my constituents in North Dakota. I have a unique relationship with them. I was just talking about how I used to challenge federal officials to do something to improve the conditions for Native Americans and their families. Now I am in the position where I do not get to ask the questions, I am the one who must answer the questions. Now it is my job.

I come from a long tradition of North Dakota senators who have been champions. Quentin Burdick was beloved in Indian country and North Dakota. His dad Usher Burdick was a congressman who also worked on these issues for years. Sen. Byron Dorgan really picked up the mantle. If you think about what Dorgan is doing now he just does not give up. He is still trying to figure out what we can do and he has been a great help for me.

He was a witness for me on the child commission bill He is still a full partner. You can’t spend time in Indian country and not be motivated to take up the mantle of working with sovereign nations to improve conditions.

You are also an advocate for sustaining Native American languages.

[W]e [recently] had a great hearing on Native languages. A lot of people wonder what the big deal about a Native American language is. But in terms of recovery of the community, so much of Native culture is in their language – There are so many different words for different things which are things we can just take for granted.

The Senate committee on Indian affairs, Maria [Cantwell (D-Wash.)] was a great chair and I think now Sen. Jon tester [(D-Mont.)] will be a great chair, and we’re doing some very important collaboration for Indian country and we are also holding federal officials accountable for the decisions they are making.

In your discussions with the First Lady and the President, I am certain you discussed a lot of issues but did you discuss any possible workable solutions?

I will be talking to Jodi Gillette in the next couple of days as a follow-up to the President’s visit. But I will tell you, as persuasive as I like to believe I might have been in coming up with solutions, I do not think I could match the conversation that the President and First Lady had with six Native American youth who told their stories.

The things that the president is going to remember Is not me yacking on about housing, I think their take away will be those six amazing youth leaders who have had life challenges that most people could only imagine. They experience things that children their age should not have to have been confronted with – whether it be experiences involving suicide, parental addiction or whatever else there was.

I think if you ask the White House what they will remember other than the beauty of the Standing Rock Sioux Nation and the beauty of the people and ceremony – I think they will say they will remember those conversations with the six Native youths.

Considering such a historic day, what was your take on the entire experience?

I will tell you, there are two visual things that I will always have other than the panoramic beauty of what went on there at the Standing Rock powwow.

What I will really remember is a young Native American girl sitting next to Nicole Archambault the chairman’s wife who was literally shaking with excitement. When the president turned and looked at her, she burst into tears.

It was a reminder to me, as the President and First Lady were spending that time there, they were demonstrating: ‘You children are valued and you are important, that is why we’re here.’ You could see that pride in the people that participated.

The second thing I will remember is that I have never seen the President happier or more relaxed. I think those are my two emotional takeaways.

As tough as the conversations with those kids might have been, I think it was a joyful experience because he was seeing the best of their culture. They were not phoning it in, they were not checking a box – they were engaged and committed.

What do you hope will come out of all of this?

I hope what comes out of this will be the continuing of his efforts and improving education. Sally Jewell was there looking at the Cannonball school and I am hoping we can get a new school built. I think this was a stressful day for the President because he was speaking about Iraq on the same day. And with all of the stresses of his day-to-day life, it was nice to see this propelled to the front of his issues. We need to keep it that way.



Firsthand Account Of Man Camp In North Dakota From Local Tribal Cop

By Damon Buckley, Lakota Country Times



Grace Her Many Horses has dedicated many years of her life to law enforcement. After this article was published she was removed from her position at Rosebud and has since returned to work on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Article is reprinted with permission from The Sicangu Eyapaha (Rosebud Sioux) tribal newspaper.
Grace Her Many Horses has dedicated many years of her life to law enforcement. After this article was published she was removed from her position at Rosebud and has since returned to work on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Article is reprinted with permission from The Sicangu Eyapaha (Rosebud Sioux) tribal newspaper.

ROSEBUD, SD – Former Rosebud Sioux Tribe Police Chief Grace Her Many Horses took a temporary job working in the Bakken Region near Newtown, North Dakota. This Bakken Basin stretches from Montana to North Dakota and it is rich in shale oil supplies. She began work in June of last year until October of the same year. It was her first experience with Man Camps. She seen them before while driving past on the way to pow-wows but this was going to be the very first time she would enter the premises and work the area as a law enforcement officer. This seasoned professional would be in for a rude surprise.

“When I first got there some of the things they talked about, in any of these areas, was they told the men ‘Don’t go out and party. Don’t get drunk and pass out. Because you’re going to get raped,” she said without hesitation.

It’s not exactly something you would expect to hear from a workers’ camp but these places are not exactly your ordinary laborers’ camps. The depth of depravity and dubious behavior are commonplace in these so-called Man Camps. No one will say that all of the inhabitants are criminal but there is definitely an element there that has rocked the local law enforcement officials to the very core of their morals and value systems.

There are identifiable variables that remain constant: These oil workers usually come from desperate conditions. These workers usually have a family they have left elsewhere so they are not looking to start new relations. These workers are paid an excessive amount of money. These workers are well aware their employment is only temporary. These workers know they are living in a remote environment where law enforcement is already stretched beyond its limits and the temptation for criminal behavior is very strong. Unfortunately, most of America still cannot comprehend this information.

“Sexual assaults on the male population has increased by 75% in that area,” she continued. That kind of statistic makes maximum security prisons look like the minor league. “One of the things we ran into while working up there was a 15 year old boy had gone missing. He was found in one of the Man Camps with one of the oil workers. They were passing him around from trailer to trailer.”

He went there looking for a job and was hired by individuals within the Man Camp to do light cleaning in and around their personal areas. The young teenager was forced into sex slavery. It’s the kind of thing you hear about in the ghettos of third world countries; not in the quiet and remote countryside.

The victims aren’t just males but females too. Everyone has heard by now of the missing school teacher that was kidnapped as she was out jogging, repeatedly sexually assaulted, and murdered near one of these Man Camps. The age of the Man Camp victims varies. The assailants are not necessarily looking for male and female adults. They are also going after little girls.

Grace Her Many Horse recalls one specific instance where “We found a crying, naked, four year old girl running down one of the roads right outside of the Man Camp. She had been sexually assaulted.”

There has been a significant rise in prostitution, gambling, and organized crime in these Man Camps too. The oil workers enjoy being compensated at salaries far above that of the average American blue collar worker. So when their paydays come around the predators venture out of the camps and into nearby towns and places a little further down the road. They usually move in caravans of workers with large amounts of cash stuffed into their pockets. Their large payoffs give them the buying power to obtain anything they can think of including prostitutes and hardcore drugs that have never been seen in these towns before. It has a devastating effect on the local small towns.

This former tribal police chief’s first experience talking with prostitutes that cater to Man Camps came here on the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. She pulled over two vans heading out of town. They were filled with female passengers, again, of varying ages. They were heading in the direction of the Man Camps. One of the brazen occupants declared outright to this officer, “Well, you know why we are going up there.” It’s not something you would expect to hear from a woman but these passengers were determined to make it to their destination one way or another.

After taking a long breath followed by a sigh Officer Her Many Horse said, “That small tribal town has been through so much. When you go into to their casino around 11 at night you notice the flavor of the patrons has dramatically changed for the worse.” She speaks of her short time policing those camps and admits it was easy to notice how hard drugs and prostitution had increased dramatically.

She spoke with local Indians that said they used to frequent their casino but they stopped. Things had changed so much that a large number of locals dare not venture outside at night. There are strangers everywhere. Again, this is coming from a small town where most of its population is Native American and everyone had known each other’s first names and origin. Now it is hardly recognizable. Businesses were forced to open only to be shuttered later. Trash and debris has increased. Violence of all types has surged and the beauty of the land has been replaced with heavy construction vehicles and the destruction of lands once referred to as God’s Country. The traffic on local highways has increased significantly as well as the number of traffic accidents and its numerous victims that can no longer speak for themselves. Life goes on in these small Indian towns but it is a life that is bitter and strange.

Meth has been seen as having destructive effects on Indian communities before but now there are new drugs filtering onto Indian reservations from these Man Camps. “There is a new drug called Crocus. When you ingest it your skin boils from the inside-out. It leaves you with permanent scars on the surface of your skin that resembles the scales of a crocodile. It will literally eat your feet off, eat your limbs off. It’s horrible. That’s been introduced up there and it is more addictive than heroin. The drug trade is rampant up there.” She explains how the police department near that particular Man Camp is smaller than the one here in Rosebud. “They need help,” she confesses.

There are oil workers there that can’t even speak English. The sex offenders are very prevalent. “We found thirteen sex offenders in one Man Camp and that Man Camp is found directly behind the tribal casino. Our supervisors would tell us “Watch your kids. Don’t let them run through there.” Making matters worse was the fact that Grace Her Many Horses moved up there with her two young daughters ages ten and fourteen. Living in those conditions and having to worry about the safety of her children must have added years to her life. After the need for workers ends the small town is left with its eye sore oil pipeline, businesses will go bust, the introduction of these new hardcore drugs will linger on, and its shocked residents will be left to contemplate their decision for the oil pipeline in years to come.

The most startling time Grace Her Many Horses spent at the Man Camps was when her police force had to serve warrants on some of the workers and remove them from their dwellings. She and her co-workers took things very serious, suited up in full SWAT gear, went through extra-ordinary measures to could conduct their raids, and to protect themselves from harm.

“It was scary. I never had to do that before in my many years of service. I feel really bad for the local residents because the flavor of their [Indian] reservation has changed so much,” she admits.

It leads the common Rosebud resident to ask if we have enough police officers to cover the proposed Man Camp being built nearby the Rosebud Sioux Indian Reservation. She was not hesitant to argue: “No we do not have enough members on the police force. We barely have enough people to cover our [Indian] reservation right now. If you were around for the first week of January we had a double-homicide, we had unattended deaths, we had shootings, we had a major car accident, and that’s just in one week. We were so busy here at the [police] station. My whole department worked thirty hours straight. I told those guys to go home, get showered, and come back to work. That’s not even taking care of our outlying communities. This tribal police department isn’t equipped to handle what’s going to happen out there when the Man Camp arrives. The infrastructure of the towns on this Indian reservation will be forced to expand then months later it will collapse onto itself. Because I’ve witnessed it doing just that… what I am saying up there in Newtown, ND. It’s going to be really scary. Realistically speaking, we’re going to need to setup a substation for the area nearest to the Man Camp, and we got have people on call 24 hours a day there too. I don’t know how we are going to deal with that just yet. We are overwhelmed as is stands right now. Once the Man Camp moves in…” Basically, it’s not a future everyone wants to see.



As sex trade ramps up in untamed oil patch, Dakotas crack down

Dec. 1, 2013

Written by Dave Kolpack

Associated Press

FARGO — U.S. Sen. Heidi Heitkamp has introduced legislation meant to crack down on sex trafficking, which experts fear is on the rise in her home state of North Dakota because of the large influx of men coming to work in the state’s western oil patch.

Heidi Heitkamp
Heidi Heitkamp

Heitkamp, a Democrat, introduced the bill this week on the same day that federal prosecutors in North Dakota unsealed charges against 11 Dickinson-area men who were arrested in a child prostitution sting. The men thought they were buying sex with teenage girls, prosecutors allege.

“Just looking at the recent arrests would tell you that North Dakota could be ground zero for this type of behavior,” Heitkamp told The Associated Press on Friday.

It’s a trend that has alarmed federal prosecutors in North and South Dakota. A man on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota recently was sentenced to 45 years in prison for coercing women into prostitution in oilfield communities. Two men in South Dakota have received life sentences for human trafficking cases in Sioux Falls.

“With the increase in population, there’s the risk of organized crime,” said Timothy Purdon, the U.S. attorney from North Dakota. “We’re certainly very aware of the threat potentially posed by human trafficking in the oil patch.”

Heitkamp said the bill, which focuses on all forms of human trafficking, would encourage law enforcement officers and the courts to treat minors who are sold for sex as victims, not as criminals. She said it includes a safe harbor provision to encourage them to come forward.

“These are very difficult issues to expose and research,” Heitkamp said. “It’s very difficult to get the victims to speak. They’ve been conditioned not to speak. They’ve been terrorized.”

Heitkamp said estimates show that more than 100,000 minors in the U.S. are forced into sex trafficking every year. Children are 13 years old, on average, when they are forced to become prostitutes, she said.

Native American girls and women often are targets of human traffickers, Heitkamp and Purdon said.

“You have a vulnerable population in young girls on the reservation,” Purdon said. “My concern is that they could be exploited if organized human trafficking operations gain an inroad here.”

Purdon said the 11 arrests in Dickinson and three arrests in a Williston sting about a month ago “stand for the idea that there is the demand out there as well.” Trying to stop the supply is more difficult, he said.

Going after the johns could help deter other future buyers, Heitkamp said.

“Nobody wants to see their name in the paper relative to sex trafficking,” she said.

Brendan Johnson
Brendan Johnson

Brendan Johnson, the U.S. attorney for South Dakota, recently argued and won a case in front of the 8th U.S. Circuit of Appeals that reinstated convictions against two men who previously were acquitted of commercial sex trafficking. The men had been arrested in a sting operation known as “Operation Crossing Guard.”

South Dakota has a couple of unique sex trafficking stages with the annual Sturgis Motorcycle Rally and a pheasant hunting season that attracts hundreds of outdoors enthusiasts from around the country.

“Anytime you have large groups of men gathering, you’re going to have the potential for sex trafficking problems,” Johnson said. “That’s just the reality.”