Government Shutdown Has Left North Dakota’s Indian Tribes in a State of Emergency

Source: Native News Network

WASHINGTON – US Senator Heidi Heitkamp, D–North Dakota, a member of the US Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, Friday spoke on the Senate floor about how the government shutdown is hurting struggling families across Indian country, and again called for an end to the political games in Congress.


During her floor speech, she offered many heart-wrenching examples of how the shutdown is putting too many North Dakota Native families in very difficult situations.

“The government shutdown has left North Dakota’s Indian tribes in a state of emergency,”

said Heitkamp.

US Senator Heitkamp

US Senator Heitkamp speaking on the Senate floor about the impact of the government shutdown on Indian country.


“The United States has treaty obligations to the Indian Tribes in this country. And this shutdown poses a threat to the basic services the federal government provides to Native Americans as part of its trust responsibility to tribal nations.”

“Because of the shutdown, BIA Law Enforcement at the Spirit Lake Nation is limited to one officer per shift, in charge of patrolling the 252,000 acre reservation. And because of the shutdown, when the Sisseton-Wahpeton community recently lost a three month old baby, the mother now has been turned away for burial assistance for her child.”

Because of the government shutdown, the vast majority of the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) — which provides services to more than 1.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives from more than 500 recognized tribes — is now shuttered. As a result, federal funding has been cut off for vital services, including foster care payments, nutrition programs, and financial assistance for struggling Native families.

posted October 12, 2013 10:57 am edt

North Dakota farmer finds oil spill while harvesting wheat


In this Oct. 8, 2013 photo provided by the North Dakota Health Department, a vacuum trucks cleans up oil in near Tioga, N.D. The North Dakota Health Department says more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have spewed out of a Tesoro Corp. oil pipeline in a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota. Officials say the 20,600-barrel spill, among the largest recorded in the state, was discovered on Sept. 29 by a farmer harvesting wheat about nine miles south of Tioga.NORTH DAKOTA HEALTH DEPARTMENT — AP Photo

In this Oct. 8, 2013 photo provided by the North Dakota Health Department, a vacuum trucks cleans up oil in near Tioga, N.D. The North Dakota Health Department says more than 20,000 barrels of crude oil have spewed out of a Tesoro Corp. oil pipeline in a wheat field in northwestern North Dakota. Officials say the 20,600-barrel spill, among the largest recorded in the state, was discovered on Sept. 29 by a farmer harvesting wheat about nine miles south of Tioga.

October 10, 2013

By JAMES MacPHERSON — Associated Press

BISMARCK, N.D. — A North Dakota farmer who discovered an oil spill the size of seven football fields while out harvesting wheat says that when he found it, crude was bubbling up out of the ground.

Farmer Steve Jensen says he smelled the crude for days before the tires on his combines were coated in it. At the apparent break in the Tesoro Corp.’s underground pipeline, the oil was “spewing and bubbling 6 inches high,” he said in a telephone interview Thursday.

What Jensen had found on Sept. 29 turned out it was one of the largest spills recorded in the state. At 20,600 barrels it was four times the size of a pipeline rupture in late March that forced the evacuation of more than 20 homes in Arkansas.

But it was 12 days after Jensen reported the spill before state officials told the public what had happened, raising questions about how North Dakota, which is in the midst of an oil boom, reports such incidents.

The spill happened in a remote area in the northwest corner of the state. The nearest home is a half-mile away, and Tesoro says no water sources were contaminated, no wildlife was hurt and no one was injured.

The release of oil has been stopped, state environment geologist Kris Roberts said Thursday. And the spill — spread out over 7.3 acres, or about the size of seven football fields, — has been contained.

Jacob Wiedmer, who was helping Jensen harvest his wheat crop, likened the Sept. 29 discovery to the theme song from “The Beverly Hillbillies” television show.

“It was just like Jed Clampett shooting at some food …” he said of the oil coming from the ground. “Except we weren’t hunting, we were harvesting.”

Gov. Jack Dalrymple, who says he wasn’t even told about what happened until Wednesday night, said the state is now investigating its procedures for reporting spills.

“There are many questions to be answered on how it occurred and how it was detected and if there was anything that could have been done that could have made a difference,” Dalrymple said Thursday, when questioned at a news conference on a separate topic.

“Initially, it was felt that the spill was not overly large,” Dalrymple said. “When they realized it was a fairly sizable spill, they began to contact more people about it.”

Jensen said he had harvested most of his wheat before the spill, but the land is no longer usable for planting.

“We expect not to be able to farm that ground for several years,” he said.

Tesoro Logistics, a subsidiary of the San Antonio, Texas-based company that owns and operates parts of Tesoro’s oil infrastructure, said in a statement that the affected portion of the pipeline has been shut down.

“Protection and care of the environment are fundamental to our core values, and we deeply regret any impact to the landowner,” Tesoro CEO Greg Goff said in a statement. “We will continue to work tirelessly to fully remediate the release area.”

Wayde Schafer, a North Dakota spokesman for the Sierra Club, said the spill is an example of the lack of oversight in a state that has exploded with oil development in recent years.

“We need more inspectors and more transparency,” Schafer said. “Not only is the public not informed, but agencies don’t appear to be aware of what’s going on and that’s not good.”

Eric Haugstad, Tesoro’s director of contingency planning and emergency response, said the hole in the 20-year-old pipeline was a quarter-inch in diameter. Tesoro officials were investigating what caused the hole in the 6-inch-diameter steel pipeline that runs underground about 35 miles from Tioga to a rail facility outside of Columbus, near the Canadian border.

Roberts said state and federal regulators are monitoring the cleanup, and Tesoro estimated it would cost $4 million.

A natural layer of clay more than 40 feet thick underlies the spill site and has “held the oil up” so that it does not spread to underground water sources, Roberts said.

“It is completely contained and under control,” Roberts said Thursday. “They got very lucky.”

Follow James MacPherson on Twitter at

North Dakota Health Department May Flush Neo-Nazi Out of Town

Courtesy Last Real IndiansLakota grandmothers capture Nazi flag in Leith, North Dakota.

Courtesy Last Real Indians
Lakota grandmothers capture Nazi flag in Leith, North Dakota.

By Gale Courey Toensing, ICTMN

The North Dakota Department of Health may flush a neo-Nazi out of a tiny village where he and a group of white supremacists have racist plans to establish an all-white enclave, the first of many across the country, they hope.

On Monday, September 23, one day after 300-plus Indians and non-Indians from all walks of life arrived in Leith, North Dakota, to rally against Craig Cobb and members of the National Socialist Movement (NSM) who invaded the village with the intention of taking over the local government, WDAY News reported that the state health department was planning shut down Cobb’s home because of unsanitary conditions: The home lacks running water, indoor plumbing and a sewer system.

RELATED: Neo-Nazis Try to Take Over Leith, ND: Hundreds Protests

Cobb is a nationally known white supremacist who has been living in Leith for more than a year and has purchased 13 lots, some for as little as $500, including one where he lives. He has been promoting Leith on white supremacist websites as a place where others like him could live, take over the city government and fly Nazi flags.

But the people of Leith want their town back, WDAY reported. Mayor Ryan Schock, the father of three frightened children who witnessed the rally, said events surrounding the neo-Nazi invaders of the town are “very disturbing. It ain’t right. For the last few weeks, they have been monitored very closely. It is very sad what has happened to our little town. To go from a one-horse town to this; it is incredible. We have been here our whole life, and a guy can move in and can take over a whole community. Everyone is on edge. Can’t blame them.”

Protesters carried signs denouncing Nazi ideology as full of hate, but one of the Nazis – Gerald McNeil – said his group was not in Leith to hate, WDAY reported. “We are here to be white, and be proud to be white.” McNeil said.

The health department apparently had notified Cobb earlier about the sanitary violations at his home, because late Monday afternoon, WDAY 6 News learned the state will issue a final letter ordering him out of his house this week because of health concerns.

Cobb says he will use the Civil Rights act to sue the city of Leith and the state of North Dakota, if he is forced from his home.

Chase Iron Eyes, founder of Last Real Indians, said his organization and UnityND, a group that formed in protest to the proposed extremist, neo-Nazi takeover, “are working together to make sure the neo-Nazis do not plant a foothold publicly in North Dakota.” The two organizations organized the caravans that brought protesters to the rally from Bismarck, North Dakota, and Standing Rock Reservation where Iron Eyes resides.

“On Sunday, we hung out there for some hours, remaining vigilant and getting into some conversations with Mr. Cobb and whoever else was there,” Iron Eyes said. Eventually, the Swat Team that was on hand to keep things under control got tired and began to disperse the crowd. “They initiated a command to clear the street so they fanned out across the street and were going to do a sweep and either beat people down or start arresting people who didn’t move out of the street. They were in formation ready to move us all out,” Iron Eyes said. But it wasn’t necessary since everyone dispersed and moved out on their own. The protesters weren’t about to let the Nazis confront the elders, children and women, Iron Eyes said, “That’s the last thing we needed. We were there as peacekeepers.”


A fully armed and outfitted Swat Team was on hand for crowd control, but the crowd was peaceful and had self control. (Courtesy Unedited Media)
A fully armed and outfitted Swat Team was on hand for crowd control, but the crowd was peaceful and had self control. (Courtesy Unedited Media)


But the women were quite actively involved in speeches and sign waving and at one point a group of Lakota grandmothers seized a Nazi flag and held it up for a photo, one woman making a V-for-victory or peace sign with her fingers. Last Real Indians posted the photo on its Facebook page, but Facebook removed it on Wednesday.

There were no instances of physical violence at the rally but it was very contentious and very heated, Iron Eyes said. “We kind of had to restrain our own tribal members. Fortunately, nothing happened. I appreciated the police being there,” Iron Eyes said. If the protesters – mostly Indians – had become entangled in a violent encounter with the neo-Nazis “that would be the tool they’d use to recruit people – ‘look at these scary dark people attacking us!’”

Right now, Last Real Indians and UnityND are monitoring the situation and plan to return at some point. Leith is only 30 miles from the Standing Rock reservation.

Standing up to the Nazis in Leith generated a wave of pride in the Lakota community. In a posting on the Last Real Indians website, John Martin repeated words that Iron Eyes had spoken at the rally, “’The warriors aren’t even here,’” Martin wrote. “Eloquent and profound words ferociously spoken by my Lakota brother Chase Iron Eyes. Wopila tanka Chase and to all the brave men and women of all races who tenaciously stood up in direct opposition to the minions of hate in Leith, North Dakota. You upheld and reaffirmed the Lakota warrior code,” Martin wrote. “The spirit of Crazy Horse lives on and will only continue to expand and grow. What I saw yesterday in Leith was a resurgence of what the Native American Community stands for. Unyielding resistance and steadfast dedication handed down by our ancestors back in the day.”



North Dakota Visitor Center Honoring Sitting Bull Set to Open

Sitting Bull College/Standing Rock Sioux TribeSitting Bull Visitor Center in North Dakota

Sitting Bull College/Standing Rock Sioux Tribe
Sitting Bull Visitor Center in North Dakota

Source: Indian Country Today Media Network

American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association (AIANTA) Member Standing Rock Sioux Tribe will partner with Sitting Bull College for the ribbon cutting and open house of the highly anticipated Sitting Bull Visitor Center on May 15 from 11:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m./MST at the Sitting Bull College Campus in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Charles Murphy and Sitting Bull College President Dr. Laurel Vermillion will conduct the ribbon cutting ceremony at the Visitor Center’s Medicine Wheel Park, with a musical performance by flutist Kevin Locke, a National Endowment for the Arts Master Traditional Artist.

“This was a joint project of the Standing Rock Native American National Scenic Byway, Sitting Bull College and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe,” said LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, AIANTA Board Member at Large and Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s Director of Tourism. “The new Sitting Bull Visitor Center and Medicine Wheel Park is a dream come true for us.”

The Sitting Bull Visitor Information Center, operated by Sitting Bull College, will offer travelers information regarding local and special events, places to visit, a gift shop that will sell a variety of authentic Native American arts and crafts, and more. The Visitor Center is also the new home to the Standing Rock Tribal Tourism Office operated by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. The Tourism Office provides Tatanka Okitika Historic Tours offering individualized tours on a first come first serve basis and reservations are recommended. Narrated tours are given along the Scenic Byway in both North Dakota and South Dakota. Stops include the Sitting Bull Burial Site, Standing Rock Monument, Standing Rock Tribal Administration Building, Sitting Bull Visitor Center and other points of interest.

Allard added, “We look to Native tourism to help our nation become sustainable for the future of our culture and people. We honor our great leader Sitting Bull with a center that will bring healing to our nation.”

“AIANTA is excited for our member the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and AIANTA Board Member LaDonna Brave Bull Allard,” said AIANTA Executive Director Camille Ferguson. “This is an example of how tribes are helping define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian and Alaska Native Tourism.”

For more information about the Open House or to schedule a tour please contact LaDonna Brave Bull Allard at 701-854-3698 or

AIANTA is a 501(c)(3) national nonprofit association of Native American tribes and tribal businesses that was incorporated in 2002 to advance Indian Country tourism. The association is made up of member tribes from six regions: Alaska, Eastern, Midwest, Pacific, Plains and the Southwest. AIANTA’s mission is to define, introduce, grow and sustain American Indian and Alaska Native tourism that honors and preserves tribal traditions and values.

The purpose of AIANTA is to provide our constituents with the voice and tools needed to advance tourism while helping tribes, tribal organizations and tribal members create infrastructure and capacity through technical assistance, training and educational resources. AIANTA serves as the liaison between Indian Country, governmental and private entities for the development, growth, and sustenance of Indian Country tourism. By developing and implementing programs and providing economic development opportunities, AIANTA helps tribes build for their future while sustaining and strengthening their cultural legacy.

StrikeForce initiative aims to lift impoverished counties

Some North Dakota counties that are not experiencing the oil boom and growth that have brought the state into the national limelight. These counties are now the target of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s StrikeForce initiative, which aims to stimulate economic growth.

By: Katherine Grandstrand, Forum News Service

Published April 05, 2013, 07:30 AM Grand Forks Herald

DICKINSON, N.D. — The prosperity seen in North Dakota is unmatched anywhere else in the country. As of February, the state’s unemployment rate sat at 3.3 percent.

For some Americans, North Dakota is like Israel was to the Jews in the book of Exodus — a land flowing with milk and honey. Modern-day pilgrims come to North Dakota because it is flowing with oil and manufacturing jobs.

Pitted against this image are some North Dakota counties that are not experiencing the boom and growth that have brought the state into the national limelight. These counties are now the target of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s StrikeForce initiative, which aims to stimulate economic growth.

“We do have areas of consistently high poverty,” said Jasper Schneider, state director of USDA Rural Development for North Dakota. “Official unemployment rates in these counties are upwards of 15 percent. Unofficial unemployment is actually quite a bit higher than that.”

Before last week, six states — Georgia, Arkansas, Mississippi, Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada — were part of the program. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack’s announcement expanded StrikeForce to include 10 more — the Dakotas, the Carolinas, Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Texas, Utah and Virginia.

In North Dakota the program will target Benson, Rolette and Sioux counties along with the tribal nations of Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, Spirit Lake Tribe and Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Indians.

“A chain is only as strong as its weakest link,” Schneider said. “With our resources, both on the state level and the federal level, we have an enormous opportunity to pick up all parts of the state — especially our lowest performing parts,” Schneider said.

The StrikeForce promotes existing USDA agencies and programs to encourage economic growth in impoverished counties — 90 percent of all poor counties are considered rural.

“We kind of throw our full weight at these areas of high poverty and see if we can’t move the needle,” Schneider said.

In Nevada, which was part of the second wave of states to use the StrikeForce initiative, USDA representatives first reached out to the tribes, which helped grow trust between them and the agency, said Bill Elder, assistant state conservationist for operations for Nevada Natural Resources Conservation Service and the StrikeForce state coordinator.

“We identified the Native American as the priority underserved community within Nevada,” he said from his Reno, Nev., office. “The leadership of the Rural Development, of FSA — the Farm Service Agency — and NRCS went to each one of these tribes and sat down with them and said, ‘Look, we’re here, and these are the programs and services that we offer.’ ”

Because StrikeForce is an umbrella program for all USDA agencies, it allows them to work together more efficiently to serve those eligible and identify individuals who may qualify for programs through other USDA agencies, Elder said.

“At the end of year one, what this had done for us was open pathways of communication that we otherwise wouldn’t have,” he said. “If we can articulate what it is we have to offer both in terms of programs and technical services so they can make an informed decision about what’s best for them, that’s the home run.”

In its second year, Nevada expanded the program to include outreach to small farmers by having a presence at pertinent events, such as agricultural shows.

“Geographically speaking, it’s fairly easy to do,” Elder said. “We gain visibility, we are able to have one-on-one contact with people, find out what their issues are, make them aware of program opportunities and services, and that’s really the key, is that one-on-one or the small-group contact.”

One of the first StrikeForce efforts in North Dakota will have USDA representatives at the Looking to the Future sustainable agriculture convention from 8:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. today at Sitting Bull College in Fort Yates, said Aaron Krauter, state executive director for the USDA Farm Service Agency.

His agency plans to use the StrikeForce initiative to promote FSA programs and loans that could help farmers and ranchers succeed and grow, Krauter said.

“We also have real estate loans for individuals that are eligible if they want to purchase that pasture land or that quarter of crop ground,” he said.

USDA Rural Development released the Tribal Progress Report on Thursday, which highlights the USDA grants and loans the tribes of North Dakota have taken advantage of since 2009.

Many of those funds were used to improve the tribal colleges, Schneider said.

“I’m a firm believer that one of the best ways to combat persistently high poverty is through education,” Schneider said. “We made it a priority at USDA to partner with the tribal colleges, and they’ve really become first-class campuses and provide the opportunity of a real quality postsecondary education. They’re probably the best example of what’s going right in our tribal communities.”