North Dakota challenges tribes’ awarding of mineral rights

May 2, 2022, 9:55 AM | Updated: 10:19 am

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — North Dakota is challenging the federal government’s awarding of lucrative mineral rights under a Missouri River reservoir to the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, otherwise known as the Three Affiliated Tribes.

The state attorney general’s office said Friday that it filed notice with the U.S. District Court in Washington, D.C., that it plans to intervene in the tribes’ lawsuit against the federal government. It said its motion “preserves the state’s position while also allowing discussions to continue with the tribes and the United States to reach an amicable resolution.”

The Interior Department ruled in February that the tribes own the mineral rights, in what has been a long-running dispute. An Obama appointee affirmed the tribes’ ownership of the rights in 2017, but a Trump appointee ruled in the state’s favor in 2020 before the Biden administration scrapped that ruling last year.

At stake is an estimated $100 million in unpaid royalties held in trust and future payments certain to come from oil drilling beneath the river. The federal government dammed the river in the 1950s, flooding more than a tenth of the tribes’ 1,500-square-mile (3,885-square-kilometer) Fort Berthold Reservation and creating the reservoir, Lake Sakakawea.

Tim Purdon, an attorney for the tribes, said Monday that the Interior Department’s ruling didn’t resolve the tribes’ entire lawsuit, including their claim to unpaid royalties.

“The remaining claims are the financial accounting and payment of monies owed to the tribes for drilling under the river,” Purdon said.

The state argues that it assumed ownership of the riverbed when North Dakota became a state in 1889, citing cases in which the U.S. Supreme Court held that submerged lands were not reserved by the federal government.

The tribes, which reassumed control of the rights last month, point to three previous federal opinions dating back to the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie that they say confirm their ownership of the riverbed.

Three Affiliated Tribes Chairman Mark Fox didn’t immediately reply to a Monday message seeking comment. He has condemned the state’s past efforts to intervene and has said the tribes’ being granted ownership of the mineral rights corrects “a grave injustice.”

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Former President Donald Trump sits in the courtroom at New York Supreme Court, Monday, Oct. 2, 2023...

Associated Press

Trump seethes through the start of trial in New York lawsuit accusing him of lying about his wealth

Former President Donald Trump spent a day in court Monday for the sometimes testy start of a trial in a fraud lawsuit that could cost him control of assets.

14 hours ago

FILE - Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., leaves the chamber at the Capitol in Washingt...

Associated Press

McCarthy rejects Senate spending bill while scrambling for a House plan that averts a shutdown

A government shutdown appeared all but inevitable as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy dug in Thursday.

5 days ago

(Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)...

Associated Press

Kari Lake reportedly plans to launch US Senate bid in Arizona for seat held by Kyrsten Sinema

Republican Kari Lake will soon launch her campaign for the U.S. Senate seat held by independent Kyrsten Sinema, a senior adviser said Thursday.

5 days ago

Republican presidential candidates, from left, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, former New Jers...

Associated Press

3rd Republican presidential debate is set for Nov. 8 in Miami, with the strictest qualifications yet

The third Republican presidential debate will be held in Miami on Nov. 8, a day after several states hold off-year elections.

11 days ago

During the equinox, the Earth’s axis and its orbit line up so that both hemispheres get an equal ...

Associated Press

The fall equinox is here. What does that mean?

The equinox arrives on Saturday, marking the start of the fall season for the Northern Hemisphere. But what does that actually mean?

11 days ago

Ray Epps Ray Epps, an Arizona man who became the center of a conspiracy theory about Jan. 6, 2021, ...

Associated Press

Ray Epps, an Arizona man who supported Trump, pleads guilty to Capital riot charge

Ray Epps, the target of a conspiracy theory about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to a misdemeanor charge.

13 days ago

Sponsored Articles



Importance of AC maintenance after Arizona’s excruciating heat wave

An air conditioning unit in Phoenix is vital to living a comfortable life inside, away from triple-digit heat.

Home moving relocation in Arizona 2023...

BMS Moving

Tips for making your move in Arizona easier

If you're moving to a new home in Arizona, use this to-do list to alleviate some stress and ensure a smoother transition to your new home.


Mayo Clinic

Game on! Expert sports physicals focused on you

With tryouts quickly approaching, now is the time for parents to schedule physicals for their student-athlete. The Arizona Interscholastic Association requires that all student-athletes must have a physical exam completed before participating in team practices or competition.

North Dakota challenges tribes’ awarding of mineral rights