If I am elected chairman of the SRST, I know that one of the biggest challenges that my administration will face is the looming issue of extracting oil with well pressure drilling, called Fracking. My intention would be to study the issue so as to determine the best way for our Tribe to cope with its advancement onto our reservation.
Here are the givens as I see them right now. Fracking is without a doubt detrimental to our reservation. Its development will probably damage our environment; therefore I am definitely not in favor of this. Many Tribes have simply passed legislation that prohibits its development. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe currently has a resolution prohibiting fracking and I am in support of the resolution.
Another given is that our Tribe does not control over 60% of the land. Sadly, land was lost to the Allotment Act when our homeland was opened up to purchase by Non-Indians. This presents the dilemma of the Non-Indians developing the fracking within our exterior boundaries whether our Tribe likes it or not. This development by the Non-Indians is going to come, so my administration will have to study and investigate what are the options that will protect our land and resources. The Tribal environmental protection agency (EPA), Tribal tax department, and Tribal transportation department will have major roles in protecting our lands as our regulations can be more stringent than the fed and the state. These three departments can be used to assure our lands are protected and/or developed in a responsible way.
The last given is the Tribe’s right to engage in the fracking development. This is the most dangerous given because it pits our Tribal belief and philosophy regarding the protection of Mother Earth. It coops our values. It is a knowing choice to make money and create jobs at the expense of destroying or at the very least harming our homeland. Nonetheless, this is a given and I will not tread in this territory without the permission of our Council and especially the knowing consent and understanding of our people.
The path that I will take if I am elected is to seek a legal position that protects our rights in the development of fracking within our exterior boundaries. It is our land and we simply have to have a say.
The impending oil development is a huge consideration for our Tribe. I hate the thought of its development because of all the damage and downside effect to the environment but its reality must be faced. I believe it will go on all around us and if we don’t act now, probably right here on our reservation because of all the fee land that will be developed.
I believe we must become extremely proactive. I don’t think we can just sit and watch and make some future decision. We have to consider if we can develop the oil industry in a healthy beneficial manner. If we can’t do this we have to exercise our rights through EPA, taxes, and highways to the fullest extent.