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MHA Nation sues US for illegal taking tribe’s riverbed property rights

NEW TOWN – The Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation took steps on Wednesday to fight back against what it maintains are illegal acts by the U.S. Department of Interior and to restore the tribal nation’s property rights in the Missouri riverbed on the Fort Berthold Reservation and give them to the state of North Dakota.

“The Department of Interior (DOI) violated both its fiduciary duty as the tribe’s trustee and its treaty obligations when DOI illegally took away the MHA Nation’s rights to the Missouri riverbed and gave these rights to the state of North Dakota in a false M-Opinion issued by DOI Solicitor Daniel Jorjani on May 26, 2020. This new M-Opinion purports to overturn over 80 years of existing DOI precedent, two prior DOI M-Opinions and a binding DOI Interior Board of Land Appeals decision, all finding that the Missouri riverbed was held in trust by the federal government for the MHA Nation before North Dakota statehood,” said Mark Fox, chairman of the MHA Nation.

The lawsuit filed against the United States in the Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C. seeks hundreds of millions of dollars in monetary damages from the U.S. for the Interior Department’s illegal taking of MHA Nation’s property as well as for the Interior Department’s breach of fiduciary trust and treaty duties to the MHA Nation. The tribe will also seek to strike down the Interior Department’s illegal actions and return the MHA Nation’s property to the tribe, according to the MHA Nation.

The lawsuit in the Court of Federal Claims seeks to hold the Interior Department financially responsible for the illegal taking of the MHA Nation’s property rights and for the breach of the duties the Interior Department owes to the MHA Nation under its trust responsibilities and the tribe’s treaties. MHA Nation will also seek to set aside this wrongfully decided and false Jorjani M-Opinion, according to the MHA Nation.

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