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MHA Nation condemns state efforts to intervene in mineral property lawsuit

NEW TOWN – The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation is condemning the efforts by state officials to intervene in a mineral property lawsuit.

“MHA Nation has a long history of standing up to deception, greed and broken promises, and we will continue to stand firmly in the truth,” said Mark Fox, chairman of the MHA Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes) in a prepared statement.

“The truth endures and remains evident – the Missouri riverbed was held in trust by the federal government for the MHA Nation before North Dakota became a state. Since before our original treaties, the Missouri riverbed within what’s left of our reservation has belonged to the MHA Nation. Again and again, over the decades, the DOI (Department of Interior) has expressly acknowledged that the Missouri riverbed and the minerals beneath it have legally belonged to the MHA Nation within the Fort Berthold Reservation. Stand for what’s right – stand with the MHA Nation,” Fox said.

According to tribal information, on Aug. 10, North Dakota filed a motion to intervene in the MHA Nation’s lawsuit against the Department of Interior. The suit claims the Interior Department illegally took the MHA Nation’s property rights in the Missouri riverbed on the Fort Berthold Reservation and breached its fiduciary trust and treaty duties. The riverbed mineral property rights have been legally recognized by the Interior Department as belonging to the MHA Nation for over 80 years. In a recent opinion by Interior Solicitor Daniel Jorjani, acting on a request from North Dakota state officials, Jorjani purported to defy the decades old Interior Department precedent by stating that the minerals belonged to the state of North Dakota. The action resulted in the MHA Nation’s lawsuit.

In the motion to intervene, the state seeks the opportunity to prop up the Jorjani opinion, hoping for a second chance at claiming the MHA Nation’s reservation minerals. The state lost the same claim to the riverbed back in 1979 before the Interior Board of Land Appeals, a decision which became binding after the state failed to appeal, the information from the MHA Nation also said.

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