Interior Secretary David Bernhardt and MHA Nation Chairman Mark Fox hold up the approval letter and shake hands. (BIA)
The Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara (MHA) Nation has prevailed in securing more than 9,300 acres of land into trust for Tribal self-determination and economic development, including a buffalo ranch and oil and gas production. The Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) granted the Tribe trust status more than seven years after it filed its application.
Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs Tara Mac Lean Sweeney announced the BIA decision to take the land near Mandaree, North Dakota into trust status for the MHA Nation of the Fort Berthold Reservation in western North Dakota. The approval of the Tribe’s application will return a portion of lands originally included within the reservation boundaries under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 to the Tribe.
“It is a great honor to approve the transfer of these lands into trust status and to support the Tribe’s efforts to diversify its economy,” said Assistant Secretary Sweeney. “The Mandan, Hidatsa & Arikara Nation has waited over seven years for a decision and I am proud that, with Secretary Bernhardt’s leadership, our office was able to overcome the barriers and red tape stalling this important application.”
“The MHA Nation is very grateful to Secretary Bernhardt, Assistant Secretary Sweeney, and the Department of Interior staff, especially Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary John Tahsuda, for their successful completion of our land into trust application,” said Mark Fox, Chairman of the MHA Nation. “This significant step will positively enhance resource management and economic development for our Tribal Nation. We appreciate the federal government’s efforts and commitment in this important matter!”
The nearly 16,000-member Tribe currently operates its buffalo ranch, Figure 4 Ranch Property, and oil and gas wells on the land near Mandaree. “The trust land acquisition will be subject to all valid existing leases, rights-of-way, easements, permits and reservations in patents or deeds through which grantor acquired title,” a BIA press release states. Lands held in trust cannot be sold, alienated or transferred to non-Indians or non-Natives.
According to the BIA Trust Asset Accounting Management System, the MHA Nation counts a land base of 118,696 Tribal acres and 330,315 allotted acres, for a grand total of 449,011 acres, held in trust by the BIA for the Tribe and/or its members.