To Do: Migrate

This presentation is part of the online document Acknowledging Landscapes: Presentations from the National Register Landscape Initiative.

Calvin Grinnel: Our reservation is located in west central North Dakota, as I said, encompassing the lower middle half of Lake Sakakawea, the Garrison Reservoir. There are about a million acres within our external boundaries, but the tribe only owns or controls about 43 percent. Some land is owned by individual members, the majority owned by individual members, and some owned by the tribal business council in common.

We lost 156,000 acres of prime bottom lands to the Garrison Reservoir, now called Lake Sakakawea, and in 1910 we lost over 330,000 acres to a homestead act which took away farm and pasture land and made it available to white homesteaders. This is shown on the northeast quadrant of the reservation, the tan area shown on this map.

If you’ve been watching the news, for the last six years we’ve been experiencing an oil boom. This satellite photo of the United States from space shows natural gas flares from the hundreds of oil wells in western North Dakota. As you can see, it looks like we are a huge city out on the prairie.

This is a closer look which shows the approximate location of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations in that lighted blue area.

Today, I will be talking about another fossil fuel underneath our homeland, coal, that we have been able to gain a benefit from through cultural resource impact mitigation. There is a massive lignite coal bed underneath our ancestral homelands and just south of the reservation, which is feeding at least seven major coal [inaudible] plants in that area for [inaudible].

In 1998, the Coteau Mining Company was permitting or developing a plan to strip mine 17,000 acres in this coal bed area. As part of this permitting process, they have to do an archaeological or cultural resource inventory of these lands, which was completed in 2004. Most of the lands were privately held, with some owned by the state. About 250 significant cultural sites were identified. Since the coal was owned by the federal government, the company had to consult with anyone who had any possible previous ancestral claim, including tribes. It was probably at this point that announcements were likely made in the Federal Register.

Mining officials met with various tribal representatives, including Elgin Crows Breast, tribal historic preservation officer for the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations, pictured here pointing out an area of the reservation to his staff.

The other tribes refused to participate, wanting no part in the proposed management plan to mitigate the cultural impact. Elgin was the only one willing to continue to meet, so he made a claim based on the fact that the coal bed was under our aboriginal territory. In fact, our ancestral village is now managed by the National Park Service, called the Knife River Indian Village and National Historic Site. We’re located near the center of this area.

Elgin suggested that funds should be put into cultural education as part of an innovative cultural resource impact mitigation method. Cultural sites located on land once part of our ancestral homelands would be effectively destroyed, but funds would be set aside to enhance and revitalize our cultural knowledge for future generations. Tribal elders who had been the source of our tribal knowledge and languages had been lost over time. We wanted to find a way to enhance and revitalize our cultural heritage, through education. One of the tribal elders, as indicated here, Edwin Benson, he is the last fluent speaker. He’s now retired from teaching, but he’s over 80 years old. I think he’s 83 or 84.

In customary practice, the mining company would hire an archaeological firm and archaeologists embark on a data recovery process excavating or digging up the cultural sites, possibly accompanied by a tribal monitor. After it is studied and inventoried, the cultural material recovered is stored in a repository such as the State Historic Preservation Office archives. The archaeologists write a report based on their findings, which goes on a shelf along with other similar reports.

The benefit to the affected tribe is nominal. The monitors receive some minor compensation and a report is generated, but that report has no value to future generations of tribal members because it describes places that no longer exist on a strip-mined area. The only beneficiaries are the archaeological companies who charge thousands of dollars for their service.

The state legislature had to create a law that would allow the state to accept private land into the state trust fund specifically for this purpose. The land that is to be strip mined is also part of this agreement. After it is reclaimed, any income from pasture leasing will be put into trust. During the state legislative hearings, Elgin and I gave testimony at the state legislature in support of the law.

In 2007, the mining company entered into a donor agreement with the Three Affiliated Tribes for $626,700 to create a trust fund for the cultural education of members of the Three Affiliated Tribes. In the initial tract of 1240 acres, certain sites will be avoided and preserved. Significantly, a turtle effigy like the one pictured here and several other sites, which have burials under rock cairns and other culturally important value.

Then the historic donor agreement signed in 2007 at the state capital in Bismarck, then Governor John Hoeven congratulated tribal historic preservation officer Elgin Crows Breast for his efforts. John Hoeven is now our state senator in the US Congress.

During the historic Donor Agreement signing in 2007 at the state capital, then Governor John Hoeven was presented with a star quilt in honor of this historic agreement.

The State Board of the University and School Lands hold the trust funds and any interest generated from the principal $626,700. The trust fund allows for contributions from third parties. For example, other natural resource development enterprises like oil companies who are exploiting resources under federal jurisdictional or tribal lands. In this way, the tribes can positively and directly benefit with funds to enhance and preserve their cultures, rather than just the archaeological firms.

The four-point cultural resource management plan put forth avoidance of certain sites, like rock cairns marking the site of burials, the preservation of other sites, specifically a turtle effigy, and a donation $626,000 to create a trust fund administered by a non-profit charitable foundation. The strip-mined land that is reclaimed is also put into trust for future benefit. For example, any funds derived from leasing if it is rented out for pasture land.

Elgin and I worked with Coteau Mine officials, Jim Melchior and Joe Friedlander, pictured here, on the specific details in the administrative process to create a charitable foundation. It took nearly a decade for this foundation to be established. We had to apply for charitable foundation status and create a board to oversee the foundation that decided that prospective members for the foundation board should include a tribal council member or designate, an elder, and a student who is a tribally enrolled member. These were finally identified, and our first meeting was held in April 2013.

The primary purposes will be the preservation of Native American languages and culture. This will be accomplished by translation of Native American stories and histories into the original language and dialect, establishment of education and training classes to learn the Native American languages and dialects, research and development of a historical timeline as to the history of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations, and preservation of the culture of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nations through the teaching of additional songs, crafts and other techniques. Providing grants to individuals and other qualified 501(c)(3) organizations, and finally, scholarships to eligible members of the Three Affiliated Tribes and that they will be someone who is studying in the field of anthropology and archaeology with the plan that those individuals will come back and work for a period of time with the tribe or with the foundation.

This is an example of the kind of project that can benefit from support by a foundation like this. This is volume one of a two-volume set of DVDs and CDs. Each volume contain a DVD of Mandan elder Edwin Benson telling three cultural stories in his native tongue, Mandan. An accompanying CD contains PDF files of translation text for each story, so a person can print out the story prior to watching the video and follow along by reading the translated words of the story written by a linguist. In this way, they can learn the language through hearing and seeing Edwin as he tells a story, and read it on paper. As I said before, Edwin is the last fluent speaker of Mandan in the world, he is in his 80s.

Fifteen years ago I started this project with Dr. Joseph Jastrzembski of Minot State University in Minot, North Dakota. It was a struggle to find funds, but we managed through perseverance and today we have six stories with translation text as well as bonus material, interviews, a video of a roundtable discussion of the translation process and other textual material to support the understanding of the translation.

As I indicated before in the previous slide, Edwin is now retired from teaching. He taught his language to K through eighth graders in Twin Buttes for fourteen years. He wanted to be able to support more classes in the tribal community college and the schools with projects that will teach our life ways and language. They are extremely threatened because the elders who have this knowledge are passing away it seems almost monthly. Of course, there are some classes being taught in the schools, but we want to support projects that will be executed in the home as part of an immersion process. The daily practice of language and cultural tradition is the most effective way to learn, as we experience it firsthand.

This is a historic winter count told by a long-dead tribal elder named Butterfly and recorded by ethnologist Gilbert Wilson a century ago. This obscure paper is unpublished, and I only learned about it through attending seminars and networking. Wilson’s supporting research and documents around this winter count have some extremely important historical records of life as it was experienced by our three tribes.

It remains unavailable to the average tribal member, because of limitations like copyrights and procedural academic processes. It will eventually be published, but it is our history and we have every right to this knowledge. As I said, our elders are passing away and any knowledge they might have that could shed light on these events are being lost. A timeline or a chronological record of our history taken from the recordings of our own people firsthand is extremely important.

This exquisite and beautiful woven quill work fashioned from porcupine quills adorning a pipe tamper is an example of the craft work done by our people. Another example is this hawk feather fan made by another tribal member with different knowledge and skills. Although these are contemporary works of art, we want to support and encourage tribal crafts people because culture is always evolving and we still carry on this tradition.

It takes money to buy the materials for these crafts, and on the Northern Plains we don’t have access to galleries or other venues where they can be sold. To our knowledge, no one has been able to support themselves full time through this work. Those that do have had to go far away to the East Coast or to the Southwest, where art galleries and shows make it possible to make a living from arts and crafts.

This is tribal member Keith Bear, fashioning one of his flutes. Keith is one of the few people who manage to make a living from his craft, because he plays the flute and has recording contracts with regional recording companies. He still has to spend a lot of time on the road traveling to make presentations, even riding along on a passenger train to the Rocky Mountains and back. Keith is an internationally known traditional flute player, and one of the few success stories on the reservation.

We also have Boys and Girls Club chapters on the reservation, and these are an example of the people, an organization that could use support from this foundation.

Over a decade ago, a group of high school girls from a public school on the reservation made historical presentations based on Native women of history, like Sakakawea. They made some of their own traditional dresses and memorized the words of the historical women, making presentations throughout the region. They were coached by their history teacher and by a tribal member who had some acting experience, Irene Fredericks.

These young women are examples of the quality of our youth showing initiative and interest in history. These are prime examples of the kinds of young people we want to support. We want to help young people such as this make a difference on the reservation, through scholarships in the fields of anthropology and archaeology. Very few of our young people are in these fields of study, and we need more. These fields make a logical fit with cultural preservation and the traditional knowledge their elders and ancestors are known for.

We believe we’re still here on our ancestral homelands because we still honor our traditions and pray in our traditional ways. Our people still take care of their clan bundles and carry on annual ceremonies. Elgin and I have many years of experience in our traditional way, and our belief has taken us this far. We thank the Creator for blessing our people with opportunity and good fortune, and hope you have gained an insight into making positive change happen.


Barbara Wyatt: Thank you Calvin, that was fascinating. Let’s take a little bit of time for questions. Does somebody have a question for Calvin?

Carol Shull: I’m hoping you all have found a way to share what you have done with other tribes. I think it’s an amazingly inspiring and copyable thing that other tribes ought considered doing. My hats off to you. I wanted to ask, do you need to do more coastal resources survey and can the foundation help get that done outside of what’s being done for compliant purposes? Could use doing some of your own surveys to identify more cultural resources.

Calvin: We do [inaudible] surveys primarily during the seasonal summer months. People always finding things every year. We continue to do this but as I said, much of them are threatened by this development you see, oil development and coal development. This oil development is the big thing right now. It’s somewhat difficult for our small staff to keep up with it. We have a good relationship with local area archaeological firms and they’re required to hire us to be monitors with them. We keep track of it.

This past summer I was involved with an oil company. An archaeological firm was hired by an oil company. We found a significant bison rendering type, and that yielded up to, I remember right about 50,000 different cultural artifacts. I was on site several times throughout the summer. It took some time. It was a mitigation process. Unfortunately it was right in the track of an access road to a [inaudible], so the site was studied, we discussed it, Eldon reviewed it and he was out there several times and we decided to cover the area up, and I guess basically bury it up, that site. The oil company can build a road over the berm that is covering up. That’s how we decided to mitigate that. It was significantly studied, and that’s just the way we have to deal with it. It was on private land, it was on a private tribal member’s land. He wanted to enjoy the fruits I guess, of the oil development, which is his right of course. That is basically what boils down to it, anywhere and everywhere. The possession is 9/10ths of the law, even though those may have been our coal beds in the past, we had a very little say to do, or say, how we can do it. It is an opportunity that Eldon had to fall back on.

Speaker 4: How many acres or square miles are open to the strip mining development, at this point, that are tribal land or reservation land?

Calvin: None right now. There was a number in the past, in the 70s. I can vaguely remember that they wanted … The coal mining companies wanted to come onto the reservation. I guess some of this coal is under the reservation. But, the tribal council at the time, brought it down, so they stayed on the south side of the lake. I believe there is some hole underneath the north side. In fact, just east of the reservation, there’s a strip mine area that we drive by that’s next to Highway 83 that’s been reclaimed. We see how these things are reclaimed. It takes a lot of time, but to my knowledge there is no development of any major coal company on tribal lands.

Speaker 4:  the money is going into the cultural education foundation or coming from the gas and oil development?

Calvin: They’re coming from the mining company, and that is not to exclude the archaeological firms. They are still going to do the excavation. This is in addition. This foundation was created in addition to the archaeological work. There will still be archaeological work done. These old coal mining companies, they plan their strip mining activities, I would say, decades in advance. I’ve seen their maps where they plan to take the land up. There is one for 2040, 2050, all the way up to … It’s going to be a long time. Like I’ve said before, this is 17,000 acres. That’s quite a bit of acreage.

John Mark Joseph: I have a question, Calvin. This is John Mark Joseph from over here in Guam. It’s early morning for me. To go back to the bison site that you mentioned, that they put the road over, I’d hate to go into archaeology. Did you do data recovery, or did you leave part of the site, and have it monitored and pressure tested over time?

Calvin: Yeah, I believe it was done. The entire area wasn’t taken up, just sporadic meter square tests were done. Those were in areas that were believed to have concentration. I was there at least weekly and looked at what they’d found. They’d find a lot of bison material (bones) and they found a lot of fluid material, because this area is just south of our newly minted national landmark, the flint beds near Mr. Lynch’s place. That’s only ten miles away, less than that. This area is in the badlands area. In fact, it was on one of my hunting grounds. I used to hunt there five years earlier. It was pretty inaccessible at that time, but now it isn’t. It’s got all these access roads on there. They’re getting to the oil. I believe all that was done, there was testing… pressuring testing. Like I said, they didn’t tear up the entire area. They just did tests of meter square digs. They thought there might be some concentration. There was some of that radiometry done to determine where the spots were that had the most material. Based on that, that’s how they decided where they wanted to dig.

Courtney Coyle: I had a question for Mr. Grinnell. This is Courtney Coyle from down in San Diego area. We’ve been able to get some land repatriated to the tribes and set up some funds, but it really hasn’t been done through the agency requiring it during a project, but more after the tribes that I represent having to sue about the lack of mitigation. I guess my question for you sir is number one, these plans that you’ve come up with, have these been private things that your tribe and the developers have worked on together, or have the agencies required the developers to have to do some mitigation, and this was one form that they approved of? And the second question is, how did you come up with the number, the dollar figure? Was there a criterion, or how did that work? That’s one of the issues we tend to struggle with here, is coming up with a good number. Thank you.

Calvin: Yes. The coal company, [inaudible] mine, the Freedom Mine, from what I understand, I asked Eldon. I’m not entirely sure about this or how this comes about. Apparently coal is federal coal. For that reason, they have to go into the Federal Register. They have to make announcements at the Federal Register that they’re going to do this excavation or do these strip mines. When they wanted to contact the tribes, I believe there are seventeen or nineteen tribes that possibly had some experiences on this ancestrally in the past. Our three tribes were the center or the hub of a vast trade network. So always there were people coming and going, visiting our tribe. For that reason, there was a lot of traffic over this country. But, again it was our ancestral homeland. For that reason, this area was set aside for us. Like I said, it was federal funds, I guess managed through BLM. They wanted to make sure that consultation was done with the tribes, and apparently according to Eldon, they had the meetings. The two men that met with us, Jim [inaudible] and Joe Freelander met with Eldon.  This was before my time. I’d only been here since fifteen years or so, since 2001. I started in 1998, I believe. The other tribes that were in attendance apparently walked out so Eldon made a claimed based on aboriginal territory. That’s how it came to be.

As far as the dollar amount, I don’t know how that was determined. I think that was determined by the coal company. That I supposed was based on the acreage. I don’t know how that breaks down 17,000 into $626,000, but it’s a good sum. Again, it has the interest, and we do not … the principle is held by the state school land boards, and we only have access to the interest which is apparently only about $20,000 a year. From that we can issue grants or scholarship and eventually develop the plans for future … Now we’re getting off the ground, we’re going to have our second meeting here pretty soon. Our first meeting was held a year or so ago. We are now trying to let it gain interest in all that.

Barbara Wyatt: Calvin, I have a question for you. I’m intrigued by the twenty-six tribes that walked out on that consultation. So did they ever get any benefit of any mitigation?

Calvin: I guess not. I don’t know. They kind of washed their hands of it I guess, according to Eldon. Like I said, I wasn’t at this particular meeting. This was 1998, 1999, 2000, I’m not sure. They closed their books and walked out. This what he told me.

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