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Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota

BIA Logo Indian Affairs - Office of Public Affairs

Transfer restores nearly 25,000 acres of tribal homelands lost to the Garrison Dam project

Media Contact: Nedra Darling, OPA-IA Phone: 202-219-4152
For Immediate Release: December 20, 2016

WASHINGTON - Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs Lawrence S. Roberts, who leads the Office of the Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs, joined Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works Jo-Ellen Darcy to announce the transfer of 24,959 acres previously acquired by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the construction of the Garrison Dam project to the Department of the Interior, which will hold the land in trust for the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. The acres, now excess to the project, consist mostly of undeveloped grasslands situated above the maximum flood control pool for Lake Sakakawea.

“It is a tremendous honor to take the land previously acquired for the Garrison Dam project into trust for the Three Affiliated Tribes,” Roberts said. “I want to recognize our BIA staff in the Great Plains Region for their hard work over many years along with Assistant Secretary Darcy for her leadership. We believe this transfer provides strong protections for existing land uses, whether it’s housing, recreational, or the Corps’ continued mission at Lake Sakakawea, while also ensuring there is recognition of the Tribes’ sovereign authority to manage these lands going forward.”

“I am so pleased to transfer the Garrison Dam project lands taken from the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation into trust held by the Department of the Interior. The Army Corps worked very hard to see this through,” stated Assistant Secretary Darcy. “The Tribes will now have all of the associated economic, environmental and cultural benefits that come with trust land for generations to come.”

“The return of these lands is an important step toward mending a historic injustice,” said Mark Fox, chairman of the Three Affiliated Tribes of the Fort Berthold Reservation. “Half of our adult men were fighting for their country and their homes in World War II when the federal government began making plans to take our lands for the Garrison Dam. The flood caused by the Dam displaced 90 percent of our people from their homes. It literally destroyed our heartland. Our people have been fighting to have the surplus lands returned to the Nation for years. I am grateful that this goal has been accomplished, and the hard work of so many of our leaders has finally paid off.”

The transfer was made possible as a result of the Fort Berthold Mineral Restoration Act. The transfer protects lawful public access, including access for recreational purposes. Current lessees will continue to enjoy their existing rights while Interior and the Tribes will handle future leases. As such, Interior stands ready to record and implement any new rights-of-way that parties may negotiate across the transferred lands.

The Army Corps of Engineers will continue its role as an active resource manager in the Lake Sakakawea area through its retained right to flood and erode the lands. The Tribes will collaborate with Interior and the Army Corps of Engineers to manage natural and cultural resources. All federal laws and regulations will continue to apply, but now, Interior will be the lead federal agency instead of the Army.

The Obama Administration has been committed to the restoration of tribal homelands. When Secretary Jewell took office, she set an ambitious goal to restore 500,000 acres of land into trust for tribes. In October 2016, Jewell announced the Bureau of Indian Affairs has processed 2,265 individual trust applications and restored more than 500,000 acres of land into trust since 2009.

Congress originally passed the Fort Berthold Mineral Restoration Act, Public Law No. 98-602, Title II, Section 206 (b) in 1984, which authorized the Army Corps of Engineers to transfer excess lands no longer needed for the Garrison Dam project back to the Tribes. In 2015, Interior and Army Civil Works signed a memorandum of agreement that outlined the process the agencies used to implement the land transfer.

The Secretary of the Interior is authorized by the Indian Reorganization Act (IRA) of 1934 to acquire land into trust for federally recognized tribes. Lands held in federal Indian trust status, which cannot be sold, alienated or transferred to non-Indians or non-Natives, benefit their American Indian and Alaska Native tribal owners who are eligible for federal program assistance for business development, housing, and environmental and cultural protection. Typical uses of trust land include governmental operations, cultural activities, agricultural/forestry projects, housing, economic development, social and community services, and health care and educational facilities.

The Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary – Indian Affairs oversees the Bureau of Indian Affairs, which is headed by a director responsible for managing day-to-day operations through four offices – Indian Services, Justice Services, Trust Services, and Field Operations. These offices directly administer or fund tribally based infrastructure, economic development, law enforcement and justice, social services (including child welfare), tribal governance, and trust land and natural and energy resources management programs for the nation’s federally recognized American Indian and Alaska Native tribes. The BIA carries out its responsibilities in managing federal Indian trust lands through the Office of Trust Services.

For information about the Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, visit the ASA(CW) website.


Great Plains Region


The BIA Great Plains Region provides funding and support to 16 federally recognized Indian tribes located in the states of North Dakota, South Dakota, and Nebraska.  Tribes in this region encompass over 6 million acres.  The Region’s tribes have sustained various programs that the federal government traditionally provided; this is an excellent example of the tribe’s self-determination, cultural, political and subsistence needs including such programs Job Placement Training, Economic Development, Johnson O’Malley Assistance, Tribal Scholarships,

BIA Logo Indian Affairs - Office of Public Affairs

Secretary Zinke hosts tribal round table to address opioid crisis

Media Contact:
For Immediate Release: July 26, 2018

FARGO, ND - Today, U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke recognized Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) - Turtle Mountain Agency Law Enforcement Officers Stacey Larocque and Michael Slater and BIA-Standing Rock Agency Law Enforcement Officers Wayland Bad Hand and Gary Sandland with the Secretary’s Commendation Award for their quick and heroic actions to save the lives of individuals who overdosed on deadly, synthetic opioid drugs.

"Officers Larocque, Slater, Bad Hand, and Sandland are heroes and role models for every one of the Department’s 4,000 law enforcement officers,” said Secretary Zinke. “Thanks to their quick actions and cool heads, they were able to save lives. I’m incredibly proud and honored to have them on our team.”

“Teamwork and training saved lives,” said Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary for Indian Affairs John Tahsuda. “Our officers are dedicated to protecting Indian Country every day. I applaud these officers for utilizing their training in an exceptional manner while under pressure to save tribal members from the deathly grips of their opioid overdose. They saved members of Indian Country’s family.”

“On behalf of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, we would like to commend Sergeant Stacy Larocque and Officer Michael Slater on receiving the letters of commendation and the pinning of the Life Saving Ribbons,” said Chairman Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Jamie S. Azure. “Our community is proud of all of our law enforcement and grateful for all of our uniformed officers and emergency services who knowingly put their lives on the line to protect others in the line of duty.”

Officer Slater arrived at the home on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in New Town, ND, and found a man unconscious and with no pulse. The family at the scene alerted Officer Slater about the suspected overdose. Officer Slater administered CPR until Officer Larocque arrived to administer Naloxone, commonly referred to as Narcan. The man gained consciousness after three doses and within minutes was responsive to the first responders.

The Secretary recognized Sergeant Larocque and Officer Slater during a roundtable meeting with North Dakota’s five Tribes. The conversation focused on issues each tribe faces with the opioid crisis and included options and opportunities to help the communities.

Officer Bad Hand responded to a reported assault of a female on the Standing Rock Reservation. Upon arriving at a residence, Officer Bad Hand found the unresponsive woman exhibiting signs of an opioid overdose. Officer Gary Sandland arrived at the scene and retrieved the Narcan, a dose in the form of a nasal spray, from the Officer Bad Hand’s patrol car. The woman regained consciousness after the medication was administered by Officer Bad Hand. Officer Sandland continued to assist by holding the IV bag of Narcan that the responding Standing Rock EMS had inserted in the distressed woman’s arm.

The Secretary’s recognition of Officers Larocque, Slater, Bad Hand, and Sandland was followed by a roundtable meeting with the Tribes from North Dakota – Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, Spirit Lake, Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, The Three Affiliated Tribes, and Turtle Mountain of Chippewa. The conversation focused on issues each Tribe faces with the opioid crisis and included options and opportunities to help the communities.

“President Trump has made it clear that ending the opioid crisis is a top priority, and I’m honored to have the government-to-government relationship with North Dakota’s tribal nations,” said Secretary Zinke. “For too many, opioids have torn the fabric of the community apart, leaving children orphaned or in dangerous situations. Under President Trump’s leadership, the federal government is partnering with tribes to identify and prioritize community-based recovery solutions. This would both help victims return to health and also keep our children safe and close to home.”

“This Round Table has provided another opportunity to advance the essential dialogue that includes Tribal communities in the national opioid crisis,” said Chairwoman Myra Pearson of the Spirit Lake Tribe. “The opioid epidemic is another silent threat to our families and it is one that all tribal communities should all be aware of. Proper storage and disposal of medication are effective ways to protect against potential abuse. I encourage everyone to learn to identify the signs of opioid abuse, the signs of an opioid overdose and how to respond to an overdose until trained first responders arrive. Together, we can help save lives.”

“I extend my deepest gratitude to Secretary Zinke for spotlighting this important issue and meeting with the North Dakota tribal leaders,” said Chairman Mark Fox of the Three Affiliated Tribes. “For the health and wellness of Indian Country, we must continue to work together on developing and implementing strategies to overcome the threats posed by the nationwide opioid crisis. I am committed to continuing the open dialogue started at the Round Table with the Administration to stop the encroachment of this epidemic in its tracks.”

Earlier in the year, Secretary Zinke established the first of its kind law enforcement Joint Task Force (JTF) on opioids. The JTF brings together officers from the Bureau of Indian Affairs, state and local law enforcement, and Tribal law enforcement. The JTF conducts investigations and sting operations on Reservations at the request of Tribal leadership.

At the beginning of the year, Secretary Zinke held a series of tribal community visits on the Opioid Crisis in Indian Country — Tohono O’odham, Gila River, Salt River, and AK-Chin in Arizona; Oneida in Wisconsin; Spokane, Colville, and Lummi Nations in Washington State. The Interior’s Joint Task Force was established by Secretary Zinke to help achieve President Donald Trump's mission to end the opioid epidemic. The Secretary has publicly praised operations led by the new Interior Joint Task Force that resulted in the seizure of $2.5 Million worth of Meth and $22,000 in Marijuana, Heroin and Other Narcotics near Pueblo lands in New Mexico; and a opioid bust around tribal lands in Arizona that seized 9,050 Fentanyl pills, 48.2 pounds of methamphetamine, 1.2 pounds of heroin, 863 pounds of marijuana, one-half pound of cocaine, and $30,000 in cash.

A Memorandum of Agreement between the Bureau of Indian Affairs and the Indian Health Service supports training for BIA Law Enforcement in administering Narcan, a naloxone nasal spray. Officer Jonathan Vigil was the first BIA Officer to successfully use Narcan while on duty on August 2, 2016.

For Immediate Release: July 26, 2018
North Dakota Indian Affairs Law Enforcement Officers Honored by Trump Administration

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