Justice for the Blackfeet People
Blackfeet Nation and U.S. Dept. of the Interior announce retirement of all illegal oil/gas leases in sacred Badger-Two Medicine region. Justice prevails for Blackfeet Nation after 30 years of fighting to protect cultural homeland.
The Blackfeet People have reason to rejoice: In March 2016 the Solenex Lease was cancelled by the Secretary of the Interior. In November 2016, Devon Energy, the largest remaining energy company, voluntarily relinquished its 15 leases and in January 2017, the final two leases - Moncrief and Kluthe - were cancelled.
We thank the Secretary of Interior, the Deputy Secretary of Interior, Secretary of Agriculture, and Deputy Under Secretary for Natural Resources and Environment, for helping bring justice to the Blackfeet people by cancelling the controversial drilling leases in our sacred Badger-Two Medicine area.
“The Badger-Two Medicine is a powerful cultural region. We’ve lived for 30 years under the threat that it might be industrialized, and we’re extremely grateful that this cloud is finally lifted. This area is like a church to our people, and retiring the last of the leases is a tremendous step toward permanent protection of the Badger-Two Medicine.” - Harry Barnes, chairman of the Blackfeet Nation Tribal Business Council
“Our intention has always been to make people whole. We have always ensured that companies were compensated.” - Tyson Running Wolf, Secretary of the Blackfeet Tribal Business Council
“It has been a long struggle. These leases never should have been issued to begin with, and the decision to finally retire them rights a wrong that was done to our people long ago.” — John Murray, Blackfeet Tribal Historic Preservation Officer
“We’re pleased and proud to celebrate the collaboration that has brought us to this agreement. We know how important this is to the Blackfeet people, and we appreciate the work the Interior Department has done to make it possible. For Devon, cancellation of these leases at this time is simply the right thing to do.”
- Dave Hager, CEO of Devon Energy, at a ceremony in Secretary of Interior Sally Jewell’s office.
Still, the fight to permanently protect Blackfeet sacred sites continues. Two leaseholders, Solenex, LLC. and W.A. Moncrief, are challenging the lease cancellations and asking the court to reinstate their leases so their companies can begin drilling. The court has yet to rule.
Read More - Billings Gazette
History of Lease Retirement 2016-2017
Blackfeet Tribal Business Council Chairman, Harry Barnes, shakes hands with Deputy Secretary of Interior, Mike Connor, in the wake of a decision to cancel a controversial oil and gas lease in the Badger-Two Medicine.
The Badger-Two Medicine region is an almost entirely unroaded expanse of mountains, ridges, river valleys and wetlands along Montana’s Rocky Mountain Front that is sacred to our people. Over thirty years ago, this area was leased illegally without tribal consultation and approval.
In 2015, the federal Advisory Council on Historic Preservation and USDA Secretary Thomas Vilsack lent their support for cancellation of the illegal leases stating impacts to the Blackfeet tribe’s cultural and religious practices that would result from development.
The government has now formally acknowledged that drilling in the Badger-Two Medicine would cause devastation beyond repair and is taking steps to right a wrong done to our people decades ago. But we know corporate interests are unlikely to back down from the fight and neither are we. We won’t end our battle until Badger-Two Medicine is permanently protected from oil and gas development.