Tribal leaders in Montana are pulling out of the Attorney General’s task force for missing and murdered indigenous people after he announced his intent to support the Keystone XL pipeline in court.
The Attorney General of Montana, Republican Tim Fox, appointed members to the task force this spring. Now some are resigning because Fox, who’s running for governor, wants to join a lawsuit in support of the Keystone XL pipeline.
“He’s shaking your hand with one hand but on the back he’s crossing his fingers and telling the state to go forward with this pipeline,” says Assiniboine and Sioux tribal member Jestin Dupree, one of two who’ve resigned since Monday.
Brandi King, a councilwoman from the Fort Belknap Indian Community, has also resigned. In a Facebook post, she wrote, “Does he know Fort Belknap is in litigation against the Trump Administration and the proposed destruction of some of our most sacred.”
The pipeline would cross less than 100 miles from the Reservation’s border and come into contact with the Gros Ventre and Assiniboine’s ancestral lands.
The task force has eleven members, including eight tribal representatives. The only tribal member who could be reached in time for broadcast says she’s considering leaving the task force and is talking it over with her tribe.
Dupree says man camps that house temporary pipeline workers would increase violence and missing persons cases. That’s something he worries about for his two daughters.
Pipeline projects and crime rates are connected, according to the recent Canadian inquiry into missing and murdered indigenous women.
The pipeline would cross the Missouri River a quarter mile upstream from the Fort Peck Nation. Dupree says the pipeline would economically develop some parts of the state but adds,
“The Reservation is going to see a majority of the bad things that follow that,” says Dupree.
Fox says the pipeline would be an economic boon for the state, primarily filling the seven counties it’s supposed to cross with $63 million in property taxes. Because of that economic interest, he filed a motion to intervene in a lawsuit to support the pipeline Monday.
When asked what he has to say to the tribes of Montana, specifically Fort Belknap, who say the pipeline wouldn't benefit them, Fox replied: “Well, I think that, and I haven’t looked at that statement, I don’t know that that’s a correct statement because the tax revenues from the pipeline being built alone would be a benefit to all Montanans.”
Former task force member Dupree says the Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes won’t be able to collect on the pipeline’s property taxes because it won’t cross into Roosevelt County, where the Reservation is located. He says it could affect the Tribes’ water supply.
In an emailed statement, Fox says he’s disappointed task force members are resigning. There’s a conference call scheduled Thursday to discuss the development of a database to track missing persons cases.
Olivia Reingold is Yellowstone Public Radio’s Report for American Corps Member.