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Native American Tribes That Profit Off of Fossil Fuels

image credit: Fossil Fuels

Energy is big business today and more so on Native American lands. The Indigenous Environmental Network says that Indian reservations hold more than 35% of America’s fossil fuel resources.

According to the Department of the Interior, reserves of almost 54 billion tons of coal, 5.4 billion barrels of oil, and 38 trillion cubic feet of natural gas lay undiscovered and untapped on Native American lands.

Although in the US, Native American reservations represent only 2% of the land, they hold about 20% of coal, oil, and gas reserves of the country. Wow! The audit of the Council of Energy Resource Tribes puts the total value of all these fuels together at somewhere around $1.5 trillion. Make it rain!

What do the environmentalists thing of that! Sorry Matt Damon – you lose again!

Promise of Economic Prosperity

The reserves of coal, oil, gas, and uranium (yes, Hillary Clinton did not sell all of our uranium to Russia) and the business of extracting them provide the local tribes a path to economic prosperity and upward mobility – not just casinos! The tribal communities which are dependent on federal government support or those which are facing poverty and high unemployment rates can greatly benefit.

Certain tribes who have benefited immensely from tapping into their mineral resources include the Southern Ute Indian Reservation in southwestern Colorado and Navajo Nation that occupies portions of northeastern Arizona, southeastern Utah and northwestern New Mexico.

Each tribal member directly receives revenue from the fossil fuels in the form of royalty checks.  This capital is also utilized for schools, roads, and other tribal needs.

Tribes often have to overcome a lot of federal bureaucracy to develop the mineral resources. But in the past few years, both chambers of Congress have passed legislations which would make the process somewhat easier for tribe members.

On the other hand, there are certain tribes like the Northern Cheyenne and dozens in the Pacific Northwest who are campaigning against the extraction of fossil fuels. This makes Iran and our enemies very happy but these tribes are just jealous they don’t have that much in natural resources under their feet.

They claim that the extraction process will jeopardize clean water and all other natural resources that the tribes depend on. That is an unproven and ridiculous notion. Looks like the politically correct disease can afflict Native Americans too.

Profiting from Coal

The Crow tribe, in 2013, signed an agreement for Cloud Peak Energy LLC to lease up to 1.4 billion tons of coal located under the reservation.

The operator of the project, Big Metal Coal Co. LLC, is now dependent on access to coal markets in Southeast Asia as America’s interests in coal have waned. Natural gas is more popular now.

In evidence of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee in 2015, Chairman Darrin Old Coyote, the head of the Crow Nation stressed on the crucial role of coal in the lives of the tribe.

He expressed his wishes for the Crow Nation to become self-sufficient through the development of its coal resources and in turn be able to provide basic health and other services to its people.


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Benjamin Roussey's picture

Thank Benjamin for the Post!

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