The environmental damage versus the income producing benefits of locating fossil fuel projects in Indian Country has divided some resource-rich Native American nations — and one North Dakota Hidatsu tribal family in particular.
“I love my tribal homelands to my very core,” says Charles Hudson of Portland, Oregon, of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where his extended family live in the midst of fracking operations. “All I really have wanted for myself is a place to exercise my hunting and gathering rights. I’ve pondered moving home many times over the years, finally settled on a plan to retire there, then BOOM! Literally. The oil boom turned the place on its head.”
Mainstream media tends to underreport or inaccurately represent these stories — reporting on community divisiveness while glossing over the risks posed to tribal communities by gas flares, explosions, wastewater contamination, or the temporary worker “man camps” that foster crime, sexual trafficking, and violence against Native women.
A new foundation, the Many Dances Family Fund, aims to reverse that trend.
Hudson, the Fund’s director, says it will support deeply researched investigative journalism that reports on critical issues in Indian Country. This mission became even more relevant after the September 4 announcement by Indian Country Today that it will suspend publishing.
A tragic event is partially responsible for pointing Hudson’s philanthropy in this direction. After fracking of Bakken shale began there 17 years ago, the reservation experienced a dramatic increase in collisions with diesel-belching semis rumbling up and down poorly equipped roads. In 2008, Hudson’s 23-year-old niece, Cassi Dee Rensch, died in a traffic accident involving an oil field fracking truck.
Hudson’s family derives income from the Bakken oil production on their allotments and their ownership of surface and mineral rights. But this event “shook the family to our core,” he says. “My family, like many others,…