creation stories: survivance, sovereignty, and oil in MHA country


  • Stephen Richard Andrews Grinnell College



The Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara Nation (Three Affiliated Tribes of Fort Berthold) is at ground zero of the Bakken oil boom.  This paper explores the ramifications of exploiting that resource in relation to a traumatic recent past in which 153,000 acres of prime tribal real estate in the very heart of their ancestral homeland was appropriated under the auspices of the Pick-Sloan Plan by way of the Fort Berthold Taking Act of 1949. That land is now under the waters of Lake Sakakawea.  The essay takes to heart Gerald Vizenor's notion that "all stories are creation stories"--even the stories that oil and water have to tell.  In light of that, I include interviews with two members of MHA, who grew up with the legacy of the Taking and are now taking their place as leaders helping to shape--either through governance or constructive criticism--how the Tribes utilize the oil revenues in a way that is equitable, envrionmentally sound, and future oriented yet still grounded in traditional ways.  These inerviews are supplemented by the legal scholarship of MHA member, Raymond Cross, who harkens back to the cultural genocide of the recent past in relation to the present circumstances of oil exploitation as a way to remind MHA, State and Federal governments that Tribal sovereignty is best protected when stewardship of the land base is the result of collaborative environmental policies, the soundness of which harkens back, in turn, to traditional values.

Author Biography

Stephen Richard Andrews, Grinnell College

Associate Professor of English, specializing in American Literature




How to Cite

Andrews, S. R. (2018). creation stories: survivance, sovereignty, and oil in MHA country. Transmotion, 4(2), 80–112.