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If a peaceful solution to the Dakota Access Pipeline protest movement can be achieved, one state official says it can open the door to some positive outcomes for the state’s tribes.

That is, if they choose to capitalize on the momentum of the movement, Indian Affairs Commission executive director Scott Davis said.

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s efforts against the pipeline have brought tribes together in a way not seen in his lifetime, according to Davis, who said the tribe’s ability to get its message out could be used to tackle other tribal issues, such as poverty and addiction.

“We can build upon this,” Davis said. “I’m hoping this is the baptism for that. I’m hoping that’s what comes out of this camp.”

Protesters, numbering in the thousands camping in Morton County, are concerned over potential impacts to the Missouri River, where a crossing under the riverbed less than a mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe reservation boundary is planned. Numerous demonstrations have taken place at construction sites, resulting in more than 120 arrests since August.

Davis said it’ll be up to the tribes to push for progress since the government won’t do it for them.

Davis also tossed out the idea of the protest camp site itself becoming a historic or sacred site for tribal members. He said there really are no modern-day tribal sacred sites and the protest camp site could potentially become one if the situation is resolved peacefully.

Legacy Fund spending opposition

Legacy Fund earning should be left untouched until the principal of the fund has grown larger and earnings are more plentiful and can provide for long-term uses.

That’s the argument North Dakota Watchdog Network Managing Director Dustin Gawrylow is pushing after some lawmakers floated the idea of using some earnings to push incentives to the oil and gas industry next session during an energy conference in Bismarck.

“Republicans should respect the will of the people and not view the Legacy Fund as a slush fund to go on shopping sprees like drunken Democrats (no offense to Democrats),” Gawrylow said in a statement this week.

“The budget ramifications this state is dealing with today were caused by their budget decisions, and they should stop drooling over the money sitting in the Legacy Fund and figure out how to deal with the problems they have today," he said.

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A couple members of a bipartisan panel that spoke during the Great Plains EmPower North Dakota Energy Conference Tuesday said it could be a potential way of reinvesting in the state’s future.

Lawmakers said, due to the state’s budget shortfall this biennium, new incentives for industry would be in short supply at best.

Gawrylow disagreed with their premise, saying providing industry incentives is a short-term subsidy.

If the state were to subsidize anything with Legacy Fund dollars, they should take another look at failed legislation last session to provide a small sum of tuition dollars to North Dakota high school graduates for attending in-state colleges, according to Gawrylow.

Reforming income and property taxes also could be options, he said.

Gawrylow said any major policy decision on long-term use of fund earnings should be put on the ballot.

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(Reach Nick Smith at 701-250-8255 or 701-223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.)

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