A mutual aid pact signed this week by the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation and the state is the latest step toward improved relations and cooperation. Gov. Doug Burgum has made working with tribal nations a key part of his administration’s agenda.
The agreement finalized this week will improve emergency responses on the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Under the agreement, the closest available law enforcement officers will be able to deal with emergency calls, requests for mutual aid, temporary detainment or arrest, pursuits, use of force and extradition. Matters of jurisdiction will be sorted out later.
Sgt. Jenna Clawson Huibregtse, North Dakota Highway Patrol cultural liaison officer, helped develop the agreement with the tribe over the last three years. She said the tribe and state shared the same concerns, and it wasn’t difficult to create the framework for the agreement.
Cultural awareness will be part of the training officers receive. The patrol’s northwest region of troopers will get the training, and tribal law enforcement officers have been invited.
The reservation covers a lot of territory -- 1,530 square miles. It’s difficult for tribal officers to be everywhere, so it will be beneficial to have the patrol able to answer calls. During the oil boom the reservation has been targeted by drug traffickers, increasing the need for help.
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The Highway Patrol is working on similar agreements with the Spirit Lake Tribe, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa and other tribal nations. Hopefully, the agreements can be finalized soon.
Officers with law enforcement agencies in the state often are responsible for large areas. Communities are safer when officers can respond without worrying about jurisdictional authority.
“The bottom line is safer communities on the reservation. That’s the whole intent and purpose of doing it,” MHA Nation Tribal Chairman Mark Fox told the Tribune.
The sharing of law enforcement resources is just the latest development in improving state-tribal relations.
Burgum, when first elected, met with tribal leaders across the state to improve relationships strained by the Dakota Access Pipeline controversy. The legal battle over the pipeline continues, but the disagreement has become more civil.
Some of the governor’s actions have been more symbolic, such as the display of tribal nations’ flags outside his Capitol office. Others have financial rewards. The state and Fort Berthold reached a new agreement on oil taxes that’s beneficial for both parties. There are ongoing discussions on other state-tribal tax issues.
A settlement was reached on a controversial voting identification law that tribes believed was unfair to them. It was settled to the satisfaction of the tribes.
There will be times when the state and tribes disagree, just as there will be times when the tribes don’t agree with one another. As long as all parties work to find common ground and compromise, the better off everyone will be.
The Dakota Access Pipeline protest resulted in some ugly situations and serves as a reminder of how quickly relations can sour. The state and tribal nations are in a better position working together to resolve problems. For that, the tribal leaders and governor deserve our thanks.