As millions of voters across the country weigh in on issues like abortion and marijuana legalization, a new report documents how a small group of American Indian voters deep in the plains of North Dakota are determining the future of an entirely different issue—the course of the state's oil industry.
Members of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara (MHA) Nation are electing a new tribal chairman, and both candidates promise new regulations that will make business tougher for the oil industry there. The tribal chairman exercises considerable influence on the state's oil industry, which produces more oil than any state except Texas, according to Reuters. MHA controls a third of that production.
The two most pressing issues for the candidates, attorney Damon Williams and tax director Mark Fox, are protecting the environment and ensuring that oil revenue supports members of the tribes. Despite collecting hundreds of millions of dollars in oil tax revenue, the tribe still lacks some basic services. "The oil money is our buffalo," Williams said. "And one of these days, the buffalo will move on."