There’s no question that North Dakota’s tribal communities are pockets of left-leaning sentiments. The reservation vote goes almost unanimously to Democrat candidates, and Democrats in turn work very hard to keep those reservation votes in their base of support.
Which is why a recent demonstration on the Fort Berthold Reservation, home to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, was so interesting. The tribal government there has been thrown into turmoil after windfall oil revenues began flowing into tribal coffers and the rejection of allegedly corrupt former chairman (and Heidi Heitkamp political ally) Tex Hall.
Now protesters are demanding change in their tribal government, and the change they’re demanding sounds like the sort of thing you might hear at a tea party rally. “A group of demonstrators met outside the tribal administration headquarters of the MHA Nation today near New Town,” reported KX News. “The protestors had a list of complaints about the direction tribal government has been headed in recent years as the oil boom has hit the reservation.”
Their complaints? Too much government:
The group wants to see a full accounting of where money is being spent, a constitutional change to allow enrolled members not living on the Fort Berthold Reservation to vote in tribal elections, and a re-working of the government structure to make it smaller.
(Marilyn Hudson, MHA Tribal Member) “That’s how tribal government has changed from very small where the people who served on the government had their own ranches and farms and today it’s an occupation, it’s a career and it shouldn’t be.”
(Chance Rush, MHA Tribal Member) “You could have some tribal members making an enormous amount of money and their neighbor is not making anything so you have the animosity there.”
(Scott Satermo, MHA Tribal Member & Contractor) “When you come back and do tribal work there’s a lot of issues you have to deal with and professionalism and things just don’t work out right and I’d like to see that change. That would be what I’m kind of advocating for.”
I don’t expect the voting trends on the reservations to change any time soon, but it is interesting to hear these demands as they sound downright conservative.
A desire for a less intrusive sort of government? A desire that public policy not enrich public servants but rather create prosperity for the people in general?
Again, the sort of thing you might hear at a tea party rally.
Now, I realize that “tea party” has become a fraught term and that these issues the MHA Nation are grappling with are far more complicated than this story portrays. Still, this does illustrate that despite the dominance of liberalism on the reservations the desires of the people there aren’t at all incompatible with conservatism.