Is the Legislature Pulling Funding From the Double Ditch Indian Village or Not?

The bank erosion from the Missouri River at Double Ditch Indian Village northwest of Bismarck on Highway 1804 has expanded to damage a walking path and burial grounds. Mike McCleary / Bismarck Tribune

Yesterday I wrote about a Bismarck Tribune article which suggested that the state House had voted to remove funding for $1.25 million worth of repairs to the Double Ditch Indian Village.

As I noted in that post, this village is a rich area for historical research into an indigenous peoples, the Mandan, we really don’t know all that much about. But the village is being destroyed by erosion to the point where graves and other historical artifacts are being destroyed.

Anyway, after I published my post I had multiple state lawmakers reach out to me to say that the Tribune has it wrong.

“Despite what the news media has reported, the House Appropriations Committee did not cut any financial assistance to the Double Ditch Village,” Rep. Jim Schmidt (R-Huff) told me this afternoon. “The financial assistance is now as it was. Media wrote the House ‘yanked’ loan approval. We did not ‘yank’ the loan approval or reduce financial assistance.”

I’ve been in touch with Caroline Grueskin, the Tribune reporter who wrote the original article, and she says she stands by her reporting.

So what’s going on? It’s…a little complicated.

The legislation in question his HB1018, which is the budget for the State Historical Society. The version of that bill which passed the state House on a 80-11 vote contained the following statement of legislative intent:

Contrast that with these statements of intent from the Historical Society budget as it passed in the 2015 session (it’s worth noting that, in addition to the loan authorization, the Legislature also approved $2.25 million in funding):

So in 2015 the Legislature was telling the Historical Society to go ahead and get a loan. In 2017 the Legislature is saying don’t get a loan and, if you do get a loan, pay for it yourselves.

I’m not sure what work, if any, the Historical Society has done on Double Ditch between the 2015 and 2017 sessions.

The Associated Press is now also reporting that the Legislature has “yanked” funding from Double Ditch.

Is that a fair characterization? Certainly the Legislature has shifted its position on the $1.25 million loan, but I think it’s worth asking what the Historical Society has done with the money so far appropriated, and why they didn’t secure the approved loan during the last interim.

Rob Port is the editor of SayAnythingBlog.com, a columnist for the Forum News Service, and the host of the Rob (Re)Port on Fargo-based WDAY AM970 from 1-2pm weekdays.

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