The Department of the Interior will cancel oil and natural gas leases on land supposedly sacred to the Blackfeet tribe.
The tribe says that the land is a critical part of its creation story — one that’s supported by Interior Secretary Sally Jewell. But is the land actually sacred?
“The tribe sold that land to the U.S. government back in the 1800s, hard to believe its that sacred to them,” William Pendley, president of the Mountain States Legal Foundation, told The Daily Caller News Foundation.
“When these leases were issued back in the 1980s, these tribes supported energy development and wanted to work with the oil and gas. They support drilling, they just want it on the reservation,” said Pendle, who represents the energy company Solenex that had its oil and gas leases canceled.
Solenex’s lease was cancelled in March after a nearly year-long district court battle, even though the company’s application to drill was approved on four separate occasions by the Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
“The area is part of a national forest and it was issued to us in 1982,” Pendley said. “We were given permission to drill on our lease. Sometime in the least 10 years, the tribe decided it would prefer to drill on their reservation.”
The Obama administration says the land has immense cultural value to the Blackfeet tribe, and now argues it only sold the land to energy companies because it “failed to fully consider the effects of oil and gas development on cultural resources.”