- By Native News Online Staff
HELENA, Mont. — A federal appeals court on Tuesday canceled a disputed oil and gas lease on land in Montana that is considered sacred to tribes.
A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals struck down a 2018 court decision that allowed Louisiana-based Solenex LLC to keep its lease on 6,200 acres in the Badger-Two Medicine area near the Blackfeet Indian Reservation and Glacier National Park.
The area is considered to be the sacred homeland and site of the creation story of Montana’s Blackfeet Nation and the Blackfoot tribes of southern Canada.
The Solenex lease was the last remaining oil and gas lease on the land that had been issued in the 1980s. The U.S. The Department of Interior in 2016 canceled the remaining oil and gas leases in 2016.
John Murray, the Blackfeet's tribal historic preservation officer, told the Associated Press that the court's decision will close a “long and painful chapter in the history of our people.”
Murray also leads the Pikuni Traditionalist Association, which was among the groups intervening to defend against the Solenex lawsuit.
“Blackfeet have lived under a cloud of threat and uncertainty for decades, with the risk of our traditional homelands being industrialized,” Murray said in a statement.“The Badger-Two Medicine is essential to the cultural survival of the Blackfeet. It is our last refuge. The court’s decision today highlights the original error in leasing the Badger and provides great hope that historic mistakes can, at least in part, be corrected.”
Murray noted that the Blackfeet Nation’s efforts to settle the lawsuit had been repeatedly rebuffed by Solenex.
“This ruling finally puts the federal government on the right side of history,” said Jack Gladstone, speaking on behalf of the Blackfeet Headwaters Alliance. “The next step is to ensure the long-term future of the Badger-Two Medicine by securing permanent protection.”
Tim Preso, an Earthjustice attorney who represented the tribal and conservation groups challenging the lease reinstatement, hailed the ruling.
“This ruling rightly rejects Solenex’s effort to resurrect an illegal oil and gas lease that never should have been issued in the first place,” Preso said. “The value of the Badger-Two Medicine region is in its wild beauty and irreplaceable cultural significance for the Blackfeet Nation — not in oil and gas.”
Support Independent Indigenous Journalism
Native News Online is an independent, Indigenous-led newsroom with a crucial mission: We want to change the narrative about Indian Country. We do this by producing intelligent, fact-based journalism that tells the full story from all corners of Indian Country. We pride ourselves on covering the tribes you may have never heard of before and by respecting and listening to the communities we serve through our reporting. As newsrooms across the country continue to shrink, coverage of Indian Country is more important than ever, and we are committed to filling this ever-present hole in journalism.
Because we believe everyone in Indian Country deserves equal access to news and commentary pertaining to them, their relatives and their communities, the story you’ve just finished was free — and we want to keep it that way, for all readers. But we hope it inspires you to make a gift to Native News Online so that we can continue publishing more stories that make a difference to Native people, whether they live on or off the reservation. Your donation will help us keep producing quality journalism and elevating Indigenous voices. Any contribution of any amount, big or small, gives us a better, stronger future and allows us to remain a force for change. Donate to Native News Online today and support independent Indigenous journalism. Thank you.