The debate over fracking in Blackfeet country has reached the pages of The New York Times. In a report in the August 15 edition, the newspaper of record discusses the opposing world views of those who would drill versus those who fear it would bring both cultural and environmental destruction.
At issue is whether the sacredness of the mountains, streams and vegetation can be maintained if the land is drilled and its oil and gas resources extracted. On the one hand, the Times notes, with unemployment up at about 70 percent on the reservation, the 49 jobs created by one drilling rig alone have helped immensely. And at least 30 exploratory wells have been drilled this year. On the other hand, people like tribal member Pauline Matt told the Times that the drilling “threatens everything we are as Blackfeet.”
Also threatening, though, may be the poverty and alcoholism that mar life on the reservation, and tribal elders, the Times points out, would like to cure that. Jobs and revenue could be the answer.
The Blackfeet are one of many tribes facing such choices. Indian country in general is increasing its oil and gas activity. The 200,000-square-mile region under which lies the Bakken Formation in North Dakota and Montana is already being exploited.
Drilling on the Blackfeet reservation so far is for testing only. With oil difficult to extract, it remains to be seen whether such drilling would be profitable enough to outweigh the costs of getting it out, the Times said.
The Times captures the dilemma and the division between tribal members and outlooks in photos as well, with a slide show accompanying the article. The full story, “Tapping Into the Land, and Dividing Its People,” is on The New York Times website.
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