Sunday, December 18, 2016


Newly elected Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribal Council: Left to Right; Roman Marcellais, Stuart LaFountain, Don Keplin, Chairman Wayne Keplin, Alice Lunday, Chad Counts, Jamie Azure, Tyrell Decoteau and Lynn Gourneau. Photo Credit: Deborah LaVallie


By Deborah LaVallie 

The newly elected Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa Tribal Council heard a proposal Monday (12-12-16) by AIC Solutions Group Inc., (AICSGI) a Native owned business operating out of Nevada.  The company owned by John Melk, an enrolled Turtle Mountain band tribal member and his wife, Renee Liu-Melk, also known as Snow proposed a partnership between the Tribe and their company to drill 9 oil wells in the Trenton (ND) area where the Tribe owns land and has authority over.  This was the third meeting between the tribal council and the couple.  Investor and Director of AIC Solutions Group, Inc., Daofu Zhang and owner of Anhui Guangda Mining Investments Co. Ltd., allegedly, the largest oil company in China, well-known for it's work in the oil and gas industry, has already established, along with Mr. Melk, Sundancer Oil Services Inc., an oil and gas company who is ready to invest $980 million here in the U.S. for oil and gas surface minerals.  

The Joint Venture Partnership with the Tribe would give AICSGI a 10 year Oil, Gas and Surface Minerals lease immediately with 20% flat rate royalties going to the Tribe and the company receiving 80% and would include an estimated 78,000 acres for lease within the Tribe's contiguous and non contiguous boundaries which include tribal lands by or near Trenton, ND.  The group is prepared to take over the management and 'financially rework' the Turtle Mountain Bands' existing and producing oil wells (if any) to maximize the profit and productivity of the 20%-80% joint venture.  The group is requesting all historic tribally owned oil and gas records data.  Also requested is a tribally-owned facility for production operations and a minimum of 40 acres for a production yard and a man camp, fully financed by AICSGI.  A $25 million strip mall would be included in the deal.  

Council Representative Stuart LaFountain questioned the ratio of the 20%/80% split in the partnership saying he had a problem with that.  "You are asking the Turtle Mountain Tribe to sign over our minerals to you.  The tribe should be getting a larger percentage of the royalties."  Snow maintained that it's cheap right now to drill.  She has a ready-made team that is totally professional and reminded the Council that she is an adopted member of the Turtle Mountain Tribe.  Chairman Wayne Keplin asked her, "What's in it for the Tribe?" She replied that she has $89 million right now that she needs to spend by February.  AICSGI will pay for everything.   She said their company is not asking for a single penny and the deal would also include a sign on bonus.  "All you need to do is sign on the dotted line," she stated.

Council Representative Tyrell Decoteau stated that this would have to go through our people over in Trenton (TISA) and that "it's not just the mineral rights that need to be considered.  This is going to take time.  What about the community?  The Trenton community would be impacted by crime, drugs, prostitution and the costs of law enforcement, hospital, fire, EMS, education, sewer sytem and all that comes with having a man camp in the area."  John Melk stated that they are only asking for the oil and gas leases for a period of time.  Snow added, "We have learned a lot from New Town.  This is not a new business anymore" adding, "We do oil in the ocean and on the land.  We have 6 rigs in the Atlantic in Russia."   She discussed a motel/restaurant and said they could possibly go 50-50 with the Tribe on that.  Mr. Melk stated that they are willing to negotiate on the percentage of the flat rate royalty fees and they need to decide what they want. 

Spokesperson for The Turtle Mountain Water Commission Christa Monette addresses the tribal council. Photo Credit:  Deborah LaVallie

"Water is Life"
  Turtle Mountain Water Commissioner Christa Monette 

Spokesperson of The Turtle Mountain Tribal Water Commission Christa Monette addressed the tribal council and thanked them for inviting the water commission to speak on water issues and fracking.  She told them how she came to be involved with the fracking issue after Dimmock, Pennsylvania was being contaminated by the oil and gas industry.  As she passed out a copy of her oil and gas lease in Montana she told the council that "Water is Life", and that according to the tribal water code we all must work together to protect our water from contamination, preserving our water for the future generations.  

Carol Davis then presented a power point presentation developed by the tribal water commission on fracking.  She spoke on how the traditional Ojibwe water teachings have been handed down throughout the generations.  "Our traditional teachings tell us that all of Creation was given life.  When the Creator breathed life into the water, he/she gave it a Spirit."  "It is the job given to the women of the tribe to take care of the feed the water spirits through prayer and ceremony, just as it is the duty of the men of the tribe to take care of the fire and to keep the fire going."

Carol Davis presenting a power point presentation on fracking to the tribal council. Photo Credit: Deborah LaVallie
"There's no way this council will ever consider 'fracking' in the Turtle Mountains!"
Turtle Mountain Tribal Chairman Wayne Keplin

Carol Davis presenting a power point presentation on fracking to the tribal council.  Photo Credit:  Deborah LaVallie

"Our Nibi (water) is held in common by all of the people, and it states that in The Tribal Water Act, passed in July of 2015."  Davis added, "The Water Act was specifically written by a committee appointed by the tribal council, who over a period of 3 years went through the tribal water code, rewriting it, keeping in mind that the protection of our water and The Little Shell aquifer should be a top priority for the tribe." She stated, "The Water Act is an ordinance.  Any amendments made to the Act would have to go out for a 30 day comment period to the people. The foundation of The Water Act was based upon treaties, our 'inherent sovereignty' and right to clean water, and the Winter's Doctrine which gives the Tribe sovereign authority over the Little Shell aquifer even though most of it lies off the reservation."  "Our women have carried the sacred water bundle for our Tribe since we migrated from the east coast hundreds of years ago", she explained.  "Our stories and our ceremonies continue to guide our people.  While it seems to some that we are being foolish, to others we have purpose."

The Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa became the first tribe in the nation to ban fracking from it's homelands in November of 2011.  Hydraulic fracturing or 'fracking' is the process used by the oil and gas companies to remove oil from rock and shale that is buried deep in Mother Earth.  Addressing the Melk proposal Davis stated that 'horizontal drilling' IS fracking.  "A chemical cocktail is used in the fracking process.  4 million gallons of water are used in one well, in addition to 80,000 gallons of chemicals per well.  These chemicals are undisclosed because of the 2005 Haliburton Loophole that exempted fracking from any regulation under The Safe Drinking Water Act", she stated.  "There are 18,000 people living in the Turtle Mountains.  Where will they all go if our water is contaminated or our aquifer runs dry?" she asked. 

Water Commissioner Monette asked the council, "WHY would the Council even consider working with a woman who sued the Tribe for over a million dollars?  And WHY would the Council consider doing business with a company that is nonexistent on the internet?"  "There is no way this Council will ever consider fracking in the Turtle Mountains!", declared Chairman Keplin.  At this, the audience clapped their hands, cheering the intent of the Chairman's statement.

John Melk and wife Snow debate the Turtle Mountain Water Commission on the pros and cons of drilling.  Photo Credit:  Deborah LaVallie 

Shown is the Little Shell Aquifer in Rolette County.  The aquifer is the Turtle Mountain Tribe's primary source of water.

"We must be proactive though, in the protection and conservation of our sacred water."
Water Protector Carol Davis

Discussion also centered on the contamination of Belcourt Lake.  One of the Council members asked if the contamination was from the raw sewage seeping into the lake from the houses that surround it.  Water Commissioner William Houle talked about the algal bloom contamination there.  The source was nitrates from the 357 private sewer systems that surround the lake.  "There needs to be development of a plan for an upgraded waste management system he stated.  He also talked on the need for a risk assessment plan for the Little Shell aquifer considering all that goes in to it, such as pharmaceuticals, pesticides, paints, chemicals, nitrates and so on. Water Commissioner Monette stated that she would never allow her children to swim in Lake Upsilon or Lake Metigoshe because of the contamination, now Belcourt Lake is included.  It was stated that the Well head protection program needs to become a priority also.  The capping and locking of the numerous wells on the aquifer needs to happen and is vital for the security of the tribe's water resource.

At the conclusion of the meeting it was agreed that the tribal council and the water commission should work together to complete an agenda which includes the passage of a Safe Drinking Water Act and numerous other water issues.  The water permit giving Bottineau water from the Little Shell aquifer must be renegotiated, as stated in The Water Act.  "I am not an expert on fracking.  I advise you to take your time on making any decision regarding the oil drilling.  You need to call in experts to consult with on the fracking issue that goes along with the drilling of these oil wells.  You must consider that the Turtle Mountain Tribal Water Act of 2015 addresses the reach and authority of the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa.  The Tribe has 'sovereign' authority over all reservation lands, trust and tribal lands near the Turtle Mountain Reservation and in Trenton in western North Dakota, and lands held in 'Trust' in Montana that were the original allotments of enrolled tribal members.  The Water Act states that there will be no fracking on tribal lands on and off the reservation.  Davis told the tribal council that someday there's not going to be any clean water.  The old elders of the tribe knew this and told of the prophecies that said one day the only clean water would be in the Turtle Mountains.  Here in the Turtle Mountains today, we can take measures to ensure that our descendants and the future generations will have clean and fresh water.  "We must be proactive though, in the protection and conservation of our sacred water.  Water is life."

Former Water Commissioner Denise Peltier spoke to the tribal council on tribal sovereignty.  Photo Credit:  Deborah LaVallie 

Council Representative Tyrell Decoteau and Carol Davis

Link to: The Tribal Water Act Tribal Water Act




WHEREAS, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa, hereinafter referred to as the Tribe, is an unincorporated Band of Indians acting under a revised Constitution and Bylaws approved by the Secretary of the Interior on June 16, 1959, and amendments there to approved; and

WHEREAS, the Turtle Mountain Constitution and Bylaws was adopted by the tribal citizens to promote the general welfare of tribal citizens, and

WHEREAS, Article IX (a) Section 1 of the Turtle Mountain Constitution and Bylaws empowers the Tribal Council with the authority to represent the Band and to negotiate with the Federal, State and local governments and with private persons, and

WHEREAS, Article IX (a) Section 3 of the Turtle Mountain Constitution and Bylaws empowers the Tribal Council to regulate and license all business and professional activities conducted upon the reservation, and

WHEREAS, Article II Section 1 of the Turtle Mountain Constitution and Bylaws extends jurisdiction of the tribe to land on the Turtle Mountain Reservation in the State of North Dakota and to such other lands as may be acquired, by or in behalf of said Tribe and be added thereto under the laws of the United States, and

WHEREAS, the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa is responsible for protecting Mother Earth from any pollutants that may cause harm to its citizens, land, water, and air: and WHEREAS, the emerging oil industry is expanding throughout the state and will eventually include Rolette County which encompasses the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa reservation and its jurisdictions; and

WHEREAS, the oil industry is using a process called hydraulic fracturing (FRACKING) to extract oil that requires the use of hazardous chemicals that ould contaminate water resources that is vital for the tribe's livelihood and sustainability; and

WHEREAS, the FRACKING process could endanger tribal water resources and the waters of the Shell Valley aquifer which is the tribe's main resource for fresh water on the Turtle Mountain reservation, and

WHEREAS, it is critical that Turtle Mountain tribal citizens-at-large are educated on the consequence of oil exploration and any other development that can cause any environmental concerns now and in the future; now

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa prohibits in perpetuity any hydraulic fracturing (FRACKING) or any other process that is toxic on lands adjoining the Shell Valley aquifer or its tributaries, or flowing water that has the potential to channel to the Shell Valley aquifer and water resources, lakes, underground springs, and wetlands where tribal citizens reside on or near the Turtle Mountain Reservation and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa supports the efforts of tribal citizens to promote a public service campaign to inform our tribal membership of any environmental concerns pertaining to oil development and other initiatives affecting Mother Earth: and

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa directs The Bureau of Indian Affairs to cancel their Advertisement for the sale of Oil and Gas Leases that was posted in the Turtle Mountain Times and other newspapers November 21, 2011 on Allotted Indian Lands in Rolette County, North Dakota and ensure that all future bids include the tribal resolution informing the bidders that fracking is immediately banned in accordance with this resolution, and

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the tribe will work to develop similar laws and agreements with communities who are considering to utilize hydraulic fracturing (FRACKING) or any process that is or may be toxic on lands adjoining the Shell Valley aquifer or its tributaries or flowing water that has the potential to channel to the Shell Valley aquifer and water resources, lakes, underground springs, and wetlands where tribal citizens reside on or near the Turtle Mountain Reservation.


  1. I will secure 100 million dollars for the rights to fraction TM lands near Trenton. It will be a better deal than what John Melk (don't you love the yellow boots) and SNOW will give you. And, I am a registered tribal member - not adopted. I smell greed...

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  3. A motivating discussion is worth comment. I do believe that you need to publish more on this subject, it may not be a taboo subject but usually folks don't discuss these issues. To the next! Cheers!!