Document Type

Article

Publication

Harvard Journal of Law & Gender

Year

2017

Abstract

In 2010, large deposits of oil and natural gas were found in the Bakken shale formation, much of which is encompassed by the Fort Berthold Indian reservation, home to the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation (“MHA Nation” or “Three Affiliated Tribes” or “the Tribe”). However, rapid oil and gas development has brought an unprecedented rise of violent crime on and near the Fort Berthold reservation. Specifically, the influx of well-paid male oil and gas workers, living in temporary housing often referred to as “man camps,” has coincided with a disturbing increase in sex trafficking of Native women. The social risks of oil development on American Indian reservations like Fort Berthold are distinct from development in other areas in the United States. The complex and shifting nature of federal Indian law presents legal and practical challenges to law enforcement in civil and criminal contexts. Further, the historical exploitation of Indian lands and people informs current social and economic conditions that contribute to increased sex trafficking of Native women and children.

This paper begins by describing the intersection of sex trafficking and oil and gas development on the Fort Berthold reservation. Next, the paper describes the jurisdictional regime within federal Indian law and other barriers to law enforcement that have created a situation ripe for trafficking and other crime on the Fort Berthold reservation. Third, the paper will examine strategies to address this complex issue including: corporate engagement of relevant companies; tribal capacity and coalition building; and remedies contained in the Violence Against Women Act of 2014. This paper asserts that all of the stakeholders involved in oil development on the Fort Berthold reservation – federal, state, tribal, and public and private companies – must work cooperatively to decisively eliminate sex trafficking of Native women and children.