Social and Economic Report on the Future of
Fort Berthold Reservation, North Dakota,
Incorporating Reports of:
Farm and Range Resources of the Residual Segments
of the Fort Berthold Reservation
H. D. McCullough, Agricultural Economist,
and a
Survey of Attitudes Regarding Resettlement
Among the Three Affiliated Tribes of
the Fort Berthold Reservation,
Gordon Macgregor, Social Economist,
and John G. Hunter, Field Agent.

Prepared by
Missouri River Basin Investigations Staff
Region No. 2 -- Bureau of Indian Affairs
Billings, Montana
January 15, 1948


Syllabus: Summary, Conclusions and Recommendations


I       The Problem Created by the Construction of the Garrison Project
II       The Reservation and the People

1. Location, date established, area

2. Physical Features and Climate

3. Population
III       The Economy of the People

IV       The Potential Resources of the Residual Reservation

1. The Northern Segment

2. The Northeastern Segment

3. The Eastern Segment

4. The Southern Segment

5. The Western Segment

V       The Study of Attitudes Toward Relocation and Future Self-Support by the Fort Berthold Indians

1. Where Do the Fort Berthold Indians Want to Go

2. How Do the Fort Berthold Indians Plan to Make a Living
VI       The Future Use of the Land Resources as Indicated by the Economy and Attitude of the Indians
VII       Land Ownership, Consolidation and Purchase

Average Earned and Unearned Income 1942-1945
Acreages of the Fort Berthold Reservation
Trust Lands
Lands in Residual Segments
Use of Potential Resources of Residual Segments
Grazing Area -- 3 Segments
Allotment Periods and Allotments Affected by Garrison Project
Net Income of Fort Berthold Indians by Sources and Amounts, and as Earned and Unearned; also Number of Resident Families and Average Family Income, 1942-1945
Fort Berthold Indian Reservation. Segments of the Reservation above the Garrison Reservoir Site
Area of Segments [text from map]


Section I. The Problem Created by the Construction of the Garrison Project.

      The withdrawal of 156,035 acres from the heart of the Fort Berthold Reservation will break up the unity, communication and organization of the people. The residual reservation will be divided in five geographically separate parts. As a result, communities of the Three Affiliated Tribes of Arikara, Mandan and Gros Ventre will be isolated. The people will suffer a loss of land and other resources and retardation of their economic progress.

      The formation of the Garrison Reservoir will divide the reservation into five residual segments, each isolated from the others within the boundaries of the reservation, by water. Communities will be separated one from another. The livestock enterprise which is centered in the bottom lands that will be flooded will be disorganized and broken into several divisions. Most important of all, the majority of homes on the reservation will be vitally affected and most of the population will have to move.

Section II. The Reservation and the People.

      The people will lose their most valuable land and the wide bottom lands formed by the Missouri River which winds through the reservation.

      Two hundred eighty-nine of the 357 homes on the reservation are within the area to be flooded. In the river valley are the most desirable homesites. Here the homes are protected from the full fury of the winds that sweep the plains. Gardens, which furnish a large part of the food supply, thrive exceptionally well in the bottom lands. Domestic water of good quality is usually found here at a depth of about 40 feet, as opposed to twice that depth or more on the uplands. The unflooded portions of the reservation contain relatively few home sites as desirable and advantageous as those which will be destroyed.

Section III. The Economy of the People.

      The withdrawal of the taking area will remove the best grazing area and shelter of the Indian cattle. It will disrupt the organization of the cattle operations, destroy hay fields and remove the cover of the wildlife on which so many Indians depend for part of their subsistence.

      The production of range beef cattle is by far the most important enterprise of the people. It is now conducted in the central part of the reservation on both sides of the Missouri River. Flooding of the reservoir will eliminate all of this choice range, except for two narrow strips along the border of the pool. These tracts and the ranges of the residual segments will lose much of their value when disassociated from the homes, haylands, shelter and water of the bottom lands to be inundated.

      The belt of timber on either side of the river provides shelter for stock in winter and shade for them in summer.

      Native hay is cut on these river bottoms, where there are many fine meadows. These hay fields are in convenient proximity to the Indian homes and the areas where the cattle are wintered. Flooding of the valley will break up this balance of range, shelter, water and feed which the Indian stockmen now enjoy.

      All of the potentially irrigable lands on the reservation will be flooded. It will probably not be feasible to irrigate any part of the residual reservation after the creation of the reservoir.

      Two hundred thirty-six of the 370 Indian families owned 8,493 head of cattle in 1946. There was a wide variation in the number owned by individual families and a wide distribution in income from beef sales, with most families owning too few head for family support. The cattle herd has increased from 3,141 head in 1938 to its present size. Fifty-five percent of the range is under permit to whites. The Indians farmed 3,150 acres of land, raising wheat, barley and flax primarily. Nearly all the remainder of their dry farm land, about 95 percent, was leased to non-Indian operators. The lease rentals and crop shares made up a substantial part of their total income. The total average income of $409,043 for the period 1942 to 1945 was derived from: unearned income, leases and permits, 39 percent; agriculture, 38 percent; wage work, Indian crafts, and native products, 17 percent; and Social Security and other relief, 6 percent. The average family annual income was $1,105, but the majority of the families received less and suffered from poverty.

Section IV. The Potential Resources of the Residual Reservation.

      The Indians will have adequate range in the residual five segments on which to move their present cattle herd and allow for a possible maximum increase of 77 percent. There will be room for extensive expansion in the cultivation of small grains.

      There will be 384,736 acres of range land and 41,677 acres of crop land in the residual reservation. The potential use of these resources by individual families would permit the establishment of 148 ranches of 50-cow herds on 2,500 acres of pasture, 77 crop farms on 640 acres each, and, in one segment, 5 additional ranches of 25-cow herds on 1,300 acres of pasture combined with 200 acres of crop land, a total of two hundred thirty enterprises. There are 236 families now engaged in beef cattle production.

Section V. The Study of Attitudes toward Relocation and Future Livelihood.

      The great majority of the Indians wish to remain on the reservation and carry on ranch and farming enterprises on the land left to them.

      Eighty-three percent of the families wish to remain on the reservation. They plan to move to, or remain in, the eastern, southern and western residual segments.

      Seventy-five percent of the families state that they wish to continue in or enter the livestock business (68 percent) and dry farming (7 percent). It is estimated that probably 60 percent will actively raise cattle, inasmuch as there are several family heads who stated their intentions to ranch, but are unable for one reason or another to do so.

      Sixty-five percent of the families want land in part or in toto in payment for the lands they will lose in the taking area. This is significant in supporting their desire to live on the reservation and use their land.

      Ninety-three percent wish to consolidate the scattered lands they own or have undivided interest in, and 87 percent wish to keep their lands in trust under the United States.

Section VI. Future Use of the Land Resources as Indicated by the Economy and Attitudes of the Indians.

      It is apparent that the Indians will reorganize their present livestock and feed production economy on the residual reservation. In the three residual segments in which they largely plan to live the Indians can increase their total herd to a possible maximum of 6 percent. The actual increase and number of families which can be supported by their cattle herds can be determined only by a range survey of the residual reservation. The adequacy of the remaining land resources for support of the population is as yet undetermined.

      These conclusions are supported by the expressed desire of the people to remain on the reservation and to run cattle, and by the resources available to them. From their past lack of interest and experience in operating commercial crop farms, it does not seem probable that the Indians will utilize the potential 77 crop farms of 640 acres each. It seems more likely that these lands will continue to be leased for some years to come.

      A survey of the range and a plan of resettlement of the residual segments are necessary to determine the possible practical increase of cattle and the organization of the cattle industry in connection with new communities.

Section VII. Land Ownership, Consolidation and Purchase.

      The greatest obstacle to future land use of the residual segments and to practical resettlement is the land ownership pattern. Original recipients and heirs of 1,242 allotments are affected by the taking area. Many who raise cattle or farm will be seriously affected by losing their basic land holdings.

      One million dollars is needed as a minimum fund to unravel the land ownership complexities and provide consolidated blocks of land for new homesites and agricultural enterprises.

      Five hundred thirty-two individuals allotted or deeded land in the bottom land area and heirs of 710 other allotments will lose much of their most useful land. This arises from the fact that the first two allotment schedules were made along the Missouri River. The land of families of the oldest living generation is concentrated in the area to be inundated. Many of these families will have to purchase new land in order to have sufficient holdings for a home and ranch in a productive area.

      The inheritance system setting up undivided interests in allotments forces heirs to hold many interests in allotments scattered the length and breadth of the reservation.

      A Land Exchange Board, established by the Tribal Business Council, enabled to exchange and purchase lands, and with ample funds, is urgently needed to untangle this ownership pattern and to consolidate holdings in order that landowners may have their lands in practical units. This work should be accomplished at least in the eastern and southern and western segments, so that the families may move to their consolidated holdings.


I. The Problem Created by The Construction of the Garrison Project.

      The building of the Garrison Dam and Reservoir in the Missouri River below the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation will flood the heart of the Indian lands. The taking area will withdraw 146,595 acres from 579,858 acres of surveyed land, and an additional 9,440 acres of accrued or land created by the changing and deepening of the river, a total of 156,035 acres. The withdrawal of this land will leave the present reservation divided into five separate segments. This reduction of the reservation land area by approximately one-fourth, and the isolating of the remainder in five parts, pose serious problems for the future livelihood and residence of the Fort Berthold Indians.

      All of the Indians will be affected drastically by the flooding of part of their reservation. The loss of some land in the taking area by most of the land-owning Indians and the forced uprooting of all or part of every Indian community are two direct, major effects. Two hundred eighty-nine of the 357 homes on the reservation are located within the taking area. Families in 25 other homes run livestock in the taking area. Three hundred fourteen households, therefore, will have to change either their place of residence or the location of their agricultural pursuits.

      It is necessary for the Indian Service, in order to assist the Fort Berthold people in their large scale relocation, to know the economic potentialities of the remaining sectors of the reservation, the possibilities and desires of the Indians to continue their present economy, and the localities in which they wish to live and work. This report will attempt to answer those questions and offer basic recommendations. Resources and economic data are drawn or compiled from the "Farm and Range Resources of the Residual Segments of the Fort Berthold Reservation and their Suitability for Resettlement and Use as Family Size Farms and Ranches," by H. D. McCullough, Agricultural Economist, Missouri River Basin Investigations Staff, Region No. 2, Bureau of Indian Affairs, December 24, 1947. The data on Indian attitudes are based on the tabulations of 300 questionnaires taken among family heads of the Fort Berthold Reservation in November and December, 1946, by Gordon Macgregor, Social Economist and John G. Hunter, Field Agent, Missouri River Basin Investigations Staff.

II. The Reservation and the People.

1. Location, date established, area.

      The Fort Berthold Reservation, home of the Mandan, Arikara and Gros Ventre Indians, is located in west central North Dakota, is bisected from northwest to southeast by the Missouri River, and includes territory in McLean, Mountrail, Mercer, McKenzie and Dunn Counties. The Fort Berthold Indians were assigned land by the Treaty of Fort Laramie, September 17, 1851. The original treaty reservation contained more than 12,500,000 acres. By successive Treaties, Executive Orders and Acts of Congress (1868, 1870, 1880, 1891, 1892 and 1910), this original homeland of the tribes was reduced and reshaped to the existing boundaries. The gross area of the reservation is 643,368 acres, of which 63,510 acres have been alienated from trust status. The remainder of the reservation includes 550,269 acres of trust allotments, 27,729 acres of tribal land and 1,860 acres in government reserves.

2. Physical Features and Climate.

      The reservation lies in the Missouri plateau, through which the Missouri River meanders in a broad, flat valley about two miles in width and bordered by bluffs from 200 to 400 feet in height. Five to eight miles on each side of the river, the valley is cut by "breaks," before it emerges into the rolling plateau. West of the river, the broad, rolling divides between the main drainages are dotted with flat-topped irregular buttes. The elevation of the reservation varies from 1,800 feet to 2,400 feet above sea level.

      The average annual precipitation at Elbowoods, the reservation agency, for the 40-year period ended in 1938 was 15.21 inches. Over a 52-year period, the greatest annual precipitation was 27.86 inches, and the least annual precipitation was 4.94 inches. There were 12 years when the annual rainfall at Elbowoods was less than 12 inches and 27 years when it was less than 16 inches. 1/

      About 70 percent of the annual rainfall occurs during the 117-day growing season from May 21 to September 15, although the amount of rainfall varies widely. The yield of crops is largely determined by the amount of rain which falls during this period. In general, the reservation lies in the semi-arid area which characterizes the plains of the West.

      The climate is that of the northern Great Plains, hot summers and cold winters. Extremes of temperature have been recorded at 112 degrees above and 56 degrees below 0, Fahrenheit. Winds are extremely severe in the Great Plains. Strong winds sweeping across the rolling surface of the land during extremely hot days can be completely devastating to ripening crops. Unless the fields are protected when crops are not growing, the winds erode tons of topsoil annually. For this reason, agricultural experts have been strongly recommending for years that much of this cultivated Plains land be returned to sod.

      The semi-arid climate makes farming on the Fort Berthold Reservation speculative over the years. Soil and moisture conservation measures are requisite for any degree of success.

      Livestock production with farming for the production of feeds entertains less hazard and is the safer type of operation for most Indians.

3. Population.

      The agency census of January 1, 1946, showed a total population of 2,034, of whom 762 were Arikara, 897 Gros Ventre, and 375 Mandan. 1,920 Indians were living on the reservation in 370 family groups. In a study of population statistics in March, 1944, former Superintendent Beitzel states that approximately 50 percent of the total population was composed of mixed bloods, and that available data indicated a gradual trend toward a diminution of Indian blood throughout the population. His analysis further indicated that the total population would number 2,363 in 1953, if the yearly increase of 2 percent continued.

      Since the first contacts with the fur traders, missionaries and U. S. Army, in the early part of the nineteenth century, the Fort Berthold Indians have been associating with white people. Today, they have many business dealings with the white farmers and ranchers, many of whom lease Indian lands. The reservation schools, churches and the trading posts and stores in neighboring towns have all had an influence upon the Indians to adopt the white man's ways. In a study made in the fall of 1946, Miss Della Ryan, Indian Service Social Worker, found that, although the Fort Berthold Indians have a deep respect for their Indian heritage, they show definite approval of the assimilation of the younger people with the white ways. 2/ Miss Ryan's study also indicated that among the Fort Berthold Indians, the majority of the population is in the young age groups. Inter-marriage between Indians and whites was proceeding slowly, as shown by the fact that only 5 percent of the total marriages were in that category; and that 50 percent of all marriages were intra-tribal; 30 percent were in the three tribes; and 15 percent with Sioux and Chippewa Tribes from other reservations. Working with limited data, Miss Ryan found a large percent did not have homes of their own. Many of these homeless families are young married couples living with their parents. The majority of young men are able-bodied and employable, and possess interests in heirship allotments so scattered that there is not available land or a basis for credit to establish a home or business of their own.

      The tribes accepted the provisions of the Indian Reorganization Act of 1934 and adopted a Constitution and By-Laws which were approved by the Secretary of the Interior June 29, 1936. The Secretary then issued the tribes a Corporate Charter which was ratified by them on April 24,1937. The governing body of the "Three Affiliated Tribes" is a Tribal Business Council of 10 members, chosen from seven districts on a representative basis. The Council has broad powers of self-government.

      In general, the Mandans live south of the Missouri River, the Arikaras in the eastern part of the reservation centering around Nishu, and the Gros Ventre in the central and northern parts of the reservation. The eight principal centers of population are Beaver Creek, Red Butte and Charging Eagle on the south side; Nishu, Elbowoods, Lucky Mound and Shell Creek to the north and east of the river, and Independence, just west of the Missouri and opposite Lucky Mound.

III. The Economy of the People.

      The major industry of the Fort Berthold Indians is the production of beef cattle. This is conducted along the river bottom lands that wind through the reservation and on the higher grass ranges above the river. The bottom lands with their timber and shelter from the winds are used for winter range. The people have organized cattle associations for cooperative management. District associations are assigned ranges. Much of the Indian land is used without paying grazing fees, but some progress has been made recently in having Indian cattlemen obtain permits from the owners who are paid for the grass.

      In 1946, the Indian cattlemen were using 250,000 acres or 43 percent of the range of the reservation. Non-Indian operators in that year had 10,226 head under permit and were utilizing 343,580 acres of Indian land. Permits to many of these white operators will have to be cancelled when the Indian cattle are moved from the taking area.

      In 1938, the Indians ran 3,141 head of cattle. Through purchases with money loaned individuals by the tribes, replacement cattle loaned by the United States, which must be repaid in kind, and by natural increase the Indians had brought their herd to 8,758 head in 1945. In 1946, the herd estimate was 8,493. Two hundred thirty-six families own cattle but the majority of them have only a few head. In 1946, 88 families had from 1 to 20 head; 99 families owned from 20 to 50 head and only 49 families had 50 head or more. Only 6 of these 49 families had 100 or more cattle. The total sales of beef cattle brought the Indians $238,819 in 1946.

      The Indians run from 1,000 to 2,000 horses on their ranges. An accurate tally has not been made recently and some estimate the horse herd far above 2,000. Horses are necessary for working cattle and for transportation, but many of the horses on the range are half wild and never used. These eat valuable grass on which productive cattle should be run. It will be desirable that the Indians cut down their horse herd before they move onto the residual reservation.

      To raise supplemental feed for their livestock and to produce some cash crops of wheat, barley and flax, the Indian farmers cultivated 3,150 acres of dry farm land in 1946. They have excellent winter grazing areas and hay fields in the bottom lands. These people as a whole are not attracted to dry farming. They do not own the necessary farm machinery and would have to borrow heavily, at some risk in view of their experience, to obtain it.

      All the 370 families of the Fort Berthold Reservation participate in the agricultural economy but to varying degrees. The total net agricultural income for 1946 was $290,000. One hundred thirty-one families received less than $250 from it; 122 received from $250 to $750; 66 received $750 to $1,250; and 51 families received more than $1,250.

      Many of the Indian men and women work from time to time for wages to supplement their agricultural or other income.

      Some work regularly for the Indian Agency and some for nearby white farmers and ranchers. The great majority of the wage workers are employed only during the summer season. Many families increase the family larder by hunting game, particularly deer, in the bottom lands of the reservation. A few trap beaver and other fur-bearing animals and a few sell craft work. Wage work, sales of skins and Indian-made products do not amount to more than 20 percent of the total income of the people.

      The excellent farm lands for raising wheat and other small grains along the northern and northeastern borders of the reservation are nearly all leased to white men. These cultivated areas are operated generally in conjunction with their own farms situated beyond the reservation lines. The income from these leased lands and crop shares was $78,7l2 in 1946. Added to the income of $43,961 obtained from permits granted to white cattle operators on the reservation, the total unearned income from these sources for the Indians in 1946 was $122,673.

      Rentals from leases and permits are an important source of income on the Fort Berthold Reservation. From verbal reports given at the Fort Berthold Agency, income from leasing and permits, especially income from share crops on wheat farms, increased in 1947. Figures are not yet available.

      The importance of leasing points up two important considerations that must be borne in mind for the future land use of the residual reservation. Much of the individually Indian-owned dry farm land of the residual reservation probably will continue to be offered to non-Indian crop farmers for use and not to Indians. This reduces the future land base for the Indian agricultural operators. It also raises the question as to what extent Indians will practice agriculture when sufficient income for their accepted standards is available.

      It is realized, however, that the high income yield from dry farm land is not permanent. These are bonanza years of high crop yields and high grain prices. Changes in markets and variations in rainfall can alter the returns from leasing materially, but it will be many years before the Indian lessors will abandon leasing. Leasing fits in with the psychology of these Indians regarding making a living. To the white farmer, leasing as the Indian does it without other sources of sufficient income, is unprofitable. The white man can earn a far greater income by working his land. This greater income through work is not as desirable to the Indian as the smaller income from leasing and the leisure time that leasing affords. Standards of living, economic habits and lack of inculcated industry to farm as successfully as the white man are also factors in promoting the practice of leasing by the great majority of Fort Berthold Indians. These factors keep many Indians poor, but poverty has not driven them as yet to extensive small grain crop farming. The reverse is true -- leasing has become an increasingly profitable "business," and relieved much of the poverty of a few years ago. Again, Indians do not desire to lease crop land to other Indians, for the reason that they recognize a non-Indian will on the average produce a larger crop and therefore pay a proportionately larger crop share on a given piece of land by his superior ability and experience as a crop farmer.

      All these things militate against making available much Indian farm land for Indian use. To these is added the scattered land ownership pattern brought about by the inheritance system which gives heirs only undivided interests in inherited allotments.

      To obtain an over-all picture of the livelihood structure, the average net income by sources and amounts for 1942-1945, appended to this report, is briefly analyzed. The item of Service Men's dependent allotments has been eliminated as a source no longer a factor.


Earned Income:
      Crafts, Natural Products or Private Business     10,9553%
Unearned Income:
      Leases, Permits, Timber Sales and other$161,05539%
      Indian Service Relief and Social Security25,9506%
Total Earned Income$222,03855%
Total Unearned Income187,00545%
$409,043       100%


      The pertinent deductions that can be drawn from these summaries of the Fort Berthold economy reveal:

      1. That among all families sharing in the agricultural income, only a small fraction (51 of 370) earn an income that adequately supports them.

      2. That only a small fraction of the families (6 of 236) own the 100 cattle considered sufficient for self-support.

      3. That the unearned income from leases and permits is 39 percent of the total income and earned income from agriculture is only 38 percent.

      4. That the great majority of Fort Berthold Indians do not have sufficient agricultural income on which to exist.

      5. That the cattle industry is the economy of the Fort Berthold Indians.

      6. That from the reported practice of crop farming, it should not be expected as a probable enterprise for Fort Berthold Indians, except for a very small number.

      7. That leasing of the farm land is widely practiced and an important source of income.

IV. The Potential Resources of the Residual Reservation.

      The gross acreage of the present reservation is 643,368 acres. This includes 63,510 acres which have been placed in patent in fee status, of which 60,085 acres have been sold to non-Indians. There are also 6,850 acres of scattered Indian-owned tracts outside the boundaries, remaining from the former larger reservation. These are now all leased or unused properties. The Indian-owned lands held in trust within the reservation now amount to 579,858 acres. The reservoir area of the Garrison Project will withdraw 146,595 acres of this trust land. It will also withdraw an additional 9,440 acres, an accretion to the reservation formed by the Missouri River by deepening and changing its channel. This acreage is not shown on the General Land office plats.

Table of Acreages of the Fort Berthold Reservation
Gross area of the reservation643,368
Non-trust land white and Indian-owned       63,510
Trust land579,858
Taking area (trust land)146,595
Residual trust land within reservation426,413
Accrued land9,440
Scattered tracts outside reservation6,850

      The trust land is held by individual Indians, the Affiliated Tribes and by the Government for its reserves, in amounts as shown in the following table:

Table of Trust Lands
Indian allotments550,269 A.
Tribal land27,729 A.
Government reserves1,860 A.
Total579,858 A.

      When the taking area is withdrawn, most of the tribal lands and Government reserves will be gone. The residual area of 426,4l3 acres will be almost entirely allotted lands which individuals will own or in which they will have inherited interests. This residual area will be separated into five parts by the water of Garrison Reservoir; a northern segment in Mountrail County, a northeastern segment in McLean County, an eastern segment in McLean County, a southern segment in Dunn and Mercer Counties and a western segment in Dunn and McKenzie Counties. The acreage, ownership and use is presented in the following table.

Table of Lands in Residual Segments
Indian Land by Type
of Segment
in Segment
Alienated Under
Farm Lease
in 1947
Used for
in 1947
Northeastern       27,59121,4326,15911,41810,0l4
Total      470,543      426,413      44,130      41,677      384,736

      In the following sub-sections, the residual segments are described according to their topography, soils and potential use of the land areas. These lands lend themselves to livestock production and crop farming. The segments have been divided according to the number of ranches and farms which would make the best use of the land. A minimum unit for straight ranching would have a 50-cow herd on 2,500 acres. The total herd would number 100 head of 50 cows, 35 calves over 6 months, 9 yearling heifers, 4 yearling steers and 2 bulls. The straight crop farm contains 640 acres, although 800 acres is more desirable.

      These "average-size, family type" ranch and farm units are adopted from the Farm Ownership Program of the Farmers Home Administration and county committees of local operators and extension agents in the counties which lie in the Fort Berthold Reservation. They are practical units arrived at through study which will give families a modest income for self-support in normal times.

      At present, none of the lands on the residual reservation appear susceptible to irrigation. A preliminary survey reports:

      "Examination of the topographic maps prepared by the Corps of Engineers and the reconnaissance survey maps of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation discloses no potential irrigable areas within the residual reservation which can be feasibly irrigated by the pumping of water from the Garrison Reservoir.

      "First impressions might indicate that the area lying within southeast Mountrail County located within the peninsula formed by the Missouri River on the west and south and Shell Creek Valley on the east could be supplied with water by pumping from Garrison pool to the top of the divide which roughly parallels the Missouri River and a relatively short distance to the east of it.

      "The low points along the top of the ridge are at an elevation of approximately 2200 feet MSL. The operating level of the Garrison pool will be at elevation 1830 feet MSL. At the nearest point the 1830 contour is approximately l½ miles from the nearest saddle in the ridge. This means that any installation to pump water to the top of this ridge would require l½ miles of pipe line operating under a maximum static head of about 370 feet.

      "Since the maximum static head of approximately 150 feet is considered to be the outside limit at which irrigation pumping can be considered with all other conditions (power rates, quality of the land, climatic conditions, etc.) extremely favorable, it seems obvious that the proposal to irrigate any of the area lying on this peninsula is not feasible." 3/

      The Northern Segment.

1. The Northern Segment, Mountrail County.

      Indian-owned land:
            Dry farm4,227acres
      Potential use:
            8  50-cow ranches with 1,955 acres of range
and 125 acres of cropland, and
            5  cash grain farms with 640 acres of cropland.

      This segment lies immediately west of Shell Village and 8 to 10 miles south of the towns of Van Hook and Sanish. The topography is generally rolling with a large drainage, Little Shell Creek, crossing the area from west to east. The bluffs into the Missouri River Valley are abrupt. Most of the farming land in the segment extends for 12 miles along the northern tier of sections. Most of this farm land is now leased to white operators living north of the area. The central and southern parts of the segment are grazing land. In winter, the cattle which graze on this land are moved to the river bottoms.

      Only two Indian families now live in this segment, and there are very few improved farms. The farm land lying in a long, narrow strip does not lend itself to a compact community settlement.

      Farms can be established in this strip and some of the grazing section used in conjunction with them. The remainder of the range land is best adapted for use as a range unit or community pasture. Stock water can be developed along the Little Shell Creek drainages to supplement existing water holes and water which will be in the reservoir along the southern boundary. Building two north-and-south fences will provide a steer pasture, a heifer pasture, and a cow and calf pasture. The bluffs remaining above the Garrison Reservoir will afford some winter protection. Feed grains can be produced on part of the farming land, and, in most years, prairie hay can be cut on from 2,500 to 3,000 acres of the range. The average carrying capacity is about 2 acres per head per month.

      Eight small ranches, each with 50-cow herds, could utilize the entire 15,600 acres of range and about 1,000 acres of cropland for the production of feed grains. Hay would be cut on the range when possible. Such use of the land would leave about 3,200 acres of cropland along the northern fringe of the segment. This would make five 640-acre cash grain farms, with two-thirds of the acreage in wheat and the remainder in summerfallow each year. A total of 1.3 family units can be established in this segment.

      The Northeastern and Eastern Segments.

      The residual section of the reservation in McLean County will be divided by an arm of the reservoir which will flood Lucky Mound Creek. Farming in this part of the county combines grain crops with livestock, but with one or the other being the primary cash income producing source. 4/ The crop farm land lies along the eastern and northern boundaries.

      The topography of the farming area is described as gently rolling upland. Numerous potholes scattered throughout the area make drainage incomplete. The topsoil is a medium textured loam with some scatterings of fine sandy loams and some small spots of a heavier clay loam. The fertility of the soil is good.

      Over 60 percent of the land is in cultivation, with wheat and flax the most important cash crops. About 40 percent of the cropland is in wheat. Feed grains include oats, barley and rye; the forage crops, corn, sweet sorghum, millet and sweet clover. Wheat is grown on summerfallow land and on land which had an inter-tilled crop the preceding year. Dual purpose cattle are the principal kind of livestock kept. The grazing land, while interspersed with some cropland, extends along the shore of the reservoir and over the southern and western parts of the farming area.

      In the area where the livestock enterprise predominates and cash grains are secondary, the topography varies from rolling to hilly, and a large portion of the terrain is too steep to operate farm machinery practically. The steep slope causes part of the annual rainfall to be lost in runoff. The land is generally less productive than the farm lands just described. The soil is a medium sandy loam spotted with areas of lighter and heavier texture. The layer of topsoil lacks uniformity and ranges in depth from 2 inches on gravel slopes to 12 to 15 inches in some low land areas. Gravel occurs frequently in the subsoil. The cattle grazed here are the main source of income. They are of dual purpose type, and are milked in years when income from crops is low.

      About half of the level, tillable tracts scattered through the grazing area are cultivated. About 40 percent of this seeded area is in wheat and 50 percent in oats and barley. Some of the cropland has gone back to grass.

2. The Northeastern Segment, McLean County.

      Indian-owned land:
            Dry farm11,418acres
      Potential use:
           5  livestock-crop farms with 200 acres of
cropland and 1,300 acres of range and
25-cow herds of beef cattle, and
            22  cash grain farms of 640 acres, or
            17  cash grain farms of 800 acres.

      About 6,500 acres of the grazing land in this segment are naturally divided by the topography into three ranges. With the existing fences, two can be used by individual operators and one, by three operators together. Five families could live from these 6,500 acres with an additional 1,000 acres of cropland and 25-cow herds of cattle. The remaining 10,418 acres of farm land and 3,514 acres of pasture could be divided into 22 farms of 640 acres. The Indian land in the segment should support 27 families, or less if the size of the cash grain farms were made larger.

3. The Eastern Segment, McLean County.

      Indian-owned land:
            Dry farm18,155acres
      Potential use:
            14  50-cow ranches utilizing 35,000 acres
of range and 1,200 acres of cropland, and
            50  crop-livestock farms of 640 acres,
utilizing 17,000 acres of cropland
and 15,000 acres of pasture.

      In this segment, small blocks of farming lands are interspersed in the grazing area. About one-fifth of the segment has been patented and is owned by non-Indians. Of the Indian lands, 18,155 acres are being farmed and 49,223 acres used for grazing. The carrying capacity of the range is estimated at 2½ acres per head per month and the grazing period at 10 months. A small acreage of feed grains and roughage, and native hay cut on the range will carry the cattle the remaining two months of the year.

      The portion of the segment west of North Dakota Highway No. 8 can be developed into good ranch and range enterprises for about 6 families, each with 50-cow herds of beef cattle. This would take about 15,000 acres of range and 500 acres of cropland to produce winter feed.

      Another group of 8 families with herds of equal size could be established on the southeastern portion of this segment.

      This would require another 20,000 acres of range and about 700 acres of cropland.

      In the remaining central and northeastern parts of the segment, 17,000 acres of cropland and 15,000 acres of pasture are intermixed. Cash grain crops provide the principal source of income, though all farms carry livestock. The area could be organized into 50 farms of 640 acres.

      Twenty-five Indian families now live in this eastern segment and use land which will be flooded. Other Indian families live within a mile or two of this segment. Sixty-four families could find a land base for farm and ranch enterprises and make a living comparable to that now enjoyed by the neighboring white operators.

      The Southern Segment.

4. The Southern Segment, Dunn and Mercer Counties.

      Indian-owned land:
            Dry farm4,480acres
      Potential use:
            30  50-cow ranches each with approximately
2,334 acres of range and 149 acres of cropland.

      This segment is south of the Missouri and east of the Little Missouri Rivers, in the south central part of the reservation. The farm land is located along the southern reservation boundary. Most of it is used for raising corn, sorghum and small grain for hay rather than for the production of cash crops.

      The main area is typical rolling range country with abrupt breaks and hilly country leading into the Missouri and Little Missouri Rivers. The carrying capacity of the range is estimated at 2 1/3 acres per head per month. On many parts of the range, wild hay ordinarily can be cut every other year. This segment can be organized into medium-sized ranch units. Several perennial streams flow across the segment affording adequate stock water. Domestic water is more difficult to obtain.

      On a basis of 50-cow herds, this segment would support 30 families each with control of 2,334 acres of range and 149 acres of cropland. Twenty-eight Indian families now live on this segment of the reservation. One or more neighborhood centers probably would develop in the southern part of the segment, with the cattle run in community pastures on the rougher land to the north. Small towns on the railroad a few miles south of the reservation provide convenient trading centers.

      The Western Segment.

5. The Western Segment, Dunn and McKenzie Counties.

      Indian-owned land:
            Dry farm3,397acres
      Potential use:
            96  50-cow ranch units.

      This segment contains 252,761 acres. The Indian range, on many parts of which native hay can be cut every other year, comprises 239,848 acres. In the northern part, 3,397 acres were used for crop production in 1946.

      Most of the area is rolling to gently rolling but dropping abruptly in bluffs into the Missouri and Little Missouri Rivers. Several fairly large timbered tracts are located within this great range area which would furnish fuel for home use and shelter for livestock. Large amounts of stock water are available. Over much of the area, the availability of domestic water has not been ascertained, but there are many creeks and springs that could be developed for that purpose.

      Whites have obtained 9,516 acres of this range in section or half section tracts. The central and western part of this segment is organized into range units under permit to white stockmen who maintain cattle camps at widely separated places. The permits of these white men include a certain amount of land within the taking area. In 1946, 8,584 white-owned cattle grazed under year-long permits on this range. About 70 percent of these cattle remain on the range all year, 30 percent being removed from the reservation to private ranches for winter feeding. Two thousand head of Indian-owned cattle use the eastern part of this segment for summer range and in winter move to the bottom lands of the Missouri and Little Missouri Rivers. Since the Indian herd grazes about 6 months, this western segment is carrying 9,584 head year long, on the basis of 25 acres per head per year.

      Ninety-six families could establish 50-cow herds each in this residual segment. Cattle could be run cooperatively in large units as at present. Community settlements could be established along the wooded Squaw and Moccasin Creeks, and in the northern part of the segment. All-weather roads into the area would be a requisite for such settlement.


      The Fort Berthold Indians will have left 426,000 acres in their residual reservation on which to re-establish their livestock and farming enterprises. In 1946, they were utilizing 250,000 acres of their reservation, 100,000 acres of which are in the residual areas. They have then 326,000 acres of additional land to use. Occupying it will mean that many white permittees and lessees will have to give up their use of Indian lands. This also means that Indians will lose the additional income they have been receiving for the use of their lands.

      In 1946, the Indians owned 8,493 head of cattle. On the potential use of the five segments as proposed, the Indians could operate on an over-all basis a maximum of 15,050 head. This range would allow an increase of 6,557 head or 77 percent. This is based on an average herd of 100 head in each 50-cow herd, and grazing 12 months with supplemental feeding of native hay in the western segment, and 10 months in the other four segments. Ten months grazing on some of the range is possible inasmuch as the cattle can be put on croplands or fed for 2 months of the year.

      The number and class of units which could be established in each segment are presented in the following table:

Table of Use of Potential Resources of Residual Segments

Segment50-cow ranches
2,500 acres
25-cow ranches
1,300 acres range
200 acres crops
640 acre
crop farms
Western       96                        

      The residual reservation can be used for a maximum of 230 livestock ranches, livestock and crop farms, and straight crop farms.

V. The Study of Attitudes Toward Relocation and Future Self-Support by the Fort Berthold Indians.

      There are 289 of the 357 households now residing in the taking area of the Fort Berthold Reservation. This means 50 percent of the resident households will have to move to new homes. Many others will have to readjust their cattle operations and others will lose land from which they obtain lease incomes. A radical shift in the location of the population and reorganization of the cattle enterprises will take place in the next few years.

      To obtain the Indians' opinions and expectations about these changes, a questionnaire was submitted to 300 of the heads of families, with concentration upon those who live within the taking area. This questionnaire sought attitudes regarding future residence, future occupation and future administration of the reservation. The subject of future administration will be reported upon separately. The results of tabulating the answers of the 300 family heads as a total group, regarding residence and occupation are presented here. It should be kept in mind that these answers were given by many without previous thought on these matters. Many will probably change their minds later. It is believed that the unpremeditated answers are unqualified ones and reflect the true feeling of these 300 individuals at this time. Eighty-one percent of the 370 family heads are represented in this survey. With this large percentage as a sample, the results can be considered the opinion of the total population. Percentages will be reported. The actual number of answers to each question is three times the percentage figure.

1. Where do the Fort Berthold Indians Want to Go?

      Eighty-three percent of the 300 individuals state they want to remain on the reservation. Sixty-three percent of the total prefer the western residual segment in Dunn and McKenzie Counties, or the locally known Big Lease. This is the largest residual segment and the most logical place for resettlement for those in the livestock industry. These and the fact that many own allotments or inherited tracts in this area are the determining factors in this preference. Two percent state they would like to settle on the range adjoining the Big Lease and just west of the reservation boundary. These are included with those wishing to settle within the reservation since such settlers would be part of the reservation community. Ten percent wish to relocate in the residual area north of Nishu community in the eastern segment of McLean County. These individuals are predominantly Arikara who now live in Nishu or the community of Beaver Creek directly across the Missouri River from Nishu. Many of these individuals own lands in the eastern residual segment. Among the individuals living on the south side of the Missouri River below the mouth of the Little Missouri, 8 percent state they would move to other parts of the reservation, if necessary. They are not sure if water would ultimately surround their homes or affect their pastures, forcing them to leave their homes.

      12 percent of the total group plan to leave the reservation. Only 2 percent plan to move to other reservations (those of their wives) and the other 10 percent will scatter in North Dakota and Montana.

      5 percent are undecided or were not asked.

      The great majority of Fort Berthold Indians expect to remain on the residual reservation. They will concentrate in two segments, at the western and eastern ends of the reservation.

      Continued settlement in the segment south of the Missouri River (Dunn and Mercer Counties) is probable. The determining factors are the effect the reservoir has on existing ranches that will be close to, or isolated beyond, the shore-line, and the number of families who join the exodus to other areas. The communities in this southern segment are Beaver Creek, Red Butte and Charging Eagle. The first is mainly Arikara, and the latter two mainly Mandan in tribal membership.

      It is possible the Arikara may concentrate above Nishu at the east end, the Mandan in the southern segment, and the Gros Ventre with some Mandan at the western end. This would emphasize present tribal groupings.

      It is interesting to note that not one family elected to move to the Mountrail or northern McLean County segments. The ratio of dry farm land to grazing land in those combined segments is 2 to 3.

      The settlement of the majority of families in the Big Lease or western segment will probably be made in several communities. Sixty-eight percent of the 300 individuals state they wish to live with the members of the communities with whom they now reside. Eighteen percent are undecided, and 12 percent wish to go to other community groups or off the reservation. Independence, Elbowoods, Sanish, Shell Creek and Lucky Mound communities prefer by great majorities to move to the western segment. There are some historical and cultural reasons for the original formation of these communities. They have been welded together by common residence since settling. It is expected they will re-form these groupings if allowed to consolidate their lands. They are predominantly Gros Ventre (Hidatsa) Indians.

      The desire of these people to live by themselves or in Indian communities is evident in the answers given to the question, "If you had to move off the reservation or buy land outside the reservation, would you prefer to live in an Indian or a white community?" 77 percent answered, "Indian," and only 9 percent answered definitely, "White community." This desire to be separate from the general population is a natural in-group feeling. The statistics show roughly the intensity of this feeling and how far those Indians are from true assimilation. They have accommodated themselves to white life but have not been assimilated.

2. How do the Fort Berthold Indians Plan to Make a Living?

      These Indians wish to continue making a living from their land resources. Seventy-five percent plan to use their land or would like to if their holdings could be consolidated. Sixty-eight percent state they wish to run cattle. Seven percent state they want to crop farm exclusively. The raising of livestock implies some farming to provide feed. Twenty percent state explicitly they plan to do some farming in addition to raising cattle and perhaps sell some grain. This is a larger proportion than sell grain at present.

      Fifteen percent plan to continue living by unearned income; one-half from lease rentals and one-half from Social Security grants. Eight percent plan to support their families by wage work. Two percent are undecided.

      However, in checking the number who are actually making a living now by the same means they plan to follow after relocation, only 70 percent will continue in the same occupation or live by their present source of income. This includes many who live from lease rentals and Social Security grants.

      It was noted while interviewing the family heads that several individuals more or less regularly unemployed or who have attempted agriculture and failed, stated they want to raise livestock. These include old men and many life-long incompetents who have indulged in wishful thinking. It would be safer to assume that 60 percent rather than 75 percent will make their living by agriculture in the future. Sixty-four percent of the 370 families now own cattle, but a number of these have only a few head and are not expected to become active stockmen.

      Eighty-eight percent of the 300 individuals were asked whether they preferred to operate cattle on their own ranch or on a common range with other members of their community or cattle association. Cattle owners who have cattle, those planning to obtain cattle, and those who will never have cattle, all answered this question. Fifty percent of the group of 300 answered they want their own ranch and 30 percent answered they want to run on an association range. Many answered, "Own ranch, if I had enough land." Perhaps the only significance of these answers is the preference for individual operations if these were possible, indicating a trend towards individualism among the Fort Berthold Indians.

      Basic to the problem of making a living for these rural people is their land. Questions were asked concerning the kind of payments the people wanted in return for the land that is to be taken, the consolidation of remaining scattered land holdings and the preference for trust or fee patents. The most significant answer, except for the expressed desire to remain on the reservation, comes from the question regarding kind of payments wanted. Sixty-five percent of the total want land for agricultural operations. Some of these (14 percent) want part of the payment in cash for necessary expenses in relocating. Thirty-three percent want a full payment in cash. Two percent are undecided.

      It is generally assumed that Indians who are to receive a large lump sum payment will all want it paid in cash. It is gratifying and hopeful to learn that the majority of Fort Berthold Indians are sufficiently realistic to see the need for owning land and not decreasing their holdings. From this question, we have an indirect substantiation that the majority of these Indians are definitely interested in making a living from their land.

      Ninety-three percent want to consolidate their separate land holdings for the prime purpose of making them useful to themselves. Eighty-seven percent wish to keep their lands in trust under the United States. They gave as reasons the evidence of taxes and the protection against losing their land afforded by a trust patent.

      It can be concluded from the over-all answers to the questionnaires that the great majority of the Fort Berthold Indians want to live and make their living on their reservation. They do not want to make any more changes from their present pattern of existence than those they are forced to. They want to preserve or replace the land resources they now have. About 60 percent may make a living from the land. These findings are perhaps those to be expected. Their value lies in that they are supported by definite expressions of the Indians and not the assumption of others.

VI. The Future Use of the Land Resources as Indicated by the Economy and Attitude of the Indians.

      The section describing the economy of the Fort Berthold Indians shows that 64 percent of the families operate cattle, although to highly varying degrees. The cattle operations and a very limited amount of farming involve 43 percent of the trust land within the boundaries of the present reservation. Almost all the cropland and over half of the grazing land is leased or under permit to non-Indians.

      The house to house survey seeking Indian attitudes regarding relocation and future means of livelihood shows that 83 percent of the families plan to remain on the residual reservation and 75 percent plan to raise cattle and farm. (It is assumed here that percentages based on a sample of 300 families are correct for the total of 370 families.) Sixty percent, rather than 75 percent, was estimated as nearer the actual number of families which might continue or enter into future agricultural enterprises. The people plan to resettle (or remain) in three of the five residual segments. They will, assumedly, conduct their agricultural operations near their homes in the three segments.

      The residual reservation will contain 426,413 acres, which will more than accommodate the present Indian agricultural enterprises. The present cattle herd of 8,493 head can be built on the remaining ranges to 15,050 head, an increase of 77 percent. The crop farming could be increased many fold. The potential resources of the five segments will support 230 enterprises of cattle and small grain production. These would all but take care of the 236 families (the 64 percent) now in cattle and limited crop farming operations on the reservation, should they elect to increase their family herds to 100 animals each or operate 640-acre farms of small grains.

      Any adjustment of the people to the use of their remaining land potential resources as described will not in all likelihood become a fact. In the first place, the people plan to settle in only three segments, and not in the five segments according to available resources. In the second place, the people who are interested in agriculture are almost exclusively interested in raising cattle, with only a very subordinate amount of grain production for cash income.

      The majority of those who must move out of the taking area intend to resettle in the western segment. This is almost all range country and at present unsettled. It has sufficient range for 9,600 head of cattle and could carry all of the present Indian herd on a year round basis. The number who will remain or settle in the southern segment remains questionable at the moment, but there will be ample range from all indications. Across the river, the people now living in the eastern segment plan to preserve their community by moving north of the reservoir line. Their segment will be separated from the northeast segment by an arm of the reservoir flooding Lucky Mound Creek. The people of the eastern segment could pass around this arm and run cattle in the grazing area of the northeastern segment, if the range were required.

The potential grazing area of the three segments in which the people plan to resettle is as follows:

Table of Grazing Area -- 3 Segments

Eastern   49,223

      As already noted, these three segments could carry approximately 14,000 head of cattle. This would allow an increase of 65 percent in the present Indian herd. One hundred forty individual cattle enterprises based on 50-cow herds and 2,500 acres of pasture could be developed. This would not take care of 96 of the 236 families now owning cattle. It cannot be expected, however, that any such uniform ownership of cattle or use of the land will ever come into practice. Many of the herds will remain small, as has been true in the past.

      It is clear, however, that the Indians can move their cattle herds into the three segments in which they plan to live and that they will have range resources in these segments alone for a large increase.

      Ninety-five percent of the dry farm lands of the present reservation are now leased to non-Indians or unused. In view of the limited interest and experience of the Indians in this type of agriculture and the expense and complications of obtaining the necessary equipment through credit, it is doubtful if Indian operation of their crop lands will develop on any large scale in the near future. It can hardly be expected that the potential 77 crop farms of 640 acres each will be utilized. Most of the dry farm land is along the northern and eastern boundaries of the reservation. This land will probably continue to be leased to non-Indians for some years to come. The rentals and crop shares from this land will also continue to provide a substantial income to the Indian owners.

      However, the actual adaptation of the Indian cattle and farming economy to the residual segments may limit the amount of expansion indicated by the gross amount of resources available. Some Indian stockmen now operate on individually owned ranges, some on the range near their homes with little regard to land ownership, and some in associations which obtain a permit for the range they use. When the cattle are moved into the residual segments, it is very likely that ranges for individuals and associations will be established and all present practices of trespassing by cattle will be ended. This organization of the ranges according to the owners' preference of operation is one factor which may restrict the grazing of as large a number of cattle as might be possible if the ranges were organized for a single large herd. Again, factors of winter and summer ranges, shelter, water supply, feasibility of locating fences, bull, heifer, beef and calf pastures may all contribute to reduce the number of cattle grazed. The actual availability of winter pasture and shelter could possibly be a very limiting factor in the effective use of the ranges of the residual segments. Those areas afford no winter shelter and feeding grounds comparable to the bottom lands along the river which are to be lost in the taking area. In the western segment particularly, the few timbered and protected draws will winter only a small number of the cattle which can be grazed in the summertime.

      It has been indicated by the social survey that the present Indian communities will move onto those residual ranges to settle. Homesites, community centers with schools and churches and highways must be established. These will occupy a very small percentage of the range. The organization of the ranges around these homesites and communities may, however, necessitate a much less efficient use of the range than could otherwise be made.

      It will be necessary to make range and resettlement surveys of the residual areas in 1948, to develop practical cattle and land use programs and relocation plans. It is likely that the possible expansion of the Indian cattle herd will be much less than the 77 percent expansion indicated by the total acreage of the over-all potential range resources.

      The range survey may also indicate that it will be desirable for the Fort Berthold Indians to acquire additional winter range and sheltered areas in order to utilize fully the range they now possess. This report cannot present from the information at hand the actual expansion of the total Indian cattle herd or the actual number of families which can operate herds of sufficient size to yield self-supporting incomes. The report cannot conclude that the acquisition of additional land may not be necessary. It does conclude that the cattle now owned by the Indians can be moved and satisfactorily operated on the residual reservation.

      However, many individual families will be without sufficient land resources and will suffer, unless some remedy to the complicated land ownership pattern is made. This has been caused by the allotting and land inheritance systems enforced upon the Indians. Many individuals will lose their base properties when they leave the taking area. Some will have little land remaining to them. Some will have tracts of land scattered over the reservation, too small or too widely distributed for practical use. Some have never received allotments and will lose such inherited interests as they now hold in the taking area. Some, too old or otherwise unable to work, will lose the lands from which they have been deriving lease monies for their support.

      The allotment system gave to individuals tracts of land, varying from 40 to 320 acres in area, held in trust by the United States. Those tracts were often range land upon which no one could settle or make a living. Upon the death of an allottee, unless he willed otherwise, his heirs received undivided shares or interests in the allotment. Under the inheritance system, those interests were rarely turned over by deed to the heirs. Thus, an individual came to own a number of inherited interests in time, from his deceased relatives. The lands in which he had interests were located in many different parts of the reservation.

      The withdrawal of 146,595 acres from the reservation is going to confuse this problem further. Many families will face a critical problem of finding suitable land on which to build a home and reorganize their cattle and farm operations. Many will need their scattered holdings in addition to what land they can buy with payments received from land, taken, to reestablish themselves. In order to settle and utilize the residual land resources in an organized and efficient manner, a program of land consolidation by exchange and purchase for the land owners must be instituted.

VII. Land Ownership, Consolidation and Purchase.

      During the years 1895 to 1929, the lands of the reservation were scheduled for allotment in severalty. Under different acts of Congress, 3,401 allotments were made to individuals. The first group of 949 allotments was actually made in 1900 and the second group of 765 not until 1910. The first group of allotments was nearly all located along the Missouri River. The second group was made to families of the first allottees and was inter-mixed with the original allotments on the river bottoms and also on the nearby foothills. From 1912 to 1915, a third group of 1,131 allotments was made to supplement those of many of the people already allotted. These supplemental allotments were made on the range and not contiguous to those already granted. A fourth group of 556 allotments was made from 1923 to 1929 to Indian children not previously allotted. These allotments were in the upland range on the west side of the Missouri River. In 1934 allotting of Indian reservations was stopped by the Indian Reorganization Act.

      Some allotments were sold before 1934, leaving 550,269 acres of allotted land within the reservation at present. Much of this land is now owned by heirs of the original allottees. Although some of the inherited lands were deeded to heirs, most of it remains undivided with the heirs owning interests only. This progressive subdivision of the allotments has continued as owners and heirs have died, leaving the living heirs with interests in many separate tracts.

      The Garrison Project, in taking the bottom land area of the reservation for the reservoir, will take many of the allotments which were made in the first two groups of 1900 and 1910. Of the 1,242 allotments affected, 358 are now owned by living allottees and 174 persons who received them with restricted deeds, and 710 are owned by heirs who have 4,240 undivided interests. It is estimated that 90 percent of the 1900 group of allotments will be inundated and that 70 percent of these are in inherited status. About 50 percent of the 1910 series of allotments will be inundated and 50 percent are in inherited status. This means that the oldest living allottees and allottees of the ages from about 40 to 55, who received land as children in 1910, will lose their basic land holdings and homesites. It is roughly estimated that 1,000 persons will be seriously affected and 500 slightly affected by the land losses in the bottom areas. Many of these who have undivided interests in allotments outside the taking area would have only small tracts widely scattered, if these interests were divided and deeded to them.

Table of Allotment Periods and Allotments
Affected by Garrison Project

Year of
Number of
Percentage in
Heirship Status
Approx. Percentage
Affected by
Garrison Project
1900949     70         90        
1910765     50         50        
1912-151,131     60 6/    
1923-29556     25 6/    

      A second group on the reservation holds small, inherited interests in allotments and is virtually landless from the standpoint of having units of land for practical operations. These are the individuals who have been born since the last allotments were made in 1929. Three hundred fifty-five of these unallotted individuals have at present 1,848 inherited interests in allotments scattered all over the reservation. There are many children who will soon become of age, and who have no allotments or interests. The data showing the number of individuals who have no land exclusively their own or of sufficient size for agricultural operations when the taking area is actually withdrawn, have not yet been analyzed. The number promises to be large. Many will have cash to their credit, however, to reinvest in land. Others will not have enough money to reestablish themselves in homes with sufficient land.

      The remainder of the population, although land-owning, has much of its property in scattered tracts. Enough time has elapsed since the allotting of lands to place a great proportion in inherited status. At present, 1,080 resident persons participate in the inherited interests of the total reservation. This includes the 355 unallotted individuals mentioned above.

      The number of inherited interests has not yet been determined, but their number can be readily imagined, when it is recalled that 710 allotments in the taking area alone have produced 4,240 inherited interests.

      To unravel these problems of near landlessness and of complex inherited interests in order to give the people usable areas of farm or range land, a land exchange and consolidation program seems urgent and practical. These consolidations should be directed first toward making homesites and base ranches available for those who do not have suitable lands on which to move.

      The Indians, having shown a preference for residing on the eastern, southern and western residual segments, should receive land consolidations in these localities.

      Individuals and families, if they are to receive consolidated holdings, will wish to move directly to their own lands. They will not want to settle on some allotment in inherited status only to move and settle again. Therefore, the land consolidation program should commence immediately in the planning stage and be put into action as soon as funds are available. In the planning, it will be necessary to consider the new communities which will be formed and the new district or community cattle ranges in which individuals will wish to operate. The consolidations should be worked out also before resettlement, in order that those who wish to invest payments received for lands sold in the taking area, may purchase additional land adjoining their consolidated holdings.

      Because so many tracts are involved for exchange between individuals, the work of consolidation can be best expedited by a third party, which can buy and sell as well as exchange land. This party should be a Land Exchange Board of the Three Affiliated Tribes.

      A large fund will be required for this board to function effectively. The minimum amount needed can be roughly estimated from present-day land values and the lands required.

      In 1946 the Corps of Engineers and the United States Indian Service established gross appraisal prices for the "upland cropland" and "upland meadow and pasture." If these prices are averaged and increased by 20 percent for 1948 land prices, "upland cropland" is priced at $24.40 per acre and "upland meadow and pasture" is priced at $7.75 per acre. To obtain a sufficient pool of land in the hands of The Land Exchange Board, it would be necessary to acquire at least one-fourth of, and desirably one-third of, the residual allotted lands. It would cost $999,665 to purchase one-fourth or $1,332,886 to purchase one-third of these lands. There are 44,130 acres in the five segments which have been sold from time to time to non-Indians. Of these alienated lands, 32,349 acres are in the three segments selected for future residence by the Indians. For the consolidation of holdings and for the necessary exclusive use of some of the ranges, much of this alienated land may need to be obtained by the Indians. The 14,676 acres of alienated land in the southern and western segments, which are predominantly pasture, would cost, at $7.75 per acre, $113,768.

      It is evident, because of the confusion in land ownership caused by the withdrawal of lands for the Garrison Project by the United States and the allotment and inheritance system imposed by the United States through no choice of the Indians, that a revolving fund of at least $1,000,000 should be established for land consolidation, in order that these people may utilize the residual segments of land left to them.

Table of Net Income of Fort Berthold Indians by Sources and Amounts, and as Earned and Unearned;
also number of Resident Families and Average Family Income, 1942-1945

Earned Income:
    Native products: furs, game, etc.4,0557,4357,08712,3957,743
    Arts & Crafts0420510420337
    Private Business2,0002,5003,0004,0002,875
    Indian Service Salaries, regular25,37433,87235,48435,45032,545
    Indian Service wages, irregular9,2167,4855,1608,2947,539
    Wages, relief projects22,0570005,514
    Wages, non-Indian employers8,00010,00012,00012,00010,500
    Wages, others656537600317527
    Total wages & salaries65,30351,89453,24656,06156,626
          Total Earned Income230,327202,035212,299243,492222,038
Unearned Income:
    Indian timber sales7493,9013,354702,018
    Leases, permits, royalties63,380119,799162,281193,749134,802
    Service men's dependent's allotments25,00025,00030,00030,00027,500
    Social Security Assistance13,02013,67120,58220,00016,813
    Relief issued by Indian Service17,6106,6739,4973,7699,137
    Other unearned income23,93924,00024,00025,00024,235
          Total Unearned Income143,696193,044248,694272,588214,506
          Total Individual Income374,025395,079460,993516,080436,544
Number of resident families362360332340
Average family income$1,033$1,097$1,390$1,500

Source: Superintendent's Annual Statistical Reports, Income Section, years 1942-1945 inclusive.



1. NORTHERN SEGMENT19,8605,62225,482
2. NORTHEASTERN SEGMENT21,4326,15927,591
3. EASTERN SEGMENT67,37817,67385,051
4. SOUTHERN SEGMENT74,4985,16079,658
5. WESTERN SEGMENT243,2459,516252,761

      1/ Climate and Weather in North Dakota, by U. S. Weather Bureau, Bismarck, N.D., 1946, and Climate and Man, the 1941 Year Book of the U. S. Department of Agriculture.

      2/ Ryan, Della. Social Study of Fort Berthold Indians. Missouri River Basin Investigations, 1946.

      3/ Farmer, William H. Memorandum, Engineering Unit, Missouri River Basin Investigations Staff. November 24, 1947.

      4/ McLean County Land Use Planning Report, 1942.

      5/ Clair, Britton. Memorandum Land Unit, Missouri River Basin Investigations Staff, January 13, 1948.

      6/ The Fort Berthold Indians. Establishment of Their Reservation and the Cession and Allotment of Their Lands. Reservation Lands; Report No. 2, Missouri River Basin Investigations, November 1946.

Scanned and formatted by Kathryn Thomas
North Dakota State University Libraries
December 16, 2004