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Tribal address praises oil agreement, tax exemption

BISMARCK -- A state-tribal agreement on oil and gas revenue that the 2007 Legislature authorized was a good thing, a North Dakota tribal chairwoman will tell legislators today.

Myra Pearson, chairwoman of the Spirit Lake Tribe near Devils Lake is giving the Tribal-State Relationship Address this afternoon to a joint session of the House and Senate.

Among the legislation the last Legislature passed that affected American Indians in North Dakota was a bill allowing the governor and tribes to forge an agreement for revenue sharing of oil and gas income. An agreement was reached and "already has had a significant positive impact on all parties."

The Fort Berthold Indian Reservation, home to the Three Affiliated Tribes, contains oil in the lucrative Bakken Formation.

Pearson also said the native community in the state appreciates the 2007 Legislature creating a permanent state income tax exemption for enrolled family members of any federally recognized tribe in the state living on North Dakota reservations and getting their income solely on the reservation. It has helped recruit and retain Indian health professionals, teachers, executives and other employees, she said.

She also thanked the Legislature for its action last session to put a representative of the Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate Tribe on the Indian Affairs Commission.

This session, Pearson said, the tribes and Legislature need to work together on drug and alcohol abuse, funding of education and rural health.

She also complimented Chief Justice VandeWalle for the Supreme Court's planned study of racial and ethnic fairness issues in the state's courts. VandeWalle mentioned the study in his State of the Judiciary message Tuesday at the Legislature.