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$8.4M in grants awarded to 131 tribes; $162K to ND sites

More than $162,000 in grants that will be used to preserve Native American historical and cultural sites in North Dakota has never been more important, officials said.

"There is so much more traffic (from an oil boom in western North Dakota)," said Scott Davis, North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission executive director. "There is so much more of a footprint out there than we had before. With so much development coming across the landscape, how do we preserve (those sites)? It really needs to be watched over correctly and done right."

The National Park Service announced Wednesday that it has awarded $8.4 million to 131 tribes across the U.S., according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Interior in Washington, D.C. The Three Affiliated Tribes in New Town, also known as the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, received $78,100, and the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Fort Yates received $84,176.

The annual grant is based on tribal land acreage, Chief of Historic Preservation Grants Hampton Tucker said. It supports certified tribal historic preservation offices under the National Historic Preservation Act and will be used to assist "national historic preservation program responsibilities," according to the release.

"The participation of American Indians in the national historic preservation program is a major step forward in how we tell the story of our land and its people," U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar said in the release. "As they tell the story, all Americans can gain a greater appreciation of their rich traditions and cultures."

The offices would probably not be able to operate without the grant, Tucker said, forcing the state government to conduct the activities funded by the fund.

"The tribe wouldn't have nearly as much of a voice how federal money is spent and how federal money that may affect historical resources and tribal land is spent," he said.

The grants also help track sites of historical and cultural significance. Tucker said without the grants, the sites may be developed.

"Once they are lost, they are really gone," he said.

There are thousands of burial sites scattered across the state, Davis said. The grant is a "lifeline" which will help ensure those sites are protected.

"It's like the Catholics with their churches and graveyards," he said. "We would never think about developing land on a graveyard."

Tucker said more tribes elect to participate in the grant, adding that funding is becoming tighter.