Paul Felter

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Stanley Murray


Can the land resources of a contemporary Indian reservation provide the basis for a self~sufficient community? To help answer that question, this study traces the agricultural development as well as other land use programs and problems of the Three Tribes of the Fort Berthold Indian Reservation in North Dakota.

The procedure involved a detailed study of the impact of Bureau of Indian Affairs-inspired agricultural projects, treaties and land cession agreements, land allotment programs, land fractionalization, and the building of the Garrison Dam. The results obtained show that the semi-agricultural Three Tribes passed from self-sufficiency before their reservation was established into abject poverty under the reservation system. Their lands became useless through heirship fractionalization and their way of life was dealt a severe blow by the building of Garrison Dam.

Today the Three Tribes at Fort Berthold have sufficient land resources to develop an independent, self-sufficient community, but they continue to be confronted by numerous problems. Their present economy is a jerry-built structure of high unemployment, welfare, federal aid, lease revenue, wage work, and unemployment compensation. They are a long way from establishing either a stable economy or an independent community. Termination of the reservation or federal services is not possible in the foreseeable future because the tribes could not survive in today's modern technological society.

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