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Flooding Fort Berthold

This photograph captures a moment when Indian ranchers were pushed aside by national priorities. Here, Secretary of Interior A. J. Krug approves the appropriation of 155,000 acres of Fort Berthold reservation land for the construction of the Garrison Land and Reservoir Project, part of a massive effort to tame the Missouri River and revive the region’s economy.

Launched in 1950, the Garrison project inundated large portions of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara community’s river bottom farm and ranch lands as the river rose behind a new dam. Ironically, the Army Corps of Engineers named the lake created there “Sakakawea.” George Gillette of the Fort Berthold Tribal Business Council could not hold back his tears.

William Chaplis. Secretary of Interior, A. J. Krug, Signing Order to Transfer Lands for Garrison Dam. Fort Berthold Tribal Leaders Weeping in the Background, 1948.

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AP Photo/William Chaplis