Tribal flags at the former #NoDAPL encampment in North Dakota. Photo: Joe Brusky

President Trump visits North Dakota after approving controversial Dakota Access Pipeline

North Dakota is in the spotlight as President Donald Trump makes his first visit there, just seven months after his administration approved the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Law enforcement is preparing for potential protests in Mandan, where Trump is speaking on Wednesday afternoon, WDAZ-TV reported. The city is about 40 miles north of the final portion of the pipeline, where tens of thousands of people gathered at the #NoDAPL encampment last year to oppose construction.

Trump has repeatedly discounted opposition to the project, which he expedited just four days after taking office. He bragged about approving the final portion with his eyes "closed" and over the objections of tribes.

But while Trump will be appearing at a crude oil refinery, his primary focus in not the pipeline, which went into operation on June 1. He's planning to talk about reforming the nation's tax code, according to the White House.

"We pay the highest tax of any country in the world on businesses and we can't keep doing that," Trump said on Wednesday as he met with key lawmakers to discuss tax reform.

Other key lawmakers include Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (D-North Dakota), who serves on the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs and who resides in Mandan. She will be traveling with Trump aboard Air Force One, The Washington Post reported, as part of a large delegation from Washington that includes Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke, The Bismarck Tribune reported.

The Trump administration has not said how tribes fit into tax reform. But Zinke, when he served in Congress, sought to extend tax credits for coal production in hopes of boosting economic development and employment in Indian Country.

Along those same lines, tribes are looking to the Trump team to address taxation issues with an update to the Indian Trader regulations. The Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation is among those pushing for changes because energy development on its reservation is subject to dual taxation in North Dakota.

“The taxation is not about greed,” Chairman Mark Fox told the State Legislature’s Tribal Taxation Issues Committee at a meeting last Thursday, The Bismarck Tribune reported. “It’s about need.”

According to The Associated Press, the state has pulled in $1 billion in taxes from energy development on the Fort Berthold Reservation since 2009. The tribe has received a lower amount -- $934 million.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs recently wrapped up a series of tribal consultations on the Indian Trader regulations, an effort that began toward the end of the Obama administration. The Trump team hasn't said when it will finalize the proposal.

The last president to visit North Dakota was Barack Obama. In June 2014, he went to the home of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, the leading opponent of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Heitkamp, incidentally, also made the trip.

Read More on the Story:
President Trump set to speak in Mandan (WDAZ-TV September 5, 2017)
Trump expected to highlight North Dakota to national audience (The Bismarck Tribune September 5, 2017)
Area business leaders eager to hear Trump's ideas on tax reform (The Bismarck Tribune September 5, 2017)
Trump to sell tax cuts plan in North Dakota with a special guest: Democratic Sen. Heidi Heitkamp (The Washington Post September 5, 2017)
State, tribal leaders come to table on tax issues (The Bismarck Tribune August 31, 2017)
Three Affiliated Tribes seeking tax revenue increase for oil, gas extraction on Fort Berthold Reservation (KFYR-TV August 31, 2017)

Federal Register Notices:
Traders With Indians (February 8, 2017)
Traders With Indians (December 9, 2017)

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