Chairman Mark Fox of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, left, is seen on an aerial tour of North Dakota with James Comey, the former director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Photo: FBI

Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation faces $147 million claim from business owner

A citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation is pursuing a $147 million claim against her own tribe over a business deal gone bad, Buffalo's Fire reports.

Laura “Lori” Bird, owner of Bird Industries, did business with the tribe on the Fort Berthold Reservation in North Dakota. Her gravel mining and concrete enterprise appeared to be flourishing until she said the tribe took over operations five years ago, Jodi Rave writes in her report on the situation.

From there, everything went downhill for Bird. She was no longer pulling in enough revenues to fulfill her own financial commitments.

“By that time, I had lost my entire staff. I was losing my business and my home, I was in dire need," Bird told Buffalo's Fire. "I had worked so hard to build my company for over 10 years.”

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Bird eventually agreed to a buy-out from the tribe for $320,000, after rebuffing much lower offers. She has since invoked an arbitration clause in hopes of obtaining the money she believes she should have received from her nation.

But before the proceeding started last fall, Bird got a call from a federal agent earlier in the year. She told Buffalo's Fire that the tribe's business dealings are under investigation.

“It literally was the best day of my life," Bird told Buffalo's Fire of the call. "By that time, we had been told by so many lawyers a tribe can’t be sued and they didn’t want my case. My message from my Creator kept telling me to keep going.”

The tribe is seeking to dismiss Bird's arbitration claim. Chairman Mark Fox declined to be interviewed about the business arrangement.

Separately, Buffalo's Fire has reported on trespassing disputes on the reservation. One matter resulted in "low" offers from an energy company that failed to secure rights-of-way from individual Indian landowner for a pipeline operation.

An update to the story, detailing a more recent development worth potentially millions of dollars, is in the works, Rave told Indianz.Com. The Bureau of Indian Affairs has been involved, according to documents in Hall v. Tesoro High Plains Pipeline Company, LLC.

Another trespassing claim remains the subject of litigation in federal court. The lawsuit, Fettig v. Fox, names Chairman Fox and other tribal leaders as defendants in connection with another pipeline operation.

Read More on the Story
North Dakota businesswoman sues tribe alleging it hid money in secret bank accounts to keep from paying her (Buffalo's Fire July 7, 2020)

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