While members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe celebrate a win against the Dakota Access Pipeline after the US Army Corps blocked construction through their reservation, they may have bigger issues coming their way when Donald Trump takes office. Certain advisors to the president-elect have proposed privatising Native American reservations, which are rich in oil and gas reserves.
Two members of Trump's Native American Affairs Coalition told Reuters that they want to get rid of the federal bureaucracy that holds title to 56 million acres of tribal lands.
"We should take tribal land away from public treatment," said Markwayne Mullin, a Republican US Representative from Oklahoma and a Cherokee tribe member who is co-chairing the coalition. "As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country."
Currently, government policy allows for tribes to have rights to use their reservations even though the land is owned by the federal government. They can drill for natural resources and enjoy the profits, but regulations are more complex for tribal lands than those applied to private property.
Native American lands account for only 2% of US land mass, but hold close to 20% of the country's oil and gas reserves, worth an estimated $1.5 trillion (£1.18 trillion).
Opinions on privatisation are divided among tribes with many concerned for the conservation of their sacred lands. "Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatisation of our lands, which means the commoditisation of the nature, water, air we hold sacred," said Tom Goldtooth, a member of both the Navajo and the Dakota tribes who runs the Indigenous Environmental Network. "Privatisation has been the goal since colonisation – to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty."
Trump has been vocal about his plans to alter the current energy policies in support of oil and natural gas producers and proposed reversing the Obama administration's rejection of TransCanada Corp.'s Keystone XL pipeline in 2006.
The pipeline "is something we support construction of, and we will review the situation when we are in the White House to make the appropriate determination at that time," Jason Miller, a spokesman for the Trump transition team, told reporters on 5 December.