Mining Tribal Land Weighs on Crow Family as Cost of Prosperity

By Tripp Baltz

Wayne Moccasin turned his face into a light breeze suffused with the pungent smell of sagebrush. He pointed to a broad basin of prairie where he used to run cattle and where no trees or shrubs grow.

“Down there in that bottom the coal is only about 10 feet to 12 feet below the surface,” he said. His eyes swept up to hills that crown the 2,000 acres of land in southeast Montana once owned by his grandparents. “They’re going to strip mine over to them pines. Fifty years; they got enough coal here for 50 years.”

His voice carried a hint of regret. “When they mine this land it’s going to change a lot of things … a way of life. You know, like me, I’m a rancher, not a coal miner …” He stares off in the distance. “If I sign, they’ll mine.”

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