The $30 million cultural center in New Town pieces together the tribes’ fractured past through displays and artifacts. A sound studio captures stories from elders who lived through dam construction and flooding along the Missouri. And one exhibit traces the oil boom after fracking allowed companies to tap reserves once too difficult to drill.

“Our little town, New Town, changed overnight,” said MHA Nation Interpretive Center Director Delphine Baker. “We never had traffic lights growing up. It’s like I moved to a different town.”

HOPING FOR “MORNING LIGHT”

Lower on the Missouri, Standing Rock grapples with high energy costs. There’s no oil worth extracting, no gas or coal. The biggest employer beside tribal government is a casino, where revenue plummeted during the pandemic.

“There’s nothing here. No jobs. Nothing,” said Donald Whitelightning, Jr., who lives in Cannon Ball, near the Dakota Access Pipeline protest.

Whitelightning, who cares for his mother in a modest home, said he pays up to $500 a month for electricity in winter. Utility costs, among North Dakota’s highest, severely strain a reservation officials say has 40% poverty and 75% unemployment.

The tribe hopes its wind project, Anpetu Wi, meaning “morning light,” will help. Officials predict its 235 megawatts — enough for roughly 94,000 homes — would double their annual revenue and fund benefits like those Fort Berthold derives from oil — housing, health care, more jobs.

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