Indigenous group from Australia comes to North Dakota to learn about Native American experiences

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BISAMRCK, N.D. - North Dakota’s Indian Affairs Commission spent Friday morning with a group of indigenous Australians wanting to learn more about each group’s experiences with colonization, discrimination and how to reclaim lost culture. The Australian delegation said the country was a “hotspot for lost languages” with one member saying the country only uses about 20 different languages in everyday life. But some are trying to relearn some of the lost languages to bring back the cultural identity.

Mark Fox, the Chairman of the MHA Nation in North Dakota, said a lost language is a lost identity and indigenous people in America have had a similar experience.

“We’ve had a loss of language, but I’m also very optimistic what I heard from them is that they have a reassertion or rejuvenation of the effort to maintain and retain our languages,” said Fox.

The talk switched from reclaiming cultural heritage to economic freedom. Chairman Fox detailed how failed policies in America created a dependency on the federal government, but now tribes are trying to do more in economic development and be less dependent on the federal government.

“As long as the United States is never going to inject the capital necessary to change where we stand today, federal dependency is a bad thing,” Fox started. “We have rights that were violated for land and everything else and we’re going to continue to assert those. But while we’re doing that, we recognize that depending on the federal government is what’s holding us back.”

Fox says MHA Nation wasn’t ready for all that came with oil and gas development- stresses on infrastructure, increased criminal activity and drugs to the area. He says in the decade since the tribe first started developing the resource, they’ve made great strides in setting up “responsible development.” About 20 percent of the state’s production comes from MHA tribal land.

Fox says he wants to go to Australia, hopefully within the next year, and speak with various indigenous tribes around the country to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences and see what lessons both countries can learn.