University of Colorado at Boulder
BMP of Oil and Gas Development

The Blackfeet Tribe Laws Blackfeet Tribe is one of the largest Indian tribes in the Unites States, with approximately 16,000 enrolled members. The Blackfeet reservation covers 3,000 square miles of the tribe’s ancestral lands in northwest Montana, roughly the size of Delaware.


The Constitution and By-Laws of the Blackfeet Tribe were last amended in 1978. The portions of the Constitution relevant to gas and oil development include articles discussing territory, powers of the tribal council, and provisions addressing land and the benefits from resources. Relevant portions of the Blackfeet Constitution include:

Art. I: Territory  - The jurisdiction of the Blackfeet Tribe shall extend to the territory within the confines of the Blackfeet Reservation boundaries as defined in the agreement of September 26, 1895; and to such other lands as may be hereafter added thereto under any law of the United States, except as otherwise provided by law.

Art. VI: Powers of the Council

Section 1. Enumerated Powers  - The council of the Blackfeet Reservation shall exercise the following powers, subject to any limitations embodied in the statutes or the Constitution of the United States, and subject further to all express restrictions upon such powers contained in this constitution and the attached by-laws.

(c) To prevent the sale, disposition, lease or encumbrance of tribal lands, interests in lands or other tribal assets, without consent of the tribe.

(e) To manage all economic affairs and enterprises of the Blackfeet Reservation, including all oil teases on tribal lands and the disposition of all oil royalties from tribal lands, in accordance with the terms of a charter to be issued to the Blackfeet Tribe by the Secretary of the Interior

(h) To regulate and license all business or professional activities conducted upon the reservation, subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior and to levy assessments for public purposes, provided that any assessments upon nonmembers trading or residing within the jurisdiction of the tribe shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior. 

Art. VII: Land

Section 2. Tribal Lands - The unallotted lands of the Blackfeet Reservation, and all lands which may hereafter be acquired by the Blackfeet Tribe or by the United States in trust for the Blackfeet Tribe, including tribal timber reserve, shall be held as tribal lands and no part of such land shall be mortgaged or sold. Tribal lands shall not be allotted to individual Indians but may be assigned to members of the Blackfeet t Tribe, or leased, or otherwise used by the tribe as hereinafter provided.

Section 3. Leasing of Tribal Lands - Tribal lands may be leased by the tribal council, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, for such ' periods of time as are permitted by law. I No lease of tribal land to a nonmember shall be made by the tribal l council unless it shall appear that no Indian cooperative association or individual member of the tribe is able and willing to use the land and to pay a reasonable fee for such use. Grazing permits covering tribal land may be issued by the tribal council, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior, in the same manner and upon the same terms as leases.

Section 7. Leasing of Exchange Assignments - Exchange assignments may be used by the assignee or leased by him to Indian cooperative associations, to individual members of the tribe, or, if no individual Indian or Indian cooperative association is able and willing to rent the 1 land at a reasonable fee, such assignments may be leased to non-Indians, in the same manner as allotted lands.

Section 11. Use of Unassigned Tribal Land  - Tribal land which is not leased or assigned, including tribal timber reserves, shall be managed by the tribe for the benefit of the members of the entire tribe, and any cash income derived from such land shall accrue to the benefit of the tribe as a whole.”

Art. VIII: Bill of Rights

Section 2. Economic Rights  - All members of the tribe shall be accorded equal opportunities to participate in the economic resources and activities of the reservation.

The Tribal Code

The Blackfeet Tribal Law and Order Code does not contain an explicit environmental protection code. Instead, the portions of the tribal code relevant to oil & gas better management practices are included in Chapter 12, titled “Land.” In particular, exchanged lands have an explicit provision for how the mineral rights on those lands are to be addressed:

Chapter 12: Land

Section 5. Mineral Rights on Exchanged Land

“The Blackfeet Tribe shall retain all mineral rights to any Tribal Land Exchanged under this Chapter, providing that the Tribe as title to such rights. Any allotted land exchanged with the Tribe that was allotted after the year 1919 carries a reservation of mineral rights in favor of the Blackfeet Tribe under Act of June 30, 1919, and cited as 41 Stat. 17 and being those allotments numbered from #2657 to #3485. On all other land, including land allotted before 1919 wherein the allottee retains the mineral rights and any fee land exchanged hereunder, the mineral rights shall be conveyed to the Tribe are included in the fair market valuation of the land if such mineral rights are still retained by the member-exchanges.”

Tribal Ordinances

In addition to constitutional provisions and the tribal code, tribal ordinances may also contain provisions concerning the manner of the management of Tribal lands. Zoning ordinances, in particular, can play a role oil development on the Blackfeet reservation. In addition to general zoning ordinances, specific regulations promulgated under the land zoning ordinance can be found in the Zoning Standards, which are included at the back of the code under uncodified ordinances.

Part II. Interim Zoning Ordinance

Section 1.03. Purpose
'This Ordinance is adopted to allow reasonable use of the land consistent with the Comprehensive Plan, to protect the environment, the land and water resources, and to protect the Blackfeet people against loss caused by improper use of land and water areas, to prevent overcrowding, to promote the health, safety, morals, convenience, comfort, prosperity and general welfare of the population.

Section 1.05. Scope
This Ordinance applies to all buildings, and to uses of all trust and non-trust land and all water areas within the exterior boundaries of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation. No land or water or building shall be hereafter used or changed in use except in compliance with these regulations.

Section 2.01. Zones
The Blackfeet Indian Reservation is hereby divided into zones as follows:
"C" Conservation Zone
"U" Urban Zone

Section 2.02. Extent of Zones
The "U" Urban Zone shall include the area within the towns of Browning, Babb, Blackfoot, East Glacier, Heart Butte, St. Mary and Starr School, as indicated in the Blackfeet Comprehensive Plan. All other land and water areas shall be in the "C" Conservation Zone.


Section 3.01. Purpose
The purpose of the "C" Conservation Zone is to reserve the ecological quality of the Reservation while allowing reasonable use of the land and water areas in a low density of development consistent with the rural character of the Reservation.

Section 3.03. Conditional Uses
All conditional uses are subject to review by the Land Board, and are subject to such conditions as are required by this Ordinance and such other conditions, as the Land Board may determine. All other uses not listed shall be subject to review by the Land Board, which shall determine whether they are prohibited or permitted conditionally.

  • Business
  • Industry
  • Residential subdivision
  • Commercial recreation
  • Extraction, sand and gravel pits, oil wells
  • Two-family residence, multi-family residenc,
  • Mobile Home park, mobile home
  • Airport

Section 3.05. Standards The Land Board shall adopt standards including those for setbacks, density of development, environmental quality, off-street parking, signs and fences, which shall apply to all uses. The Land Board may impose more strict requirements for any conditional use.

Section 4.00. "U" URBAN ZONE

Section 4.03. Prohibited Uses

  • Extraction, sand and gravel pits, oil wells

Section 4.05. Standards
The Land Board shall adopt standards including those for setbacks, density of development, environmental quality, off-street parking, signs and fences; which shall apply to all uses. The Land Board may impose stricter requirement for any conditional use.

Section 5.01. Minimum Requirements
The regulations of this Ordinance are minimum requirements and may not be reduced except by the Tribal Business Council through appeal or amendment. The Land Board is delegated to administer and interpret this Ordinance, to adopt standards, to approve or deny conditional uses. The Land Board may impose more strict requirements for conditional uses than the minimum established by this Ordinance.

Section 5.03. Use Permit Required
Any person desiring to alter the existing use of any land, water or building and any person desiring to use land, water areas or erect a building shall first obtain a use permit from the Land Board.


Blackfeet Environmental Office
457 Hospital Road
P.O. Box 2029
Browning, MT 59417
Phone: (406)338-7421

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