(Ft. Washakie, WY) — The Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho Tribes officially took over the Steamboat Butte Oil Field as the clock struck midnight on Jan. 1, 2023.
The move, which comes after decades of leasing the field, follows a December 2022 decision by both tribes to not renew the expired lease with Merit Energy Company. Instead, the Wind River Energy Commission (WREC), a newly established program formed by the Wind River Inter-Tribal Council, will now oversee all operations and regulation of the Steamboat Butte Field. Control and decision-making regarding the future development of Reservation mineral assets remains with the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho business councils.
“Reclaiming the Steamboat Butte Oil Field is a big step toward asserting sovereignty over Tribal mineral assets and taking control of our own economic future,” said Chairman Lloyd Goggles of the Northern Arapaho Business Council. “We look forward to responsibly developing these resources for the benefit of the Arapaho and Shoshone people.”
Steamboat Butte is the second oil field the tribes have recently taken over from previous leasing. On June 1, 2021, both tribes assumed full control over the Circle Ridge Oil Field. This was a monumental decision that has furthered true sovereignty of each tribe over their own resources. WREC member and SBC Vice-Chairman Mike Ute noted that there are no other tribes in the nation operating their own oil resources without a lease mineral agreement.
“This is not only a major event for our people, but it’s also paving the way for tribes around the nation to look towards this as a model,” Ute said. “I can only hope that our people can look at these events through the lens of a business owner. There will be obstacles and bumps in the road as with any business, but we all will do our very best to ensure it becomes and remains successful.”
The Steamboat Butte Oil Field will be operated on a contract basis by MI3 Petroleum
Engineering, a company based out of Golden, Colo., with a local office in Lander. MI3 currently operates Circle Ridge oil field.
SBC Chairman John St.Clair commended MI3 staff on their diligent work, persistence, and ongoing positive, transparent relationship with the tribes.
“We’re really happy with how things have been going,” St. Clair said. “We’re prepared to continue the work at the Steamboat Field.”