Man Camps: An Oil Industry Business that Affects Native American Women

Who owns the land controls who can prosecute crimes committed on the land, as per the law in the United States. The United States federal government holds most Native American land in trust, so even on Native American land, oil extraction companies can extract resources with permission from the United States government (Natural Resources Revenue Data). These resource extraction projects lead to man camps, housing areas provided to the people who work at the extraction project, usually men, and almost always non-Native. However, many Native American women are murdered yearly or go missing at these man camps (Mitchell 2022). Since the beginning of these camps, the rate of missing and murdered indigenous women (MMIW) has increased by 75% (Stern 2021). 

Figure 1. Man Camps near resource extraction projects in North Dakota (Wikipedia 2022)

Native American women close to these camps live under the terror of being the next victim. Women are easy prey, many of whom have gone missing or murdered at rates higher than their non-Native American counterparts since the oil boom (Stern 2021). Where is the law that supports these Native American women? The court states that Native Nations cannot punish or prosecute non-Native Americans (Mitchell 2022), and the US government cannot prosecute Native Americans (Liptak 2022). However, The United States has ignored the law and has prosecuted native Americans anyway, while tribal police departments cannot do anything to protect Native women (Mitchell 2022). For example, Nathan Sanchez, from the Fort Berthold reservation, was working when a girl with her wet jeans emerged. He asked her what had happened, and she told him that she had been raped. He noticed she was a non-Native American and asked her immediately if the raper was Native American. She said yes, but after she got to the police station, she confessed that she had been living on the reservation. The night before Nathan found her; she said an oil worker offered her some drinks and took her to his camper, where he committed the act. Nathan could not do anything because she confessed that the man was not Indian (Crane-Murdoch 2013). Even though this girl was white, she was raped because she lived on the reservations. Nathan wanted to help her, but he could not do anything else to help her only because the rapist was non-Native American.

Figure 2. The Tiny House Warriors hold up a red dress — a symbol in remembrance of MMIW (Grable 2021).

What is left for these victims is to find comfort in themselves and their community. Most of these women do not get any mental health assistance, and the victims’ families are left alone with their trauma (Mitchell 2022). Native Americans have the highest rate of suicide (Suicide resource prevention center 2020). No wonder most of these girls are left alone confronting these traumas because not even their tribal police can do anything to help them. Also, because of these oil projects all around Native American communities, these people are raised in violence, homelessness, poverty, and depression, which puts women and children at risk of trafficking (Stern 2021). Oil industries expose Native Americans to these predators, while the government does not take any accountability for solving these problems.


“Native American Lands | Ownership and Governance.” Natural Resources Revenue Data,

Mitchell, Kimberly N. “MAN Camps, Oil Pipelines, and MMIW: How United States v. Cooley Is a False Victory for Indigenous Tribes.” Vermont Journal of Environmental Law, 2022.

Stern, Julia. “Pipeline of Violence: The Oil Industry and Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women: Immigration and Human Rights Law Review.” Immigration and Human Rights Law Review | The Blog, May 24, 2022.

Wikipedia. 2022. “Man camp.” Wikimedia Foundation. Last modified November 21, 2022.

Liptak, Adam. “Supreme Court Narrows Ruling for Tribes in Oklahoma.” The New York Times. The New York Times, June 29, 2022.,in%20tribal%20or%20federal%20courts.

Crane-Murdoch, Sierra. “On Indian Land, Criminals Can Get Away with Almost Anything.” The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, February 27, 2013.

Grable, Kaitlin. “Big Oil Is Fueling the Crisis of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women.” Greenpeace USA, May 5, 2021.

“Racial and Ethnic Disparities.” Racial and Ethnic Disparities | Suicide Prevention Resource Center, 2020.,adults%20and%20then%20White%20adults.

Further reading: 

Simons, Jane. “As Native American Women Go Missing and Are Murdered, Who Is Keeping Track?” Southwest Michigan’s Second Wave, August 18, 2021.

Bartley, Felicia, and Isleta Pueblo . “MMIW.” Native Womens Wilderness. Accessed December 3, 2022.


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