Oglala Lakota arrested at blockade
By Debra White Plume
WANBLEE, S.D. -- On Monday, March 5 we were called by a lady from Wanblee village that was forced to pull completely off the highway as the huge semi-trucks hauling these enormous pieces of equipment took up the whole highway.
The truck drivers said they were given their route by their headquarters in Canada. The route was worked out with the State of South Dakota, according to the truckers. They said they were told by South Dakota that if they go on the route they did they could avoid paying South Dakota the fee of $50,000 per truck, so they came down Highway 44 through Interior, Potato Creek and Wanblee.
Wanblee is where we set our blockade. Oglala Sioux Tribal Vice President Tom Poor Bear was with us. He called state government officials in Pierre and they verified that yes they gave that route to the corporation to cross Indian lands.
Apparently, the treater vessel is used to separate gas and oil and other elements. The device is also used to provide intense heat. Our Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council, along with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, have both passed legislation against the Keystone XL oil pipeline and have adopted the Mother Earth Accord which calls for a moratorium on the tar sands oil mine as destructive to water, Mother Earth, all animals and human beings. Whatever these treater vessels are and where ever they were going, they are much too huge, heavy and hazardous to be on our roads.
There were about 75 people at the blockade. Approximately 20 cars parked in front of the semi-trucks, who were accompanied by about a dozen pickups with flags displaying wide load warnings, etc. They also had their own electric trucks were traveling with them in order to push up the power lines in their path.
The trucks were too enormous to turn around. The tribal police arrested us as we did not want the trucks to proceed across our land. We were told the tribal police were going to escort the heavy haul caravan to the reservation border and direct them to the state highways.
Alex White Plume, Sr. and I, along with Sam Long Black Cat, Andrew Iron Shell, and Terrell Eugene Iron Shell were all arrested by the tribal police. We were all handcuffed and charged with disorderly conduct, as the police said there were no other charges to bring against us. We were taken to Kyle jail.
We stood our ground for our land, our treaty rights, our human rights to clean drinking water and our coming generations. We did this in solidarity with the First Nations people in Canada who are being killed by the tar sands oil mine, which is so big it can be seen from outer space, it is as big as the state of Florida.
OST Vice President Tom Poor Bear and Alex White Plume of the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council stated they will work together to create enforceable laws that prevent any future heavy hauls of equipment through the Pine Ridge Reservation. President John Steele was in Washington, DC and the tribal council representatives for the Eagle Nest District where Wanblee is located could not be found.
The oldest person on the blockade was Marie Randall. Renabelle Bad Cob in her wheelchair was in the blockade as well. People from the village brought pots of soup, fry bread, cases of water, doughnuts, and coffee. Many stayed and participated in the blockade.
When the tribal police gave a warning to move off the highway or be arrested, five of us refused to give an inch. All five of us were arrested. Tribal attorney Sonny Richards was at the jail in Kyle and he did the paper work necessary to get us all released.
After we were released from the jail, there was a crowd of people waiting for us. They offered us soda pop and cigarettes. Several people had bond money ready to bond us out. They offered us rides home and that was fortunate because we did not have our cars there.
The truck drivers said they did not know they were crossing a Indian reservation, and would let their corporate office in Canada know that this was a route to avoid as there were road blocks set up to stop them.