|The Lakota people have taken a very strong stand against the Keystone Pipeline, opposing both the pipeline (which is planned to skirt the northeast corner of the Reservation) as well as the controversial Tar Sands mining in Canada due to environmental concerns. The Oglala Sioux Trive and the Black Hills Sioux Nation Treaty Council (a coalition of area Sioux Tribes) have both passed legislation opposing the pipeline and have called for a moratorium on the tar sands oil mine as "destructive to water, Mother Earth, all animals and human beings."
Accordingly, as word spread that the trucks were headed to the Reservation, some six dozen residents converged on the town of Wanblee to physically block the trucks passage with their bodies.
As it turns out, the two trucks were "Treater Vessels," which are used in oil, gas and element separation in Tar Sands operations. Each truck weighed 115 tons, and they had not requested permission to utilize Reservation roads. The owner of the trucks, Totran, is a Canadian Corporation and claimed that they had been told to use this route by South Dakota state officials. Oglala Nation Vice-President Tom Poor Bear called state officials in Pierre, who confirmed that the State helped planned the route for the oversized vehicles.
The reason for using Pine Ridge roads?
To help Totran avoid $100,000 in oversize fees should they have to use South Dakota state roads. Instead, the state suggested that the heavy vehicles use the fragile BIA roads and avoid all fees - as well as responsibility for any damage to the poorly-funded Reservation roadways.
And so, on Monday afternoon, a confrontation was inevitable.
Many Americans remember a news image from 1989, where a lone protester in Tiananmen Square, Beijing (China) stood in defiance of a tank. No less heroic were two Lakota grandmothers, Renabelle Bad Cob Standing Bear - defiant in her wheelchair - and Marie Randal (in her 90s), standing on the roadway in Wanblee and bringing the two Tortran trucks and a dozen accompanying convoy vehicles to a dead stop.
The grandmothers were joined by more than 70 others, forming a human roadblock that rendered the trucks immobile for several hours. Others from Wanblee brought pots of soup, fry bread, cases of water, doughnuts, and coffee.
The trucks were too enormous to turn around. Tribal police eventually cleared most protesters, and arrested five who refused to leave; but they also escorted the trucks to nearest reservation border, forcing the trucks out onto South Dakota state highways and refusing them access to additional reservation roads. The five arrested were bailed out of jail with money collected by the crowd.
Here's to hoping that the American people will find the same degree of inner courage that the Lakota exhibit when it comes to standing for what they believe is right.