Native tribes voice concerns over Bear Butte oil drilling

People who gathered at the Sturgis Community Center in Sturgis, South Dakota on Saturday are worried about the future of Bear Butte.

“They shouldn’t be drilling near the area known as a national landmark,” said Nancy Hilding, one of dozens who attended. 

What’s a national landmark to some is a historical religious site to others.

“It would be like putting a bunch of oil wells next to the cathedral or next to the Vatican,” said Yulerton Sandcrane the Northern Cheyenne Tribal member. “That’s how I feel about it.”

But that’s exactly what they say South Dakota leaders allowed for in November of last year.  The South Dakota Board of Minerals and Environment approved a permit for up to 24 oil wells to be developed near Bear Butte.  So far, two have been drilled.  Now, board members reconsider that decision and gather public comment.

“I’m an advocate for environmental green energy, all of our tribes are I think, said Ben Rhodd, a contract archeologist for the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. “But we want it done with responsibility at it’s core to the other parts of our world.”

 The tribal members say drilling would affect something critical to all of us.

“If people don’t know about what the fracking process is, it’s that they inject water inside the shale coal and the water is going to contaminate the ground water around that area,” said Sandcrane. 

Developers say the oil field should in no way disrupt the environment or homeowners near Bear Butte.  And landowners urge the board of minerals to respect their private property rights and reaffirm its earlier decision to authorize development.  But opponents of the drilling say more of today’s kind of discussion is needed.

“We know it’s going to be a long fight but it will continue,” said Sandcrane.

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