The North Dakota Industrial Commission spent more than two hours Thursday hearing details on a Hess Corp. proposal to drill up to eight wells at a location near the Killdeer Mountains. The plan, which was approved Thursday evening, would locate the wells near Medicine Hole, a site considered sacred to Native Americans. The site also is about three miles west of the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield Historic Site.
Testimony in opposition was given by a number of people at the hearing. Anne Marguerite Coyle, an associate professor of biology at Jamestown College, came to testify as an individual.
Coyle said as someone whose father was an executive of a small oil company, she understood the importance of oil drilling. However, she said, the rush to drill has largely pushed the debate on preservation and conservation aside from both members of the public and the state. She questioned the commission on the need for a balanced approach by the state to drilling.
“Do we have a balanced representation of those views on both sides? I don’t see that,” Coyle said.
Theodora Bird Bear, a Fort Berthold Indian Reservation resident, spoke of the historical and religious importance of Medicine Hole for Native Americans. She sought to compare the potential drilling near the site to that of drilling and imposing on sites of other’s religions.
“It’s like having an oil well next to your Catholic church,” Bird Bear said.