Saturday, April 20, 2013

Athletes, scientists to tackle North Dakota Badlands to see oil boom affects

Published April 20, 2013, 12:00 AM

Athletes, scientists to tackle North Dakota Badlands to see oil boom affects

All in the name of science, a seemingly unlikely pairing of athletes and scientists will descend upon the North Dakota Badlands in an effort to catalog the area and determine if the oil boom is affecting the wilderness from the Killdeer Mountains to the Elkhorn Ranch to Sully Creek State Park, south of Medora.
By: Katherine Grandstrand, The Dickinson Press
All in the name of science, a seemingly unlikely pairing of athletes and scientists will descend upon the North Dakota Badlands in an effort to catalog the area and determine if the oil boom is affecting the wilderness from the Killdeer Mountains to the Elkhorn Ranch to Sully Creek State Park, south of Medora.
“Everything’s still set to go,” said Simon Donato, Adventure Science founder. “We’re not going to stop because of the snow, but it certainly added some considerations for us now.”
On Monday, Earth Day, Adventure Science will launch the first 100 Miles of Wild trip through the North Dakota Badlands.
A former ExxonMobil geologist who worked in the oil sands field in Canada, Donato is no stranger to oil development. He had heard stories about how oil development was encroaching on the wilderness of the North Dakota Badlands.
“Our whole project — it’s a neutral project,” he said. “We take no sides. We go out there objectively and just collect data. What we want to do out there is say, ‘OK, this area is going to be expanded into. They’re bringing rigs in, they’re building roads. What stands to be lost? What are they moving into? What are they moving over?’
“Until boots hit the ground, we don’t know what stands to be lost.”
Joining the Adventure Science team are archaeologists Andrew Reinhard, of Princeton, N.J., and Richard Rothaus, of Sauk Rapids, Minn. The duo had planned a camping trip to the North Dakota Badlands last year, but had to put it off when Rothaus broke his leg.
At the time Reinhard had never been to North Dakota, but had been backpacking in the other 47 contiguous states.
“It was 15 below out with no wind chill, which was a little crazy,” he said of his first trip to the state earlier this year, during the Punk Archaeology conference in early February in Fargo.
The Adventure Science trip will be his first backpacking experience here. Rothaus has been to the Badlands several times throughout his life and had been looking forward to the camping trip. When the pair talked about planning the Badlands trek again, they discussed the changes happening in the area and decided that their camping trip could be something more.
Rothaus and Reinhard had both completed Adventure Science trips before, and thought the North Dakota Badlands would make a perfect setting for a trip. They set about getting Donato on board.
“Now we’ve got a full-on expedition to go out and check the status of the wilderness,” Reinhard said.
The group will start in the Killdeer Mountains, head west to the Elkhorn Ranch and drop south to Sully Creek State Park.
“I have a real curiosity to see what’s going on in the wild spaces,” Reinhard said. “If what’s going on in the Bakken formation is affecting anything — maybe it is, maybe it isn’t we just don’t know.”
The scientists will start Monday and the athletes — who Rothaus and Reinhard admit move much quicker — will join Friday.
“We basically combine athletes and scientists to go tackle projects that most other people aren’t really interested in doing,” Donato said. “We take things out of the lab.”
The athletic team is comprised of ultra-marathoners and other endurance sport enthusiasts, Rothaus said.
The team has mapped out their route, including camping sites, although those might have to change due to snow and mud.
“If we have to search a little harder to find those ideal camp spots — right now we’ve got our route mapped and we’ve got the areas that we’d like to camp — we’ve got the coordinates selected for those already,” Donato said. “We will be fluid in the field in the sense that we’re going to kind of have to adapt on the fly if the area that we wanted to camp is a mud hole because of the snow.”
The snow and mud might make archeological finds more difficult, but should not alter the rest of their mission, Donato said.
The crew will still stay in tents overnight, but participants had to provide their own winter-camping gear before signing up, he said.
The team will not be completely alone; there will be support vehicles available for emergencies and to move equipment from site to site.
“We’re going in prepared for anything from tornados to blizzards,” Reinhard said. “If we need to bail out if things get really hairy, we’ll have support, which is really good.”
This will be the eighth mission led by Donato of Calgary, Albert, Canada.
Adventure Science’s first trip was a search and rescue mission after millionaire pilot Steve Fossett disappeared in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 2008.
The team will be updating interested parties through online resources when available. For a complete list, visit

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

The National Park Service information on Civil War Battles

Killdeer Mountain

Tahkahokuty Mountain
Sully's Expedition Against Indians in Dakota Terri
July 1864
0 total (US ; CS est.)
46 total (US 15; CS 31)
Brig. Gen. Alfred Sully, who had defeated the recalcitrant Sioux at Whitestone Hill in September 1863, wintered on the Missouri River. During the winter, Sully's superior, Maj. Gen. John Pope, formulated a plan for ending the difficulties with the Sioux. He would order a force of about 2,500 men, commanded by Sully, into the field to find the Native Americans and engage them in battle. In addition, he would send infantry behind Sully's force to establish strong-posts in the "Indian country." Thus, Minnesota troops were ordered to meet Sully's force at the mouth of Burdache Creek on the Upper Missouri for active campaigning. The two columns rendezvoused on June 30 and set out against the Sioux. They established Fort Rice on July 7 at the mouth of Cannonball River and moved on. The Sioux, who had been operating north of Fort Rice, moved across the Missouri River and took a strong position on the Little Missouri River, about 200 miles from the fort. On July 26, Sully marched out to engage them in battle. On the 28th, he arrived near the Native American camp which he reported included 5,000-6,000 warriors "strongly posted in wooded country, very much cut up with high, rugged hills, and deep, impassible ravines." Sully met with some of the tribal chiefs first, but nothing came of it so he attacked. Heavy fighting ensued, but eventually the artillery and long-range firearms took effect and the Sioux began losing ground. The retirement turned into flight. The Native Americans left all their possessions, and a running fight of almost nine miles scattered the warriors who were not wounded or killed. Killdeer Mountain broke the back of the Sioux resistance. Sully did meet the remnants of the Sioux warriors that had escaped Killdeer Mountain in August and defeated them, but they had none of the spirit formally exhibited.
Union Victory
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Monday, April 8, 2013

Important Cultural, Religious and Historical Resources Threatened by Drilling

(Courtesy Dakota Goodhouse/
Killdeer Mountain, home of the Singing Butte, looms on the edge of the North Dakota Badlands. (Courtesy Dakota Goodhouse/

Important Cultural, Religious and Historical Resources

Threatened by Drilling

April 08, 2013
The Hess Corporation’s development of oil resources on Taĥċa Wakutėpi (Killdeer Mountain) on the edge of the North Dakota badlands threatens to destroy the integrity of a site sacred to tribes and important to historians, wildlife biologists, archaeologists and local landowners.
In a June 2010 report on the preservation of North Dakota battlefields, the National Park Service wrote, “Each of North Dakota’s battlefields remains a good candidate for comprehensive preservation, but Killdeer Mountain is most at-risk. While exploratory oil well drilling has had little effect on the battlefield’s condition so far, industrial scale extraction of the sub-surface resources at Killdeer Mountain could destroy the landscape and associated view-sheds in the near future.”
Killdeer Mountain was the site of an attack by U.S. Army Brigadier General Alfred Sully against a traditional summer gathering of American Indians for trading, socializing and ceremonies. On July 28 and 29, 1864, the general’s troops killed an estimated 150 Dakota and Lakota warriors and executed uncounted women and children. They destroyed as many as 1,800 lodges, 200 tons of buffalo meat and dried berries, clothes and household utensils, tipi poles, travois, and piles of tanned hides and slaughtered horses and perhaps 3,000 dogs. It was the final significant battle in the Dakota-U.S. War of 1862, but its deliberate brutality led to other conflicts. Among the survivors of the Battle of Killdeer Mountain were Sitting Bull and his lieutenant, Gall, who would fight again at the Battle of Little Big Horn in 1876.
The mountain was a sacred site long before the battle. Dakota Goodhouse, an enrolled member of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, says, “Killdeer Mountain is a place people still go to pray, [and there are] still people at Fort Berthold who visit the site for vision quests.”
Gerard Baker, an enrolled member of the Three Affiliated Tribes and a former National Park Service superintendant, is 59. As a child, he learned the ceremonial importance of Taĥċa Wakutėpi from his father, who learned it from tribal elders. “He told us the stories of Singing Butte, where Earth-naming ceremonies once took place. Many of the ceremonies are lost because of time, but they are still extremely important. Medicine Hole is associated with lost ceremonies. Many were lost during the smallpox epidemic of 1837.” Baker explains that unless a ceremony’s owner sells or gives away the ceremony before he dies, it can no longer be performed. So many Indians died so quickly during the smallpox epidemic that they did not have time to ensure the survival of their ceremonies.
Sioux leader Sitting Bull, left, and Hunkpapa Chief Gall survived the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. (AP; Courtesy National Archives)
Sioux leader Sitting Bull, left, and Hunkpapa Chief Gall survived the Battle of Killdeer Mountain. (AP; Courtesy National Archives)
But the spirits still live on Singing Butte. “The spirits live in different areas throughout the Dakotas in various buttes from Canada to the South Dakota line. The Hidatsa consider that their ancestral territory,” says Baker. Other lifeways that once took place on Killdeer Mountain included burials, fasting, trapping to get eagle feathers, deer-hunting and dressing.
A fundamental problem—and one of the challenges in opposing oil drilling on the mountain—says Baker, is that “not enough people know about the ceremonies. Even though people know the site is sacred, not so many know about the ceremonies.” He has a very pragmatic approach to dealing with Hess’s current oil drilling proposals. “I wish we could say ‘No drilling,’ but that’s not going to happen. They’re going to get that oil one way or the other.… We could hold up protest signs, but I think education would work better,” says Goodhouse. “I feel the issue is people don’t care because they don’t know” about Killdeer Mountain’s cultural or historical significance. “In an ideal world, there would be no wells near that area, but I have to be a realist. My suggestion is to drill laterally” for four miles, instead of the two miles of lateral drilling Hess is planning.
Opponents have won two concessions. “They have agreed that if they come across artifacts they will cease operations. But I know from experience that road companies do not stop development to save what’s there. They call in salvage archaeologists to survey,” says Goodhouse.
Richard Rothaus, president of Trefoil Cultural and Environmental, an archaeological consulting firm, had been planning to look at the Killdeer battlefield in 2014 or 2015, but when he heard about the imminent oil drilling there, he got permission to do a quick surface survey. He found three sites, two of them major. “This is an area that could have good, important information about the battle. It would be a shame to see it torn up without some work.”
Rothaus says he would need one excavation season, roughly one summer, to do 80 percent of the archaeological work that needs to be done at the battlefield. He has applied for funding for the work to the National Park Service American Battlefield Protection Program and will know in July whether the money will come through.
According to Rothaus, “Oil development is growing so fast out there that no one can keep track of it. People didn’t know this was being leased,” so they couldn’t do the archaeological work earlier. “Hess says it avoided the battlefield, but is 2.5 miles away from the historical marker for the battlefield, not three miles away from the battlefield.” The marker, he says, occupies just a couple of square feet of the vast battlefield. The wells Hess proposes are within the battlefield area.
The current situation on Killdeer Mountain, says Rothaus, came about through “a series of fairly innocent mistakes. I’ve almost never encountered anyone who doesn’t care about this history, but the right people are not at the table.”
Anne Marguerite Coyle, assistant professor of biology at Jamestown College in Jamestown, North Dakota, who spent three years studying golden eagles on Killdeer Mountain, concurs with Rothaus. “People don’t know when a plot of land might come up for lease.” The North Dakota Industrial Commission, she says, has no obligation to call other state agencies when they are planning to sell oil and gas leases.
Hess has agreed to a second concession, says Goodhouse. “The community did not want wells to be drilled during the school year because of the increased traffic, so they agreed to drill them in July.” But this concession brings its own problems. “The time they are going to put in the wells conflicts
Sully led the 1864 assault on a summer gathering of tribes at Killdeer. (Joel Emmons Whitney)
Sully led the 1864 assault on a summer gathering of tribes at Killdeer. (Joel Emmons Whitney)
with religious pilgrimages to area. If someone went to pray up there this summer, drilling would have an adverse effect, based on the impacts I saw of drilling at Bear Butte. There the development is five to 10 miles away from the sacred site. The dirt roads there were expanded to accommodate additional traffic. The traffic is heavy, loud and constant—not conducive to a vision quest.”
Goodhouse says a January meeting between the Mineral Resources Department and those with concerns about the drilling was “very civil, very cordial,” but whether education and goodwill can lead to other compromises is doubtful. Hess responded to a request to ICTMN’s request for an interview via e-mail: “Throughout the regulatory process, members of the community have had an opportunity to raise their concerns with the North Dakota Industrial Commission. We believe that the commission remains the best forum for concerns to be raised and addressed.”
Loren Jepson, a landowner on Killdeer Mountain, cattle rancher and former Hess employee, did raise the issue with the commission when he filed a petition in February asking the commission to suspend its order to allow the drilling and to rehear the case. The commission denied Jepson’s petition on February 20. One argument he made—in keeping with his intent to slow down the process in order to allow more time for study and compromise—was that the commission “failed to consider the best alternative of drilling the requested wells,” referring to the concept that the wells could be started further away from the battlefield. The commission found: “What Jepson has characterized as the failure to consider ‘the best alternative’ does not constitute grounds for rehearing or reconsideration.” In order to reopen the case, says Alison Ritter, spokeswoman for the commission’s Division of Mineral Resources, new information would have to be brought forward. “The commission carefully weighed the evidence,” she says, and the case has already been reopened once, last fall, which does not happen often.
Hess began preliminary work on the site one-quarter mile from Jepson’s house on February 21. He says an archaeologist is on site, but since the work moves so quickly and so much is destroyed in the process, it was unlikely anything would be found, an assessment Rothaus confirms. “Monitoring is just the last safeguard, not where you would want to start an archaeological investigation.”
Ritter explains that Jepson has run through his options at the executive level of the North Dakota state government and his next move would be to file an appeal in district court. Jepson says he does not know whether he will appeal. His attorney has told him that he would need $20,000 just to begin the process.
“I’m 60 years old,” Jepson says. “There are 30 [oil] wells here now and there will be 90 before the end of summer. I will never see the end of this. A way of life is gone, and it won’t come back.”


Saturday, April 6, 2013

US-Dakota Wars, Then and Now: Ellendale, North Dakota, April 5, 2013

US-Dakota Wars, Then and Now: Ellendale, North Dakota, April 5, 2013

1862-and-2012Last night in Ellendale, North Dakota (not far from a September 1863 massacre site of memory and mourning that is Whitestone Hill), a panel discussion between Natives and non-Natives took place at the Ellendale Opera House. The discussion opened with introductory remarks by North Dakota State University’s Tom Isern, and then by philosopher of ethics, Professor Dennis Cooley (Dennis is co-founder of the Northern Plains Ethics Institute, linked to here). From there Richard Rothaus provided an overview of the US-Dakota Wars that started in the Minnesota River Valley, 1862, but did not end in Mankato with the largest execution in United States history. In the following years, the US engaged in a protracted punitive campaign against all Sioux, regardless of whether they participated in the US-Dakota Wars throughout the Minnesota River Valley in 1862 — the many were punished for the actions of a few.
I think one of the main reasons folks came to this — and they expressed it — was to listen to what Tamara St. John (Sisseton-Wahpeton Oyate, South Dakota) and Ladonna Brave Bull Allard (Standing Rock Tourism Director, North Dakota) had to say. Toward the end of the conversation, several of the Ellendale residents expressed immense thanks for the opportunity to listen, and one individual said they will use this panel discussion to navigate how to go about organizing the 150th year event at Whitestone Hill this September.
The US-Dakota War Panel Discussion from April 5, 2013, in Ellendale, North Dakota.
The US-Dakota War Panel Discussion from April 5, 2013, at the Opera House in Ellendale, North Dakota.
To solidify our imagined sense of geographic history, I thought that it might be helpful to circulate the following map above that situates Native America on the northern Great Plains circa 1862, and contrasts it with the 2013 Eisenhower Interstate system. Also,linked here is a audio recording of the panel discussion in Ellendale, North Dakota, from April 5, 2013, taken by Kenneth Smith. The entire event was sponsored by the North Dakota Humanities Council and the Center for Heritage Renewal.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Table’s turned: Lynn Helms goes from oil industry to oil regulator

Table’s turned: Lynn Helms goes from oil industry to oil regulator

During a contentious hearing about drilling for oil in the Killdeer Mountains, a critic of Lynn Helms, North Dakota’s top oil and gas regulator, inadvertently called him “Mr. Hess.”
By: Amy Dalrymple, Forum News Service

BISMARCK -- During a contentious hearing about drilling for oil in the Killdeer Mountains, a critic of Lynn Helms, North Dakota’s top oil and gas regulator, inadvertently called him “Mr. Hess.”
The comment didn’t seem intentional, but it reflected an underlying question some people have about Helms and potential conflicts of interest involving Hess Corp. and others in the oil industry he once worked for.
Helms worked for Texaco and later what is now Hess Corp. before becoming director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Oil and Gas Division in 1998. He’s served as director of the Department of Mineral Resources since 2005.
Helms said he takes his independence as a regulator seriously and works hard to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest.
“We do have a very, very strict ethics policy,” Helms said. “For myself, I hold myself to an even stricter policy.”
The North Dakota Industrial Commission had an ethics policy in place when Helms assumed his role, but he added additional guidelines to prevent possible conflicts for employees of the Oil and Gas Division.
For example, employees are not allowed to acquire mineral rights unless they inherit them or marry someone who has them, Helms said.
Helms and his family own minerals at their family ranch in South Dakota, but his family does not own minerals in North Dakota, he said.
Employees are not allowed to have more than $5,000 in stock of an oil and gas company.
Helms said he used to have a significant amount of Hess and Texaco stock, but he divested himself of that and does not own any oil and gas stock under the $5,000 limit the policy allows.
“I refuse to own any,” Helms said. “I think it would, if nothing else, create the appearance of a conflict of interest.”
Even his retirement plan is immune, Helms said.
“My pension benefits from Hess are completely independent of any decision I would make,” Helms said.
Anne Marguerite Coyle, a Jamestown College biology professor who opposed the Hess plan to drill in the Killdeer Mountains, referred to Helms as Mr. Hess during the hearing. Coyle said Helms should have at least stepped back and let someone else handle the issue that had widespread opposition.
“It was a direct conflict of interest,” Coyle said. “He had worked for Hess for 18 years.”
Helms recommended in favor of the drilling plan, which the Industrial Commission unanimously approved, with some stipulations to try to address some of the concerns.
Coyle said Helms misrepresented data she had gathered about eagle habitat in the Killdeer area and downplayed the significance of cultural artifacts.
“He is very good at promoting oil,” Coyle said. “With his industry experience, I think that’s a perfect position for him.”
Helms said his industry experience gives him the knowledge that he needs to regulate the industry.
“I spent a decade sitting on the other side of the table testifying to the Industrial Commission with regard to things that Hess wanted to do in the state,” Helms said. “I really do understand what’s going on with that expert witness and what they may or may not be telling us that we need to know.”
His background working for industry can sometimes be an easy target for critics, Helms said.
“When a discussion of the issues fails or the science isn’t there for somebody who’s passionate about what they believe in or feel, it makes it an easy target to criticize me or bring it up as a criticism,” Helms said. “It’s painful, it always is. But part of this job is developing a thick skin so that when you have to do something that one of your former co-workers in industry doesn’t like, you can go ahead and do it.”
Carol Booth, communications manager for the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission, which consists of the oil- and gas-producing states, said it’s common for oil and gas regulators to have industry experience.
“You’ll be hard-pressed to find a state regulator who has not worked for industry,” Booth said.
In Colorado, three of seven appointed members who serve on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission are on the payroll of companies the group regulates, said Peg Perl, attorney for Colorado Ethics Watch, a government watchdog group. Perl said she testified against that process last week to Colorado legislators.
Booth said some regulators have it written into their contracts that they will step aside and let someone else handle a particular issue if there is a conflict of interest.
Helms said he once recused himself from an issue that involved a former classmate from the South Dakota School of Mines and had someone else in his department handle the matter.
Helms said he gets frustrated when people confuse him with Ron Ness, who leads the North Dakota Petroleum Council, which is an industry group. Although the Department of Mineral Resources is involved with promoting oil and gas development, it devotes more attention to regulating the industry, Helms said.
Helms also objects to being called a cheerleader for the oil industry. He points to 12 strict rules the commission implemented about a year ago, some involving the regulation of hydraulic fracturing, that met strong opposition from the industry and other groups.
“I am not a cheerleader for the industry. I am a proponent of the industry because I recognize what it does for North Dakota’s economy and all for the government and private investment and jobs that it can create,” Helms said.