September 9, 2015 Dena Jensen ACTION
Over the course of the last month or so I have been looking through the transcripts of public comments from the Public Meetings for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the proposed Tongue River Railroad that were held in early to mid July 2015.
I have been finding that although many critiques of the data in the report are offered by experts in many different arenas, there is also a spiritual, cultural, individual, and social, connection with the territory of the proposed Tongue River Railroad and proposed Otter Creek Mine that threads strongly through the statements of the people who showed up at those hearings. I believe that along with our own self-education on the Tongue River Railroad Draft EIS, we all should continue to learn a bit about the people who know, and love that territory, that are of that territory.
Below is an excerpt from the public testimony of Kenneth Medicine Bull, a Sun Dance priest and a sacred grandfather with the So’taa’eo’o nation. His testimony was recorded in the transcripts of the July 11, 2015 Public Meeting for the Draft Environmental Impact Statement for the Proposed Tongue River Railroad, in Lame Deer, Montana at 6:34 p.m. MT:
KENNETH MEDICINE BULL: Do we have a
representative from ACI? Nobody? Tongue River
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: Yes.
KENNETH MEDICINE BULL: Where? Over there.
How about Warren Buffett, is he here?
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: No.
KENNETH MEDICINE BULL: How about that
millionaire — billionaire, Mars, Mr. Mars, is he here?
Well, I want to ask my people to stand up.
I’m going to sing a song that was sung when we came to
the Otter Creek country. We’re trying to show
solidarity that we love our land, we love our lifestyle,
we love where we live. We picked this country so that
it would not be disturbed as long as the sun shines.
So if you know the song, my good people, I
want you to sing along.
(Speaking in native language.)
This song was sung by Chief Little Wolf. He’s
the one that was, I guess, designated to survey the
area, Otter Creek and this area. And these mountains
here are separate from the Wolf Mountains. We’re all
separated from them and (singing in native language).
My name is Kenneth Medicine Bull. I’m a Sun
Dance priest and a sacred grandfather with the
So’taa’eo’o nation. There’s two tribes that live on
this reservation. One is the Northern Cheyenne and the
other’s the So’taa’eo’o nation. And what a beautiful
day, all this beauty around us.
I want to share a little bit of our history.
I’d like to talk about Chief Little Wolf. Chief Little
Wolf was a So’taa’eo’o leader. He was known as a great
military tactician and made a dramatic escape from
confinement in Oklahoma back here to the northern
homelands in 1876.
If any people ever fought for liberty and
justice, it was the So’taa’eo’o people. That is why we,
as the original homesteaders of Otter Creek, believe
that this land is God-given to us. We don’t own it now,
but we belong to it. If any people ever demonstrated
their physical and moral courage beyond travail, it was
this race, the purely So’taa’eo’o heroes, among who
was a handsome man with the native dignity and
gentleness, musical voice and pleasant address of so
many brave leaders of the So’taa’eo’o people.
The early life of Little Wolf offered many
examples of the dashing bravery characteristics of the
So’taa’eo’o people, inspired the younger men to win
laurels for themself [sic]. He was still a young man, 35,
perhaps, when the most trying crisis in the history of
his people came upon them.
He was a general who largely guided and
defended them in that tragic flight from the Indian
territory to their homeland in the north country.
Little Wolf told the federal government, We are going
back to our own country. We do not want to fight. As
he was riding near, when the soldiers fired and not a
single So’taa’eo’o made a charge, they succeeded in
holding off the troops for two days. The troops
retreated. The So’taa’eo’o people continued northward,
carrying their wounded.
This sort of thing was repeated over and over.
When they reached the buffalo country, Little Wolf
always kept his main object in sight. He was such [sic]
ordinary, calm. Little Wolf did not seem like a human
being. He seemed like a bear. It is true that a man of
his type in a crisis becomes spiritually transformed and
moves as one in a dream.
Little Wolf stayed all winter in the
Sandhills, where there was plenty of game and no white
men. Later he went to Montana and then went to Pine
Ridge, where he and his people remained in peace until
they were moved to Montana. Here he spent the remainder
of his days.
There is a clear sky beyond the clouds of
racial prejudice, and in that kind of court of honor a
noble soul like that of Little Wolf has a place. For
all those that live in this beautiful place, may the
Creator bless this place as he had created. We need to
be more like Little Wolf, showing dignity, kindness, and
above all integrity to each other.
Not too long ago we blessed a totem pole here
in the Otter Creek valley, to be transported to the West
Coast, to show everyone our dignity to the sacred
ground. We want to continue a livelihood free of
destruction, from here to the West Coast and throughout
the world and various other places.
That day, a line was drawn in the ground,
which meant from that day forward no more destruction to
our land, water, and air, and our unique lifestyles,
especially different cultures that live here: A
Amish culture; and, of course, people who believe in the
code of the west, farmers and ranchers — Mr. McRae over
there — different ones who have been fighting this.
And this has been going on for over 100 years. It’s
There’s no excuse for ignorance of the
process. I’ve been following this for 30 years, and
when it comes to submitting some kind of advice to the
tribal council, first they ask, Are you against coal
development? And if you say yes, then they don’t listen
A cultural resources survey assessment of
Colstrip alternative route for the proposed Tongue River
Railroad was initiated and completed by Chris Finley and
his group, who were mostly Native American. At the
request of the Sierra Club and the Culture Alternative
Landowners Group [verbatim], this is his summary:
“Overall, the quality of the survey documentation and
maps was problematic, was inaccurate, and incomplete
documentation provided on most of the site forms.
Several of the 7.5 plot maps provided with site forms
and even the project maps at sites plotted in the wrong
place or omitted from the maps.” We’ve found more
lithic material on the majority of the site. ICF
documented specific scatters. And in one case a list —
a site listed as — listed as lithic ice, in it was four
artifacts, turned out to be a large concentration of
lithic material with an obvious buried component.
There were also several sites that were
misidentified, and it was questionable if some of the
sites were even cultural or old enough to be considered
Cheyenne tribe requested an extension of your comment
period so they can have the opportunity to comment on
the data collected during the documentation process.
I am not even amazed by your Pinocchio logic,
that you are capable of making a decision on this
speculation. Arch Coal is going broke and is acting
like a trinket salesman.
Go with the no alternative and it’s very
simple. Two-letter word. No to this proposal. We
don’t need it. It’s only being done for Asia. None of
it’s going to be beneficial to us and it’s not in the
public good. If you love your children, your
grandchildren, your spouses, your parents, and on and
on, through that love, I ask you don’t allow this.”
The deadline for comments on the Tongue River Railroad Draft EIS is September 24, 2015. Below is the contact information from the Tongue River Railroad EIS website where you can submit your comments. This is the link to the Draft Environmental Impact Statement page where you can view the Draft EIS : http://www.tonguerivereis.com/draft_eis.html
“Written comments may be mailed to the following address:
Surface Transportation Board
395 E Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20423
ATTN: Office of Environmental Analysis
Docket No. 30186
Comments may also be submitted electronically by clicking here. To view the comments on the Draft EIS that have been received and posted to date, click here. ”