NOVEMBER 13, 2019. Our series opens cold, with the Dakota Access Pipeline Pump Station Expansion Hearing in Linton, ND. 
Intervener John Eagle (Indigenous leader from Standing Rock), testifies against the oil pipeline station and candidly points out divisions between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people, and how years ago they lived in harmony with one another - albeit there has always been an unspoken tension between the two peoples.

ORIGINS. Nicole Montclair-Donaghy (Hunkpapa Lakota from the Standing Rock Sioux Nation) and Jim Kambeitz (North Dakotan and descendants of Germans from Russia) describe growing up in North Dakota and establish that they will be our guides through the series. 

NORTH DAKOTA IS ON FIRE (A FIRE HAS BEEN LIT) DAPL/NO-DAPL changed everything. As an elder foretold, if Energy Transfer Partners brings their oil pipeline through Standing Rock, it will awaken a sleeping giant. Sure enough, quiet North Dakotans started standing up - speaking up - and conflicts 500 years in the making have been re-ignited.  Standing Rock Nation held a Climate Change Summit in the ND State Capital City, Bismarck, and declared a climate emergency, while the State of ND is absent, and its leadership does not believe in man-made climate change. The two cultures could not be more opposite.

ALONG A BEND OF THE MISSOURI RIVER. In the middle of the Dakotas, the Standing Rock Reservation is on the west side of the river, and Germans-from-Russia settler towns are on the east. In the days before the colonization of America, this region was the home of the Oceti Sakowin Oyate, seven bands of native people who lived in the upper great plains. After colonization, Indigenous communities were forced into treaties with the United States, clearing land for European immigrants eager to take advantage of the Homestead Act. These early Dakota Territory settlers had to learn to survive on the land and looked to the Indigenous communities for guidance. As the US continued to spread west they confiscated treaty territory lands after the discovery of Black Hills Gold. This broken treaty ramped up tensions which culminated in war between the US Army and the Oceti Sakowin. “Never has a story so fascinated, electrified, and terrified the nation as when Oceti Sakowin defeated Custer’s Legendary 7th Cavalry.”

OCETI SAKOWIN CAMP. The 7 Council fires, each representing a band of the Oceti Sakowin, have come together for the first time since their defeat of Custer’s Cavalry over 140 years ago. Firekeepers from each band bring their flames together in a ceremony to relight the sacred fire. And the Oceti Sakowin invite their allies from around the world to come stand in peaceful prayer with them, expressing their opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline.

EXPANSION HEARING. Representing the Oceti Sakowin, LaDonna Brave Bull Allard leads the charge against the project, along with Attorney Tim Purdon, challenging the safety of expanding the pipeline. DAPL’s team of lawyers, along with state and federal officials, move to support the expansion and testify the project is safe. Will the pump station be approved?


BLACK RIBBONS. “The black ribbons are coming and will separate our relatives, dividing us from our places of importance, throughout
the land of the Oceti Sakowin.” This Indigenous prophecy, shared by Tim Mentz (Tribal Historic Preservation officer), was imminent. After the colonization of America, everything changed. A continent that was once controlled by the original peoples was now parceled out to immigrants from Europe. The 1862 Homestead Act accelerated the settlement of the Dakotas granting adult heads of families 160 acres of land. The rapid settlement of western American territories required efficient rail transport to the Pacific coast.

THE NORTH DAKOTA WAY.  After Germans-from-Russia farmers harnessed their fertile lands, East Coast corporations saw an opportunity for corporate farming and moved in. These settler communities fought back the corporations by forming a league to protect independent farmers, with a community co-op grain elevator, state bank, and worker insurance. The North Dakota Way of Life was born.

DROUGHT VS. WATER. After the Great Depression, and a series of extreme droughts and flooding along the entire Missouri River, U.S. Agencies decide to harness the unruly river with flood control measures and create irrigation and hydropower production. Infrastructure projects, like the Garrison DAM, were carefully planned by U.S. AGENCIES and routed through Indigenous territories. The big muddy meanders 2,341 miles through original Oceti lands, and homes of over 24 Indigenous bands. DAM construction permanently flooded lands and required the relocation of rural towns.

BLACK GOLD. In 1951, oil was discovered in a farmer’s wheat field. Corporations immediately moved in, instructing their “landmen” to purchase “mineral rights” from homesteaders. Fifty years later the Bakken oil boom begins as new drilling technology makes oil extraction possible. In 2002, the oil boom complicated life for rural Dakotans and indigenous communities. 1000In 2014, a new Dakota Access Pipeline is announced, an infrastructure project that will reduce traffic, create jobs, and improve energy independence and it will be built right through Indigenous treaty territory. Will the pipeline make North Dakota a leader in energy production?


INFINITE RESOURCES. The oil boom brought economic independence to North Dakota, making it second in the nation in crude oil reserves. And with the Missouri River providing 500 trillion gallons of water, for drinking, the irrigation of crops, fracking of oil wells, and powering hydroelectric turbines for coal-fired power plants, the region is prosperous. The leadership in the Dakotas sees energy extraction by out-of-state companies as leaving an economic legacy for future generations.

THE 7TH GENERATION. “The impact of our decisions today, should be considered seven generations into the future.” This Indigenous prophecy, shared by David Archambault SR, is a guiding principle for Indigenous communities. Like the generations before them, the Standing Rock Youth of this century, organized a campaign to respect the water, with a multi-state run and presentation of a letter to US Agencies in opposition to the Dakota Access pipeline. As the Great Spirit teaches, the Indians will rise up at last, together in tribes, with a call to respect the earth and protect water.

WATER PROTECTORS. Standing Rock leaders, historian LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, and Chairman David Archambault, propelled by the youth, led a campaign against fracking and the Dakota Access pipeline. By standing up for what they believe in, the people of Standing Rock challenged governments and corporations to explain pipeline safety measures and identify the impact of the DAPL infrastructure project on the environment.

CHANGE vs. DIVISION. Everyone involved in the NO-DAPL fight was left changed. The 7 Bands of the Oceti Sakowin reunited for the first time in 140 years. Allies came to Standing Rock from all over the world to stand in solidarity with the water protectors. Standing Rock was a change movement, a spiritual place, and a several thousand-person Indigenous-led camp, not seen for generations. This NO-DAPL movement was also a time of division, fueling racism, hate, crimes against Indigenous people, and boycotts of Indigenous businesses.  The divide between neighbors widened, like two banks of a river during a hundred-year flood. Can the divided relationships be mended?


JUST MOVE ON. February 2022, Dave Archambault Sr. (Standing Rock member) and Mike Seminary (former Bismarck mayor) tackle the fallout from the NODAPL movement asking how does our community heals from an event like this?

COUNCIL VOTE. ND radio host Scott Hennen calls into the station, outlining a robust 11 hours of testimony. North Dakota leadership is relieved the DAPL Expansion Hearing ends peacefully and they wait for the Public Service Commission decision.

DAKOTANS VS. ENERGY. ND State legislators hand out stickers touting, “GUNS, COAL, FREEDOM,” while Senator Tim Mathern questions this motto, and laments the shift from community cooperatives into private corporations. Daryl Peterson (farmer) explains how produced brine from an oil well destroyed his farmland. Waylon Hedegaard (former Union leader) unpacks the complexity of natural resource jobs and the environment. The Governor of ND praises the wealth of ND’s multi-billion dollar Legacy Fund and prosperity thanks to the Bakken and DAPL. AIR VS. ENERGY. Oil and energy riches come with methane gas flares that burn all day and night. ND becomes a polluter, leading world greenhouse gas emissions and carbon per capita, producing poor air quality.

CLIMATE CONSCIOUSNESS. Cody Two Bears shares his solar farm in Cannonball, the largest solar project to be built in the State of ND, just 3 miles from the site of the NODAPL conflict. In the Summer of 2020, Standing Rock Sioux Nation hosts a climate change summit, declaring a climate emergency at a symposium in Bismarck. ND State Representatives do not attend. DAKOTA ACCESS. As the Environmental Impact Statement is still being conducted on the Dakota Access Pipeline, The Public Service Commission puts the DAPL Expansion to a vote, approving the Dakota Access Pump Station.

CONNECTING THE SACRED HOOP. Winter 2017 Arvol Looking Horse (keeper of the Sacred Buffalo Calf Woman Medicine Bundle) leads an interfaith day of prayer to “Reconnect the Sacred Hoop” and ten thousand arms link together to fulfill a prophecy of protecting Mother Earth. 

Can fellow Dakotans, Indigenous and non-Indigenous, come together to bring back The North Dakota Way?