May 15

The History of the Fighting Sioux Nickname

by Aaron Wentz

In light of recent events, this historical retrospective (originally published late in 2011 in an altered form here) remains relevant to our current moment.  All sourcing (except for explicitly cited or hyperlinked material) comes from the archives at UND’s Special Collections.

 

Recent events suggest that the final termination of the University of North Dakota’s Fighting Sioux nickname/logo is all but a formality.  Given the current state of affairs regarding the status of UND’s Fighting Sioux nickname (the NCAA’s final decision to disallow use of the nickname/logo) and the impending special session of the ND legislature where it is widely expected that the recent legislation writing the continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname/logo into state law will be repealed in light of the NCAA’s recent decision, it is instructive to look back at the history of the Fighting Sioux nickname/logo.

 

In the fall of 1930 it was suggested in a letter to the editor to the Dakota Student (UND’s student run newspaper, then and now) that the sports mascot ought to be changed from the Flickertail to the “Sioux” or “something Indian.”  Further editorials (both from staff writers and letters to the editor) argued in favor of this change.  A notable argument concerns retractors from the proposed nickname change, claiming that the tradition built around the use of the Flickertail mascot will be scrapped in favor of the new Sioux nickname.  “Tradition, the desire to do as the fathers before you did, has long ago vanished from active effect.  Why continue them any longer?”  The day after the Sioux nickname was adopted as the school’s official mascot weeks later (Oct. 2, 1930), an editorial ran referring to the Sioux, historically, as “[the] most savage and bravest of Indians of the Northwest…[the] United States government was forced to send strong bodies of troops against them, and it was years before the braves of the Dakota territory were at last subdued.”  Hence, the moniker confers such strength and fighting spirit upon the sports teams, the article suggests.  What this account excludes is that the Indians referenced would not, in 1930, be allowed to attend UND until 1935.

 

In 1969, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe formally granted UND the right to use the “Fighting Sioux” nickname during a ceremony wherein Sitting Bull’s grandson conferred the name “The Yankton Chief” onto then UND President George Starcher.

 

In February 1972, an incident involving ice sculptures built by UND fraternity members, which caricatured Indians engaging in cannibalism and sexually explicit behavior prompted Indian students and members of the American Indian Movement to attempt to physically dismantle the sculptures.  A standoff with members of the fraternity ensued, which was eventually broken up by police.  Later the same evening an Indian student attempted to dismantle similar sculptures at another UND fraternity.  When members of the fraternity noticed what was happening, a number of them dragged the Indian student into their frat house, at which point the other Indian students rushed into the frat house to assist their comrade.  In self-defense, the Indian student who was grabbed struck blows at the frat members.  He was arrested and subsequently bailed out by then UND President Tom Clifford.  Charges were later dropped.  This incident prompted Indian group Time Out to recommend that UND drop the use of the Fighting Sioux nickname/logo.

In October 1992 Indian students were harassed at the homecoming parade.  This incident sparked a movement to discontinue the use of nickname.  A petition circulated which eventually collected 1,000 signatures and pushed then UND President Kendall Baker to look into changing the nickname. In response to the initial petition, a new petition began to circulate in support of the nickname.   In 1993 Baker decided against retiring the nickname.

 

Over the next few years protests began to mount against the continued use of the nickname.  Indian groups on campus began to publicly oppose the use of the nickname, national Indian groups, as well as the NAACP (among others).  During this period UND made attempts to “promote awareness” about minority groups, as well as to offer revenues generated from the licensing of the “Fighting Sioux” nickname/logo to Indian groups on campus.  These offers were declined.

 

In 1998, former UND goaltender Ralph Engelstad began the process of looking into building a new arena for the UND hockey team.   His initial offer was to donate $50 million for a new arena and $50 million for the university.  Concurrently, over the next two years, pressure was building to look seriously at changing the nickname.  This pressure was spearheaded by the NCAA.  Then UND President Kupchella established a taskforce to look into the viability of the nickname going forward. Concerns are raised about the effect such a decision would have on alumni donations.  As the millennium was nearing, it became increasingly apparent that Kupchella was leaning toward changing the Nickname.  Englestead proceeded to leverage the new arena against this possibility; he changed the terms of his offer, dumping the entire $100 million into construction of the new arena, leaving the University with no new endowment.  Once construction is thoroughly underway, he publicly threatens to halt construction in the middle of winter and let the skeleton of the arena rot if the nickname is changed.

The State Board of Higher Education subsequently voted unanimously to continue using the nickname.

Construction finished on the new arena.  As of 2001, Grand Forks is home to the finest hockey facility on the face of the earth.  The next decade sees the death of Ralph Engelstad, the construction of the Betty Engelstad arena (adjacent to the Ralph), and continuing pressure from the NCAA to change the nickname.  In 2007 UND settles a lawsuit with the NCAA, which precludes further litigation and guarantees the eventual retirement of the Fighting Sioux nickname unless support can be garnered from the state’s Indian tribes within three years.  Coinciding with UND’s entrance into NCAA Division I status, and the tenuous nature of UND’s position, with the threat of losing its chance to join the Summit League and no agreement with the tribes, the ND State Board of Higher Education directs UND to retire the nickname.

In 2011, legislation passed in the ND legislature which essentially writes the continued use of the Fighting Sioux nickname into state law.  After a confrontation with the NCAA in the Summer  of 2011, it became clear that if UND is to continue on its present path in Division I sports, the nickname must go.
Which brings us to today.  It is difficult to effectively eulogize a moniker which represents a tradition to which all sides lay claim.  If nothing else, the history of the Fighting Sioux nickname is a history of public speech, a debate that, from its very outset was riddled with the ideological trappings of its time.  As the decades passed and the pressure mounted, the shift from a break with the Flickertail tradition in the 1930’s to the establishment of a new tradition over the following 40 years, to the ensuing break with the Fighting Sioux tradition and all of the historical weight it bears, from the initial genocide of indigenous Indians, up through the establishment of Indian schools and the reservation system, the Fighting Sioux nickname became the placeholder for all of that history, the debate became the way to talk about that history, as well as the way to ignore it, on both sides.

 

Imagine taking a drive from the Ralph Engelstad Arena (REA) in Grand Forks, to the Spirit Lake reservation, roughly 100 miles away.  If we were to place these two locations side by side and ask, “how are they related?” the answer we might come up with is that the marble floors of the crown jewel of the hockey world and the destitution (47% unemployment) and corruption of the Indian reservation are two sides of the same historical coin.  We cannot have one without the other.  The hard truth is that without the genocide that cleared the way for a series of reservations which bear a closer resemblance to Haiti than Hillsboro, ND, the ruthless modern productivity of post-war Capitalism which allowed such explosive development (affording such opulent construction) wouldn’t have been possible.  Although his actions are worthy of scorn, Ralph Engelstad is hardly to blame, he just happened to be rich enough to wield political power brazenly.  The way the REA is related to the Spirit Lake reservation is closer to the relationship between the REA and the cemetery it overlooks in Grand Forks.  The reservations are the last vestige of a people decimated by a colonial genocide, bearing witness to the historical foundations of our current moment.

In 1862, an uprising sparked by broken treaties on the part of the US and concomitant famine led to the outbreak of the Dakota Wars, fought throughout Minnesota, including the Red River Valley, south of Fargo.  After the US Army eventually put down the uprising and trials were held (some of which as short as five minutes), President Abraham Lincoln ordered the execution of thirty-eight men in the largest mass execution in US history.  The subsequent internment and imprisonment of the Sioux population and later ordered killings (a bounty of $25 per scalp) of any Dakota (Sioux) found free within the boundaries of Minnesota fill in the missing of the historical image of the brave Sioux, hunted, and executed by US government sponsored gangs and vigilantes, referenced roughly seventy years later by the aforementioned Dakota Student columnist in defense of the Sioux nickname.

This history is incomplete and not intended to be exhaustive.  It leaves out the ongoing struggles of the American Indian Movement, as well as other Indian organizations who fought against wave after wave of repression and violence and continue this fight today.  It also leaves out a full account of Indian groups who supported and continue to support the Fighting Sioux Nickname.  The goal of this account is not to reduce the history of the Nickname to a few moments of conflict and (many times cynical) bureaucratic decisions, but rather to establish that what’s at stake with the Nickname has never been merely a question of what’s embroidered on a jersey.  The history of the Nickname is ultimately the history of how we choose to confront or ignore the history of our society, what the burden of that history effectively is, and what tradition, if any, we choose to maintain.

Aaron Wentz can be contacted at aaron.wentz@gmail.com

 

May 03

I Am Not From Mandaree, North Dakota

I Am Not From Mandaree, North Dakota

By: Cedar Gillette

Local Contributor

 

My name is Cedar Gillette, my Indian name is “Awahowi Weasha”, or Mountain Woman, given to me by my grandma, Evadne Baker-Gillette’s brother, Ted Baker. I am Mandan, Hidatsa, Arikara (enrolled) and Turtle Mountain Chippewa.

Lisa Casarez, Amber Finley and I are asking for people to donate water to Mandaree residents and it will be given away on May 3, 2014; the first of future events. Please contact one of us through Facebook if you would like to donate.

I struggled with writing this because I am not from Mandaree, but I’m from New Town. When talking about today’s quality of life on the Fort Berthold reservation, we can see the effects of the oil boom on that quality of life in that 60-mile distance between Mandaree and New Town. Mandaree is the most heavily impacted by oil production on the Fort Berthold Indian reservation. Sure I live close to Highway 1804 where there is consistent semi-traffic but I don’t live near the flares, the 24-hour truck traffic down BIA 14, or have an oil rig in my backyard like the people in the Mandaree area. But I do worry about the spills, the dumping, the radioactivity, the trade-secret fracking chemicals, the air pollution, and the documented water contamination that happened on April 10, 2014 in Mandaree, North Dakota.

Photos from Lisa Mason and Levi Grinnell.

Bathtub Yellow Yellow Pitcher

 

 

 

On April 16, 2014, tribal members received a reply from the EPA after calling and emailing them these photos. The EPA only addressed the color of the water, not the reported “egg rotting smell” or that it was “oily to the touch”. The EPA Region 8 Drinking Water representative, Sarah Bahrman, responded (I left her partially copied and pasted response as-is),

I was able to have one of my staff members follow up with Maynard Demaray, the Director of Fort Berthold Rural Water, as well as the Bureau of Reclamation to find out more about this     incident.Maynard confirmed that they have been flushing the distribution system starting last week and continuing this week…Maynard did say that they try to go door to door to notify residents when flushing is going to take place in their area…[p]lease pass this recommendation on to anyone in the area that you know who still has yellow water and have them run their taps until the water runs clear….BOR staff were able to check the Mandaree treatment plant today and verify that the plant is producing clear water, and the operators did not note any earlier problems… 

In general, colored water may be indicative of any number of things – yellow-brownish color is sometimes associated with high iron, which could be a result of the flushing.  We are not aware of any link between fracking chemicals or runoff and yellow water.”

I hope that it was the flushing of the pipes as they say. But I struggle with the WHEN. Meaning WHEN the drinking water is without a doubt contaminated from fracking what will happen to the people? How will it be remedied?

The process of hydraulic fracturing was exempted by many federal laws by the Energy Policy Act of 2005 otherwise known as the “Halliburton Loophole”, that included the chemicals used in the fracking fluid would be considered trade secrets by the oil and gas industry and therefore they do not have to disclose their chemicals to the public. And why wouldn’t they want to disclose their cancer-causing chemicals like benzene, toluene, benzyl chloride, formaldehyde and naphthalene? The industry says it only uses about 2% of their secret formula of chemicals in their frack fluid that also includes water and sand. It sounds like a small amount until you realize how much water they are using , but because of the “Halliburton Loophole” it is only an estimation, but for example, 4 million gallons of water with 2% chemicals is 80,000 gallons of chemicals! Per well! Fort Berthold has about 1,000 wells so that’s 80 MILLION chemicals underground! Not to mention all the wells just off the reservation, the entire western part of North Dakota. Also, this frack fluid water they use is taken out of the water cycle permanently. And sure they extract the oil and burn off the natural gas (unlike other fracked parts of the US who are only fracking for natural gas), but they cannot extract all the chemicals that they put underground.

Why am I so confident that fracking will contaminate the water? Because of the communities of Dimock, Pennsylvania and the Wind River Indian reservation, and just this week, on Earth Day, the Parr family in Texas was awarded $3 million for fracking water contamination that destroyed their health. All these people are living in that future now, their water is PERMANENTLY contaminated by fracking chemicals and they are now struggling with importing drinking water. Is that Fort Berthold’s future? Fort Berthold’s six communities surround Lake Sakakawea that goes into the Missouri River but will there be water at their shores but none they can drink? And don’t get me started on the Garrison Dam that created Lake Sakakawea; the historical trauma that all tribal members still carry. We were burdened with water because of 1950’s government development: a dam.

Like I said, I am not from Mandaree, but the oil and gas companies who frack there are not from Mandaree, either. And these are some of the same companies that fracked in the Wind River Indian reservation, Pennsylvania, and Texas. And a much better distinction between someone like me and oil companies is I have integrity and respect for mother earth and I can be accountable for my actions.

This should be a wakeup call for everyone. Let’s be proactive and protect our water and demand routine free water testing, because every tribal member deserves clean water, no matter where they are on the spectrum of being for or against oil or if that stance is further complicated by gaining money from it. Getting money from oil development does not mean it is hush money. Tribal allottees with rig sites, make whoever is fracking your land be accountable to the land and to the water. Put it in your leases that you want baseline water testing.

I will continue to pray for the water and continue to speak out about the horrendous consequences to fracking, hoping Fort Berthold can shift its future from a toxic superfund site, to a place with clean water.

 

Apr 23

Liberation Day 2014: Lakota Resistance to the KXL Pipeline

 

A Four Directions walk to the mass grave of the Lakota ancestors in Wounded Knee, S.D. brings up recollections of past struggles as the present struggle to stop the KXL pipeline wages on 

Stand with the Lakota Resistance!

For more info go to: http://www.oweakuinternational.org/

Thanks to Reclaim Turtle Island for footage contribution
http://reclaimturtleisland.com/

Music By:
Che Christ: http://chechrist.bandcamp.com/
&
INDIGENIZEtheworld: https://soundcloud.com/indigenize

Special thanks to
Owe Aku
&
Oyate Media Network: https://www.facebook.com/OyateOglalaY… 

For all they do!

This short film is dedicated to RESISTERS everywhere who fight to defend MOTHER EARTH and protect SACREDWATER

Mar 29

Come and take a walk with me…

Originally Posted on www.uneditedmedia.com

Come and Take a Walk with Me

               Finally, I bent over and picked a sprig of sage – whose ancestors in 1890 had                    been nourished by the blood of Red babies, ripped from their mothers dying                      grasp and bayonetted by the evil ones – As I washed myself with that sacred                      herb I became cold in my determination and cleansed of fear. I looked for Big                    Foot and YellowBird in the darkness and I said aloud —

               “We are back my relations, we are home”. Hoka-Hey

                    —Carter Camp: Remembering Wounded Knee

On Feburary 27th, 2014 I was on Pine Ridge reservation for, Liberation Day, the anniversary of the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee. This was the 41st anniversary of the occupation and I stood outside of the Wounded Knee district school, holding a flyer for today’s“Four Directions Walk.” I stood with the northern part of the four directions. Three other walks from the east, west, and south were going to meet at Wounded Knee, the site of both the massacre of 1890 and the Occupation of 1973. I checked my GPS, “ten miles to Wounded Knee.” I stared at my feet. A member of the To’kala warrior society saw me staring at my brown hiking boots and suggested I bring a vehicle for our media team to rotate out of during the walk. The warrior walked off and joined other members of the warrior society. The men and women in camouflage talked amongst themselves, then spread out around the edges of the gathering people. I worried I’d be out of place with a vehicle, but saw a long convoy of cars,vans and trucks lining up behind everyone preparing for the walk. An elderly man pushed a walker between the children and teenagers gathered in front of the cars. The old man looked south towards Wounded Knee, placed the tennis balled walker in front of him, and pulled himself towards the site of the occupation. The school doors opened and children raced out and joined the walkers. A yellow school bus lined up in the convoy.

Some of the children ran onto the bus, then out, and took their place at the front of the walk, holding  flags and staffs as they led us south to Wounded Knee.

Liberation Day

We walked BIA road 28 and Vic Camp, an organizer for the event, walked beside me wearing a brown shirt with seven ribbons streaming in the wind, he pointed at the hills flanking the road. “My father lead the first warriors along these hills. We’re walking the way they first went in ’73.” I looked at the ridge of hills that flanked the road, and tried to imagine myself in that AIM and Ogala Lakota war party. “Is your father here?” I asked. Vic looked south and said that this was the first year his father wasn’t with them.

We walked a bit and I asked, “Why didn’t you call this a march? It says four directions walk on the flyer.”

“We’re not marching,” he said. “Today we walk. We walk together in prayer for those lost in 1890, and walk with our heads raised because of the occupation of ’73. We’re walking slowly with our families and children in prayer.”

We walked, and after five miles I’d already switched out of our media vehicle twice, but the kids in the front held their flags and staffs steady as they led the way. Vic walked beside me and looked towards the hills.

“This year’s different.” he said.

“What’s different?”

The colored flags snapped over the children.

Liberation Day

“They’re leading us now. The children are the ones taking the flags and leading our people back to Wounded Knee.”

He wiped a hand across his face.

“They’re claiming their identities. They’re acknowledging their past and leading us into the future.”

“The occupation of ’73?”

“No, that’s the thing that let today happen.”

He walked off as we arrived at one of the four planned stops along the walk. The people circled while the To’kala’s formed a perimeter. Drums played as prayers and remembrances were shared. After ten minutes or so, the walk continued on and the To’kala’s formed around the edges as we progressed. I talked to a women as we walked. I pointed at the camouflaged men and women and asked if we were in danger.

The women said, “no, but it’s their duty to protect us. So they’re here.”

“So, they’re soldiers?”

“No, no, they’re warriors. Each of them was given the honor to protect their people and lands.”

I watched the warriors walk past us.

“So, they’re like police?”

She looked at me and shook her head.

Toka'la Warriors

“They’re part of the To’kala warrior society. Their traditions and ceremonies date back hundreds of years. I can’t tell you all of it in our walk, but know that they’re reclaiming their warrior ways as well. Those children claim themselves, and these young men and women do as well.”

We grew closer to Wounded Knee and she approached me again.

“Did someone tell you who you are,” she asked.

“Well, no, I don’t think so.”

“Our people lived through that. Through being told who we were. Through forced religion, forced education, forced assimilation every day we were told who we were to the beat of teachers fists. There was no room for our culture in the time of boarding schools.”

“But here you are?”

She nodded. “These children don’t know that reality.”

She pulled me aside.

“Do you know how a people keep their culture and traditions when the mighty United States Government decides to try to eliminate them?”

A group of horses trotted past.

“I don’t know.”

“You resist. We resisted that garbage. The sexual assaults. The killings. We resisted it all and we made it. We are here. And because of that every Lakota has that in them. Resistance. Resistance is part of the Lakota identity.”

She started to walk away, and then came back.

“My mother was a red supremacist. She hated white people. I’m not like that, but, my mother had every right. If you knew all the things that white people did to her and our people in their boarding schools. You’d understand why she hated them. Today, we need to come together.”

I didn’t know enough about boarding schools to understand this, but the boarding schools would later be explained to me by an elderly woman missing her front teeth. We were in a small trailer heated by a wood stove. The woman sat next to a younger woman. Twenty or so men stood silently around them listening.

The old woman cleared her throat, “They used to beat me in school as a girl.” she said–everyone leaned in. “The teachers, the nuns, they asked me questions. I answered them.” The old women smiled. “I answered them in my first language Lakota.” She slapped the back of her hand. Slap. Slap. Slap. “Their rulers hit hard! I went home with the back of my hands bloody.” She took a deep breath. “My father he said, what’s wrong!? What’s wrong?! Why are you crying?” The old woman leans forward as the people try to cram closer. “I told them! I don’t know? They hit me when I speak Lakota. I don’t know why?” She looked around at the gathered people. “He told me to lie to save myself the pain and say I didn’t know the language.” Her chair creaked. “So I did. I lied, and any time someone spoke to me in Lakota. I said I didn’t know it. I hid my first tongue for years….to save myself from their beatings.” She smiled a huge toothless grin. “Then! In ’73! because of those people who came and occupied Wounded Knee.”

She took a deep breath,
“I could speak my language again.” She rocked forward, “I could speak Lakota! That’s what Liberation Day is, it’s the day I could speak again.”

Everyone in the room exhaled, and I’m back in front of my computer trying to tell you about my walk to Wounded Knee for Liberation Day. Liberation Day can’t be found in the words provided here, but in the feeling in the air as hundreds of people meet from the four directions. They come together led by Lakota children who hold in their hands, flags, and medicine staffs they’ve carried ten miles to the top of a small mound called Wounded Knee. Under their feet sits soil soaked with the blood of their ancestors who were massacred despite the promise of peace from the United States. Who after murdering the Lakota, forced them into schools and terrorized them for practicing their traditional ways. Under their feet vibrates the memory of the people who came back to make a stand against cultural annihilation.

Four Directions March

———————————————————————————————

The night after the walk we all gathered in the local elementary school for a feed to commemorate Carter Camp’s life. I sat and spoke to Vic about resistance, and the Lakota identity. He said that right now the battle is for the water. That pipelines like the Keystone XL are threatening their way of life.

“You know that we’re indigenous peoples. We’re of the land. It’s our duty to protect our mother. And Earth, she’s weeping right now.”

The drums shook the floorboards as people waited in line for their bowl of buffalo soup. The gym had “Warriors” in big red letters on the wall.

He leaned close to me.

“We’re the biggest threat to the United States Government. You know why?”

The people sat in bleachers eating and laughing. I shook my head.

“Because, we have another way to see the world,” he points east, “Out there, they only see the world through a financial lens. And that’s all they know. One way to see the world.”

He shrugged.

“They think they’re free, but that’s not freedom. We’re free because we know there’s another way to live, and that’s why we’re dangerous.”

He flattened his palms on the table and pushed himself up.

Wounded Knee Vets

The line for food was gone and the veterans of Wound Knee were asked to take the center of the gym. Drummers played and people filed around to shake the veterans hands and embrace them. An old hunched veteran shook the hand of a woman forty years his junior. She carried an infant on her shoulder. The veteran shook the woman’s hand in both of his and looked up at the baby. The Wounded Knee veteran reached his arms up, cradled the babies hands in his own, and shook them as well.

No KXL Pipeline on Turtle Island

Written by uneditedcamera

Our other piece on Pine Ridge.

Contact us uneditedmedia@gmail.com

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Video from Liberation Day 2014:

Jan 22

Unmitigated Disaster: A report from the oil wastes.

Posted on www.uneditedmedia.com
 

Unmitigated Disaster.

A report from the oil wastes.

DRC gieger counter

The Bakken oil boom in North Dakota came into sharp focus on Decemeber 30th, 2013 when a train carrying volatile bakken crude derailed and exploded near Cassleton, North Dakota. The story made national and world news, matching recent North Dakota headlines ranging from the recent uncovered not publicly disclosed 300 oils spills to a rise in sex trafficking. Now, as the fallout from the latest oil disaster clears in North Dakota, it is becoming increasingly difficult to hide the consequences of the oil industry’s effect on North Dakota’s land, air, and communities.

Unedited Media recently spoke about these consequences with Scott Skokos, a field organizer from the Dakota Resource Council. Skokos describes the oil boom as, “ground zero for the battle between agriculture and industry.” He spoke about the illegal dumping of radioactive waste into landfills like found in Williston, North dakota. He explained that “toxic oil industry waste” was appearing dumped across North Dakota. He punctuated his findings with photographs of water contaminated with radioactive material the DRC had measured with a Geiger Counter.

DRC checking for radioactive readings

Skokos explained, “What goes down must come up. There’s going to be [chemicals] coming up from these wells.” Not only are all the chemicals being pushed down the wells coming back up and some of the already radioactive chemicals are coming back out in the brine and produced water, but a concentration of NORM(Normally occurring radioactive material) is rising from where it was static, beneath the surface.

Skokos said we’re surrounded by NORM in low concentration and that these dangerous radioactive materials aren’t really accessible to humans, but become accessible when the oil industry comes in and fracks a well creating waste or TENORM, “Technologically enhanced normally occurring radioactive material”.

The EPA defines TENORM as:

‘“TENORM is material containing radionuclides that are present naturally in rocks, soils, water , and minerals and that have become concentrated and/or exposed to the accessible environment as a result of human activities such as manufacturing, water treatment or mining operations.”

DRC Used frack socks strewm about

According to Skokos, TENORM has appeared, by way of illegal dumping, in North Dakota. The DRC recently went out with Geiger counters and tested frack socks, pools of water near frack sites, mud cuttings and found many gieger readings above the 5 pCi/g state allowable radioactive levels. He explained that frack socks are what everyone seems focused on, but that “The mud that’s coming up from these wells is a mix of TENORM and chemicals.” some of which read as high as 190 pCi/g, far above state allowable limits.

The waste is being strewn across North Dakota as oil companies skirt the cost of disposing of these dangerous materials, according to Skokos.

DRC Stated Toxic waste near frack site

He said there is a proper way to dispose of this radioactive waste, “They’re supposed to be taking them to specific waste sites that are permitted to take high levels of TENORM,” the nearest waste site is in Colorado. Instead, oil companies are leaving the waste for communities and landowners to deal with the industry fallout.

This situation is finally coming to light in North Dakota. Skokos explained that people are realizing what’s happening around them. “Three years ago nobody knew what a frack sock was, or NORM.” Recently five counties banned frack waste sites on their land. Skokos explained that people need to listen to the farmers and ranchers of North Dakota. “They should have a voice in what happens to them.”

Skokos left us with a story of a warehouse with used frack socks piled against the walls.

DRC Piles of used frack socks

They spoke with the workers in their factory who told them that birds fell dead from the rafters and over time workers started to feel ill. These health effects will be long term, he said. Right now we are told that the Oil Industry is running unchecked and with little to no oversight is able to dispose of TENORM illegally and unnoticed. Skokos suggested regulating frack socks with a cradle to grave system. “If we know these are the most dangerous things, why wouldn’t we regulate them?” They should all be accountable for the waste they’re producing Skokos said. Regardless, he said that if the oil industry does not change today, Western North Dakota will be an “unmitigated disaster.”

DRC Radioactive socks chem fire

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