BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) — Five American Indian tribes in North Dakota have passed a resolution formally opposing a transmission line planned for the Killdeer Mountain Battlefield area.
Basin Electric Power Cooperative wants to build the 200-mile line from the Antelope Valley Station power plant near Beulah to near Tioga to deliver more electricity to the Bakken oil fields, where there is a growing demand for power. The Public Service Commission is scheduled to hold a third hearing on the project Thursday in Williston.
The proposed $300 million project — which also needs federal approval because Basin plans to seek financing from the U.S. Department of Agriculture — comes as a tribal alliance is trying to protect the Killdeer Mountains region from oil drilling.
The United Tribes said in its resolution that it opposes the project because it could disturb the remains of native people killed by the U.S. Army in 1864 and buried along an eight-mile stretch.
"The history of the Native Nations is filled with places of overwhelming sacred and cultural significance, with many places being identified only by a few persons, including places of overwhelming grief and tragedy," the resolution said.
Scott Davis, executive director for the North Dakota Indian Affairs Commission, said the sites are important to Native Americans like himself, but the tribes are only now formally opposing a project that's been in the works for years.
"If I was a tribal leader, I would hope I would know about a cultural site that's important to my tribe," he said. "Burial sites, spiritual sites — those are very important to our people."
Basin spokesman Daryl Hill said Wednesday the company already has obtained about 75 percent of the required easements from property owners along the eight-mile line. The Bismarck-based company has no plans to deviate from its original route, he said.
"Our intention is to move forward," Hill said.
The tribes' resolution will be one of the factors the PSC takes into account, he said.