The Defenders of the Black Hills was founded to “preserve, protect and restore the environment of the 1851 and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty Territories. Treaties made between the United States and The Great Sioux Nation.”
Since its inception in November 2002, the group has taken part in efforts to protect Bear Butte, stop uranium mining and preserve prairie grasslands.
Lakota elder Charmaine White Face has led the group since it was founded.
“And our first project we took on was in January of 2003,” recalls White Face. “And it was protection of Bear Butte from a shooting range.”
The Defenders won that battle…and would go on to fight many others.
“Logging,” she explains. “Sacred sites protection. Water protection. Air protection. The nuclear radioactive pollution issue. Mining…stopping mining of all kinds.”
And even when they didn’t win the battle, says White Face, the Defenders felt they were successful because of the awareness they brought to the issues.
“We think we were very successful because now there’s so many other groups popping up and people are aware of,” White Face observes. “A ton more awareness of education of the public about the environmental issues in this Great Plains region.”
Charmaine White Face adds that with its members aging and other environmental groups present to carry the baton she feels that now is the right time for the Defenders to step back from the fight.
Note - For information on the Defenders of the Black Hills’ campaigns go to: http://www.defendblackhills.org/