[History with Harry: Custer and the Bull is a 3-part story, with its central theme being the Dakota Access Pipeline. The story looks at the history behind the land that was once revered by native Americans and is at the heart of the pipeline debate.]
Ever seen a dog wearing a ten gallon hat? Frankie had. He was presently seated next to one atop a hill in the long grass. A cowboy hat-wearing, talking, time-traveling dog. Who’d have thought?
“Da stars at night, awe big and bwight…,” Harry sang, a red bandana waving around his neck. “We’re in Montana, not Texas,” Frankie said, adjusting in the grass against the nighttime heat. “Yeah, twue,” Harry replied, eyes glimmering in the sea of stars above. “Day awe pwetty dough.”
Frankie nodded agreement. The night was crystal clear. It was beautiful sitting in the open air, near the Little Bighorn River. In the distance, the soft glow of campfires. Smoke could be seen coming from a vast encampment.
The day had started normally. Then, Poppop picked up an article on protests against the ‘Dakota Access Pipeline’ running through South Dakota, near the Standing Rock Sioux reservation. Since spring, Native American protesters had opposed the 1,170-mile pipeline. Now, the issue was in a judge’s hands.
Pop began lecturing the importance of ‘sacred lands’ and ‘ancestral rights’. Frankie simply shrugged, saying that it meant more resources and money for the U.S., so who cares? “If Sitting Bull were still around…,” Pop had quipped.
Before Frankie knew it, Harry whisked them both back to 1876, for a chance to meet with the famous Sioux warrior chief.
“So what if they want to run a pipeline through here,” Frankie said, throwing his arms up. “Look at all this land! It’s still as empty in our time! It’s more natural resources for us to use!” “Might feel diffwent if it was your gwound,” Harry replied.
“But it’s not their ‘gwound’,” Frankie shot. “In our time, this Native American tribe has a whole reservation that is theirs! It shouldn’t matter if a pipeline that’s going to supply our country with more oil and stuff runs near the reservation’s boundary.”
“It would matta to you if dat pipewine ran past your backyawd, den cracked open, dumpin’ oil all ova da pwace, destwoying your home…”
“When has that happened,” Frankie interrupted. “Onwy a few years ago in North Dakota. Spilt miwwions of gawwons of oil onta da gwound.”
Frankie waved him off. “An accident. The safety record of these pipelines says they’re more than safe. Other landowners across the pipeline’s path are fine with it. They know this four billion dollar project will bring jobs…millions of dollars to their communities. Who cares about where your ancestor’s walked thousands of years ago?”
“Sittin’ Bull and his people don’t see it dat way. He’ll tell you when we go down ta his camp. If you had your home and twaditions taken away, you’d feel diffwentwy,” Harry stated, his nose twitching, catching a scent on the air. “What’s dat smell?”
“That’s like saying I can’t build a pool in my backyard,” Frankie said, dismissing what Harry sensed. “Because you may have buried a bone there years ago. C’mon!”
“Dat’s not da same,” Harry said, before his tone became concerned. “You wouldn’t do dat, would you?” “Maybe,” Frankie huffed, crossing his arms in anger. They sat in uncomfortable silence for a moment.
“Fwankie, are we fwiends?”
“Sure..I guess,” surprised by Harry’s unexpected question, which lightened the tension between them.
Suddenly, the sound of galloping horses came, dust erupting around them. Harry perked up, growling. Frankie struggled to make out four figures on horseback, circling them. “Well, what do we have here,” a voice hollered.
Frankie spun around, finding himself staring down the barrel of a rifle, held by the infamous George Armstrong Custer!
[Continued in Part 2 next week..]