Canku Ota - A Newsletter Celebrating Native America
April 22, 2000 - Issue 08

Campers Take Sacred Fire on the Road
by Patrick Baker at Capital Journal

The fire is gone, but the protest lives on.

The sacred fire that was lit more than a year ago at the Indian protest encampment on La Framboise Island has temporarily left the site, campers said Wednesday.

The two large teepees that have served as a constant reminder of the camp's existence and as a symbol of Native American heritage are also gone but will be back, campers said.

According to camper LeGrand Wells, 24, the fire was transported to the Standing Rock reservation to be used to light a council fire. Less than a month ago, he said a goal had been established to use the sacred fire to light seven council fires across the state in a show of unity.

The fire on La Framboise Island, the First Fire of the Oceti Sakowin or Seven Councils Fire, was lit on March 22, 1999, when the camp was established in protest of the Missouri River Mitigation Act. The mitigation act, passed by Congress, will exchange land along the river from U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' control to the state and two participating tribes.

Wells, who stayed throughout the winter to keep the fire burning, and Dan Merrival, one of the original camp protesters, said the missing fire and tipis are not indicators that protesters will break camp anytime soon. They said a group of "elders" recently expressed interest in seeing the camp stay on the island for at least another year.

Though the mitigation act is slowly moving forward, campers said Wednesday that the protest could continue until land they believe was unlawfully taken from Indian tribes in the state more than 100 years ago is returned.

New or repaired tipis are expected to return to the campsite on the island by this weekend along with the sacred fire. When the fire returns, two of the seven council fires representing the different tribes in the state will have been lit.

Since the time the sacred fire was first lit, campers have said that the protest was peaceful and local law enforcement representatives have agreed.

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