Wisconsin guard Bronson Koenig, perhaps the most famous and outspoken Native American athlete in the United States, made the decision this week to join forces with the Standing Rock Sioux in protest an oil pipeline that would cut across the tribe’s sacred lands.
Koenig has spent much of the past month using his twitter and instagram feeds to publicize the protest and what he believes is an injustice against his people. The Dakota Pipeline is a nearly-$4 billion project that would funnel a half-a-million barrels of oil daily from North Dakota to Illinois. The proposed route goes underneath the Missouri River just north of the Standing Rock Sioux reservation, a route that the tribe says would contaminate their water and damage sacred sites.
Words, however, only go so far, which is why Koenig will be heading up to Cannonball, North Dakota, this weekend to support the protest and, as he told Yahoo! Sports this week, to give them a reason to smile during what’s unquestionably a trying time.
“I want to take time out of my schedule to pray with them and protest with them and show them that I’m right alongside them,” he said. “They’ve always had my back whether I have an awful game or a great game, and this is my way of repaying the favor.”
Koenig, whose mother is a full-blooded member of the Ho-Chunk tribe, is a pillar in the Native American community because of his basketball prowess. Because of this, he decided to host a free clinic for the area youth on Saturday. It’s scheduled to be held at Standing Rock Middle School in Fort Yates from 2-5 p.m.
Credit to Koenig for this, and credit to Wisconsin for supporting him.
His efforts may not get the same kind of media attention that kneeling for the national anthem does, but it isn’t any less important.