Wisconsin point guard Bronson Koenig, the most notable Native American men’s basketball player in the nation, has made public his plans to join the Dakota Access Pipeline protests. Koenig will make the 11-hour drive with his older brother and his trainer to a protest site near Bismarck, North Dakota this Friday.
Koenig spoke about his plans with Yahoo Sports, saying in addition to joining the protest efforts, he will set up a youth basketball camp Saturday evening. The Ho-Chunk Nation member, along with thousands of others, is protesting the construction of the oil pipeline, which, as it is currently planned, would cut through numerous Standing Rock Sioux Tribe sacred sites and burial grounds.
“I hope to bring awareness to the cause and give everyone there a little bit of joy and a little bit of hope,” Koenig told Yahoo Sports. “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. 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.”
In a Sept. 9 press release, the U.S. Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior announced construction near Lake Oahe would be paused to reconsider the construction plan. This came the same day Judge John Boasberg released his decision denying the Standing Rock Sioux’s request for an injunction, stating construction on the pipeline could continue. The move to temporarily halt construction was made after a video filmed by Democracy Now! displayed a private security force hired by Energy Transfer Partners, the company in charge of construction, making use of dogs and pepper spray on the protestors. Six people were bitten by dogs and 30 people were pepper sprayed, according to WREG’s interview with the tribe’s spokesperson.
As The New Yorker noted in its story on the protests, the land used to belong to the Sioux before being assumed by the federal government in 1958 for a damming project.
The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe posted on its Facebook page that Koenig is slated to meet with children for his camp at a local middle school in Fort Yates for three hours Saturday, starting at 2:00 p.m. Koenig was the first-ever Native American to start in the NCAA title game, playing 31 minutes in a 68-63 loss to Duke in the 2015 championship. Last season, he was a third-team All-Big Ten selection after putting up 13.1 points and 2.4 assists per game for the 22-13 Badgers.