LaDonna Brave Bull

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Date: 2021
Publisher: Gale, part of Cengage Group
Document Type: Biography
Length: 935 words
Content Level: (Level 4)
Lexile Measure: 1130L

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About this Person
Born: June 08, 1956 in Fort Yates, North Dakota, United States
Died: April 10, 2021 in Fort Yates, North Dakota, United States
Nationality: American
Occupation: Environmental activist
Other Names: Allard, LaDonna Tamakawastewin Brave Bull
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LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, a citizen of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, was a historian, geologist, and activist who was first nationally recognized when she became one of the most prominent activists protesting the Dakota Access Pipeline. Allard spoke on behalf of the tribe to many national media outlets and used her own land to help create a camp where protestors could gather. She continued to speak about the land, the water, and her people even after the pipeline was built.

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Critical Thinking Questions

  • How was Allard changed by her visit to Whitestone Hill?
  • Why did Allard donate her land and become a spokesperson for her tribe?
  • How do you think the building of the Dakota Access Pipeline affected Allard personally?

Early Life

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard was born on June 8, 1956, in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Her parents were Valerie Lovejoy Brave Bull and Frank Brave Bull, both Native Americans. Allard spent much of her childhood living with her grandmothers. Though she spent much time in North Dakota, she also moved around the country, also living in California, New England, and South Dakota.

After finishing high school, Allard enrolled at the Standing Rock Community College. She then transferred to Black Hills State College and eventually to the University of North Dakota at Grand Forks, from which she graduated in 1990. Allard had a long interest in her tribe’s history and her family’s roots and genealogy. After graduating from college, she combined her passion with her degree to work for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe as a cultural resource planner. She helped preserve and teach her tribe’s culture in this position.

Understanding Tribal History

Allard researched even more about her people’s history and learned about a massacre that took place in 1863. The US Army massacred hundreds of Sioux Native Americans at a place called Whitestone Hall. Many of the victims were women and children. When Allard visited the site, she felt pain and believed that her ancestors were crying out because of the horrible crime committed against them there. Allard’s great-grandmother had been wounded in the massacre. Though her great-grandmother survived with a gunshot wound, she saw her family members murdered. Allard’s visit to the site had an important impact on her, and she wanted to teach more people about this history. Allard became a historian and genealogist for her tribe.

Environmental Activism

In 2016, a Texas-based oil company wanted to build an oil pipeline, called the Dakota Access Pipeline, in North Dakota. The company planned to construct the pipeline less than one mile from the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s reservation. The tribe even learned that the pipeline’s proposed path would cover burial grounds and other sacred lands. Allard and other members of the tribe wanted to stop the pipeline from being built. Allard and others believed that the proposed pipeline challenged the tribe’s sovereignty and threatened its land and the environment in general. Allard also had more personal reasons for not wanting the pipeline. The finished pipeline would pass right by her son’s grave, and she felt it was disrespectful to him and to others who were buried nearby.

Allard and other members of the tribe developed a plan for resisting the pipeline. Allard’s family owned land very close to the construction area, and she allowed her land to be used by protestors. Allard and other members of the tribe brought food, drinks, and supplies to the land. They started a camp where members of the tribe could organize and protest from. Over time, people from outside the tribe also came to protest on Allard’s land. The encampment eventually became huge and drew native people from around the country and world. These people wanted to stop the oil company from desecrating the tribe’s land. The company and law enforcement officials used attack dogs, water cannons, pepper spray, and other types of violence to break up the protests at the camp. Allard became a spokesperson for her tribe, talking to national media outlets and educating other people about the importance of the land and water to the tribe.

After months of protesting and fighting, the protestors won a legal battle when the US Army Corps of Engineers announced that they would try to find an alternative route for the pipeline. However, in 2016 Republican Donald Trump was elected president and wanted the pipeline to be built. Construction began again, and this time it was completed, despite further efforts from Allard and other members of the tribe.

Allard continued to be a spokesperson for her tribe. She spoke in front of the United Nations to talk about the pipeline and how it violated her tribe’s rights. She also continued to speak to national media outlets.

In 2020, Allard was diagnosed with brain cancer and underwent surgery to try to treat it. She died from the illness on April 10, 2021, in Fort Yates, North Dakota.

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Connections: Dakota Access Pipeline

The Dakota Access Pipeline is an oil pipeline that was started in 2016 by the American company Energy Transfer. The company wanted to move oil from North Dakota into the southern part of the country. People who objected to the pipeline pointed out that a spill from the pipeline could pollute the Missouri River, which flowed near the proposed site of the pipeline. After court battles between activists and the company, the pipeline’s construction was allowed to move forward in 2017. By the middle of that year, the pipeline was transporting crude oil from North Dakota. However, in 2020 more court battles led to changes. A judge shut down the pipeline’s operation after finding that more environmental testing should be done to ensure that the pipeline would operate safely.

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Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|MPQNXL560239259