Environmental Activist Visits North Dakota, Makes Things Up


Winona LaDuke is a political activist who, among other things, is the head of Honor the Earth. That’s the principle opposition group to the Sandpiper pipeline which would from Tioga, North Dakota, through Minnesota and down to Wisconsin.

LaDuke is also something of a fabulist, writing an op/ed about a recent visit to Williston which might leave some thinking that she’s living in an alternate version of reality.

First, LaDuke said that she stayed outside of Williston because she was afraid of all the crime:

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to Williston, N.D., for a conference on “extreme energy.” I’d been nervous about heading to Williston, the hype about the trucks, the danger and drugs. So, I stayed out of town, hid out in a Bible camp, nestled in a small indentation between rolling hills.

Gosh, crime in Williston must be really bad. And to be sure, the latest FBI index crime figures show that Williston has a significantly higher rate of violent crimes than the rest of North Dakota. Williston saw 4.17 crimes per 1,000 residents per the FBI data as compared to the statewide rate of 2.70.

To give that some context, though, North Dakota also has one of the lowest crime rates in the country. The national median is 3.18 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. And Williston’s crime rate isn’t even in the same league as, say, the Minneapolis crime rate which sits at 10.13 violent crimes per 1,000 residents.

LaDuke operates extensively in Minnesota and visits Minneapolis frequently, yet I can’t seem to find where she’s expressed concern about that city’s crime rate.

But it doesn’t stop there. LaDuke also claimed that she could literally feel the fracking taking place in the Williston area.

There, I could only hear the sounds of wells breathing, feel the shake of fracking under my feet as bedrock was exploded and see the light from gas flares.

If I covered my ears, I could feel and see North Dakota, the gentle prairie of Mandan territory, that knows and remembers. It is a place of peaceful contentment; this quiet of the prairie, watching the horizon, the undulating flocks of birds as they move across the endless sky. If I laid my head on the ground and transcended the shaking of the earth, I could almost remember the village that likely would have been there, at least a resting place. I was content and in awe.

LaDuke has probably read about concerns over seismic activity in Oklahoma which some have attributed to the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, process (it’s really wastewater injection wells which seem to be the culprit).

But that hasn’t been an issue in North Dakota which has not seen the increase in seismic activity that some other oil states have. And even in the states where increased seismic activity has been detected, most of that activity falls on the richter scale far below what humans can detect.

The idea that LaDuke was laying in some room near Williston feeling the earth rumbling under her is patently ridiculous. It’s simply not happening. She made it up.

Maybe LaDuke, when making things up about her visit to Williston, was just copying and pasting the sort of things environmentalists say about modern shale oil development without bothering to find out if those things are true about North Dakota. Or even true in other places.

Which should concern us. LaDuke isn’t just some social media crank. She is an influential political activists leading an extremely well-funded organization which is capable of blocking much needed energy infrastructure like pipelines. LaDuke’s wild claims about Williston, which really have no basis in reality, should speak to her credibility. Certainly that would be the case if some oil executive penned an editorial full of wild fantasys.

But LaDuke will get a pass on her fabulism, I suppose, because she has the right flavor of politics.