More on the Powder River Basin

If you were disheartened to learn that there are plans to expand the largest coal mines in the world, in the Powder River Basin, in Wyoming, a little of the history of this region gives a more in-depth, though none too cheerful, picture.

(To see the story, “Putting a Chill on New Coal in the Powder River Basin,” click here)

According to a Wikipedia article, Powder River Country lies between the Bighorn Mountains and the Black Hills.  The Black Hills were sacred mountains to Native American people, including the Lakota and the Cheyenne; until the land was taken away from them, and Mount Rushmore and a number of other monuments were constructed there.

In the 1860’s, Red Cloud, the Oglala Lakota Chief, allied with the Cheyenne and Arapaho people, fought a war against the U.S. military to retain control of their land, the Powder River Country.  They were successful and held on to this land for the next eight years.

Following the Great Sioux War of 1876-77; however, control of the land fell to the U.S. government, which opened the land to homesteading by white settlers. Later on, oil was discovered and the oil fields developed. Coal mines followed.

Long gone are the days when the area was a natural tract of wilderness, a vast habitat for wildlife, in the hands of native people. There, in a nutshell, is the sad story of Powder River Country, now being strip-mined, and the largest coal mines in the world, which are located there, may be on their way to being expanded.

To read the Wikimedia article, “Powder River Country,” click here.

Photo: Beth Steinhauer, Black Hills National Forest / Wikimedia Commons / “This image is a work of the Forest Service of the United States Department of Agriculture. As a work of the U.S. federal government, the image is in the public domain.” / Black Hills, South Dakota

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