University of Wisconsin basketball star Bronson Koenig and his brother Miles are packing an 18-foot trailer with food, water, supplies and clothes to drive Friday to North Dakota to provide relief for Sioux tribal members locked in a showdown with an oil pipeline builder.
Born in La Crosse, 21-year-old Bronson and 26-year-old Miles are members of the Ho-Chunk Nation, whose president also joined thousands of other Native Americans who have descended upon prairies around Bismarck, N.D., in recent weeks to offer support and aid to members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who are protesting the construction of a pipeline through their reservation.
“I just felt obligated to help,” Miles said in an interview Monday afternoon. “I felt a calling from within me to stand and protect.”
The protest took a violent turn last week when company security guards unleashed attack dogs on the protesters, many of whom suffered puncture wounds from the bites from the dogs, whose mouths dripped with blood.
“It’s basically committing felonies,” said Miles, a community outreach organizer at Three Rivers House, a Ho-Chunk Branch in La Crosse. “It’s insane how the government allows that,” considering that officials took no action against the company. The attacks were against “children and pregnant women. It breaks my heart.”
After a circuit court judge ruled Friday that it would not grant the tribe’s request to halt the company’s pipeline construction, President Barack Obama stepped in and ordered the work stopped.
“I applaud him,” Miles said of the president. “I feel he’s always heard the voice of the natives.”
Bronson, an Aquinas High School basketball and UW’s starting point guard, was a major factor in getting the Badgers to the Final Four last season.
“I hope to bring awareness to the cause and give everyone there a little bit of joy and a little bit of hope,” Bronson told Yahoo sports today.
“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,” he said.
The brothers plan to take some of of their own clothing, especially warm clothes, and any donations that people offer, Miles said.
"They're going to be out there all winter," he said.
Anyone who wants to donate can call Miles at 608-433-8521.