Cowboys and Indians vs. Honeywell Corporation

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NBC Today Show
Jane Pauley/Jon Alpert
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Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
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Native Americans and cowboys living in the Black Hills of South Dakota meet with representatives of the Honeywell Corporation to protest plans for munitions testing.



"Cowboys and Indians vs. Honeywell Corporation." Jon Alpert, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 14 Sep. 1987. NBC Learn. Web. 26 March 2015.


Alpert, J. (Reporter), & Pauley, J. (Anchor). (1987, September 14). Cowboys and Indians vs. Honeywell Corporation. [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from


"Cowboys and Indians vs. Honeywell Corporation" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 09/14/1987. Accessed Thu Mar 26 2015 from NBC Learn:


Cowboys and Indians vs. Honeywell Corporation

JANE PAULEY, anchor:

Cowboys and Indians haven’t always gotten along, but today contributing correspondent Jon Alpert is here to tell us about something called the C.I.A. – the Cowboy Indian Alliance?

JON ALPERT, reporting:

That’s right. It started in South Dakota, in the Black Hills, that the Indians consider sacred. The Indians and the local ranchers found out that one of America’s largest defense contractors, the Honeywell Corporation had purchased an entire valley and they were building a weapons testing facility in the Black Hills of South Dakota.

Mr. BRUCE MURDOCK (Rancher): This is the site of a proposed munitions testing facility that Honeywell Corporation plans to build in the future. Initially, they told us that they needed a canyon approximately 6 miles long to shoot guided missiles. This canyon, from the mouth down there to the hill that you can see up here, has a line of sight of probably a little over 5 miles, maybe a little longer.

Mr. REGINALD BIRDHORSE (Medicine Man): We hold this canyon very sacred due to the fact that the ground we are standing on is a burial site. Here is where a lot of people are buried and I feel that the Honeywell, what they’re trying to do here, this is not the place for it.

Mr. MURDOCK: We live right at the north end of the canyon where we think they’re probably going to shoot these missiles. We’re afraid that it would be a dangerous place to live for myself and my family.

ALPERT: What’s on the agenda today?

Mr. MURDOCK: Well, we’re driving around looking for cows. See if we can find them in the edge of the trees here or something. It’s a little hard to find them. You seeing any Wesley?


ALPERT: Wesley, what’s your daddy doing?

Mr. MURDOCK: He’s calling the cows.

ALPERT: Do they listen to him when he calls?

Mr. MURDOCK: Not very much.

ALPERT: No, I guess not, huh Wes? That doesn’t sound like that’s going to get any cows.

Mr. MURDOCK: You’ve got to be louder than that. These are petroglyphs. It’s actually the history book of the Native Americans. The canyon where Honeywell wants to put the munitions testing facility is similar to this, same drawings are in the Hell Canyon area and they are in danger if there’s an explosion or a blast into these or even near these that they will crumble and fall and it will be erased completely.

Ms. KATHY TUNHEIM (Honeywell Executive): Honeywell, one of the nation’s largest munitions manufacturer, had requirements for an additional test facility. We selected the Hell Canyon site because it met our physical requirements for our facility – that is, it was large, it had a significant area for buffer and we saw it as an appropriate place for us to perform testing. What the picture is showing is Honeywell’s existing testing facility in Minnesota. All tests are done from a stationary gun into what we call a catch basin at the other end of the test range.

Mr. MURDOCK: Honeywell Corporation has continually said they were going to bring 3 to 5 people in here to work at the facility.

ALPERT: 3 jobs?

Mr. MURDOCK: 3 jobs. For allowing Honeywell to come in and blow up these Black Hills which are a national treasure is, to me, a little bit of a morbid support of something that is not going to do us that much good.

ALPERT: Honeywell asked for a meeting. So, the cowboys and Indians built a meeting room at the test site and waited in the mountains.

Mr. MURDOCK: I hope they come. It will be interesting to see their reaction. I wonder if we can bring out a human element out of the corporation.

ALPERT: To everyone’s surprise, Honeywell showed up. They were welcomed with a 2 hour ride in a pick-up and when they finally reached the Hell Canyon site, the South Dakota sun had done it’s part. The temperature was 110 degrees. As the Medicine Men sanctified the meeting, it seemed that the Honeywell executives began to wonder what they had gotten themselves into.

Mr. BIRDHORSE: I welcome all of you that are here to be a part of this great day. This is history. We have history here.

UNIDENTIFIED: I’d like to ask a question. Why is this site necessary?

UNIDENTIFIED: Well, we need test sites for government work and we need more space.

UNIDENTIFIED: Would you call for more land down the road? Or will you keep discussions open?

UNIDENTIFIED: We can’t answer that at this time.

Mr. MURDOCK: I don’t think you can stretch this out any longer.

UNIDENTIFIED: We’d like to make that a formal request that you take back to your board.

Mr. BIRDHORSE: We’d like to pray to the Creator, that something does materialize of this meeting.

ALPERT: Maybe the Great Spirit was listening. One week later, Honeywell agreed to a moratorium.

Ms. TUNHEIM: In response to a call from the governor of South Dakota asking that Honeywell delay testing for 60 days, we have ceased any activity at the Hell Canyon site for that period of time in the hopes that all of the parties involved in this controversy can come together and determine together how best to reach a decision.

ALPERT: And do you think that you’re going to be able to resolve this? Some compromise?

Ms. TUNHEIM: Again, that’s our hope.

Mr. MURDOCK: I don’t see how a compromise would be possible - to allow a company to come in and desecrate a sacred area and to ruin a national treasure called the Black Hills with a munitions testing facility. There’s other places for this.

UNIDENTIFIED: I believe that the Honeywell should move elsewhere and do their testing.

ALPERT: So, the cowboys and Indians response to Honeywell is?

Mr. MURDOCK: Please leave.

ALPERT: Yeah, and Jane it seems like might leave. Honeywell announced last week that if the people of South Dakota really don’t want them there, they’ll go elsewhere, they’ll find another site.