I send kudos to the Rosebud, Crow Creek and Yankton Sioux Tribes along with the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community for recently closing the deal on the purchase of several tracts of land in the Black Hills area known as Pe Sla. There were many of us who were anxious over how this land acquisition was going to happen. This is a sacred site. There were many people concerned about what type of development would take place if this land wound up in the hands of an individual or a corporation who would only think about profit.
I also appreciate Chase Iron Eyes and all Last Real Indians activists for their tireless efforts in bringing about global awareness on this issue. Those of us who blog or use Facebook, Twitter and You Tube know these sites are an effective way to bring lightning fast attention to issues we are passionate about. Last Real Indians initially kicked off the fund raising efforts and collected a total of $900,000 to contribute toward the land purchase.
A big thank you is sent out to all of you who donated money. Even if you sent one dollar, please know your generosity came at a crucial time. It is not every day that we are provided with an opportunity to secure land in the sacred HeSapa.
And I especially want to acknowledge the Kindergarten students from Rosebud who made national headlines with their cash donation which they presented to the Rosebud Sioux Tribal Council. Obviously, they were also concerned about the purchase of Pe Sla.
I went to a few meetings where the topic of this land purchase was discussed. To be honest, I really didn’t think our tribal leaders would unite long enough to secure the money and put this deal together. I appreciate the determination of the leaders who worked it all out. The Black Hills is an area which is very important to many of us.
On the other hand, there were many Lakota people who really didn’t care if the land was purchased at all. I did listen to numerous reasons as to why the tracts should not be bought. $9 million dollars is a lot of money to sacrifice. We are not faced with the best of economic conditions on the Rez. There were many tribal members who believed that this money could be better spent by funding social programs, building houses, paying utilities for elders and low income families, establishing youth programs, etc.
I also heard from Lakota naysayers who were against the whole idea. More than one expressed concern about how he or she believed the tribes did not have a concrete plan in place for how the land would be used. Um, excuse me but hasn’t the plan essentially always been to get the Black Hills back for the Lakota people? Anyway, it was quite enough for me that the people who donated and/or raised money were primarily concerned about the purchase of land which contained a site sacred to our people.
I cannot stress enough how Pe Sla is a very sacred area. The Black Hills have an essential place in Lakota Star Knowledge. This area is linked to our creation stories and our spirituality. For me, it is crucial to keep the area free of any development. I appreciate that we now have a say in what will happen there. I am sure there are lots of ideas about how to use the land in a way which will guarantee its return to a pristine condition.
Many of you believe we should not have to buy what is essentially already ours. There is a mountain of money sitting somewhere collecting interest because our people maintain the Black Hills are not for sale. I agree the land was taken from our people illegally in 1877. Still, I do not see any effort by the federal government to correct the theft of land. In their eyes, the money allocated to the Black Hills docket was the end of it. So in reality, the only way we are going to get any land back is to buy it when we have the opportunity.
Arguing over what is the right or wrong way to secure ownership of land in the Black Hills won’t get us anywhere. Holding on to the hope that the federal government will return land to us by refusing the Black Hills settlement money isn’t realistic either. I’m not advocating for an acceptance of the settlement because I realize refusing the money is all about principle, I just don’t believe the federal government will return any stolen land.
I have to also say wopila to Leonard and Margaret Reynolds. They willingly took the land off the auction block last summer in order to allow the interested tribes an opportunity to secure enough money to make the purchase. I thank them for their patience as they waited for the day of the sale. I also want to express my appreciation to the Rosebud Sioux Tribe for presenting a satin star quilt to the Reynolds couple on the day the deal was closed.
Finally, I have to say wopila to Leksi Leonard Crow Dog and all of the other spiritual people continually offer their prayers for the land. It was very appropriate to have spiritual leaders pray at the same sacred site our ancestors did. I appreciate all of our medicine people.
I would love to see the site left undisturbed for a time. It would be great if there was nothing done with the land except to enjoy that we can now have unlimited access to it. Pe Sla is a sacred site and should be treated as such.
Our ancestors were the epitome of environmental stewards. Thus, I believe they would view it as disrespectful to graze cattle on a sacred site. They would want many ceremonies to celebrate our reconnection with one of our most important sites in HeSapa.
3 thoughts on “Um, excuse me but hasn’t the plan essentially always been to get the Black Hills back for the Lakota people?”
This was an excellent well-written article, you captured my thoughts and I really appreciate you stating all you did. I want to share something with you: On the day of the signing, I was busy putting on a Great Plains Tribal Water Conference so I didn’t get to attend the Ceremony of signing. The day before we had honored Russell Means and Crow Dog was with us both days. But he explained he had to get up early because Shakopee Mdewakanton wanted to go see Pe’Sla and he was going along to have ceremony & say prayers. There is a story that hasn’t been told…Chairman Stanley Crooks had been very ill and in the hospital and was on oxygen, during this time he had a vision. He was told to work on getting the Black Hills back and to use it to help the people. His health improved and Stanley continued to work. But he didn’t forget what he was supposed to do, he hired Mark Van Norman to start work on an Economic Development plan to get the Black Hills back and to develop an action plan for what to do. I was part of an invited group to discuss this strategy with Stanley. He was still on oxygen but sharp as ever. He told us his vision and what he had set in motion. Meanwhile, Pe’Sla came on the market and Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe directed Mark and I to work on it. You know our people, there was all sorts of things that came up but we kept going forward with all the various interests, Chase, Lastrealindians, we spoke with numerous Tribes and councils, meetings, working with Indian Land Tenure and the Realtors. Then we lost Stanley Crooks and his vision became even more important. It was like the Creator was hurrying us and showed us the way to purchase Pe’Sla, a small part of He Sapa. We were preparing to go to auction then the family pulled the auction so we worked behind the scenes to make an offer. When the day arrived, Indian Land Tenure had the money and wired it to the bank for our offer. I ran down and picked up the check and delivered it to the Family through the Reynolds’s Family Realtor. He took the check and met with the Family, they gave us a counter offer for more money and we accepted it so I ran back down to the bank for the extra money and returned to cut the deal and signed the papers. The agreement gave us until the end of Nov. to gather the rest of the money and contained a non-disclosure clause so we couldn’t let out too much information. Throughout all of this, we remembered Stanley. On the day of the signing the entire Shakopee Mdewakanton Council (3) came because they knew what Stanley wanted and had set in motion. Also, they contributed funds toward the purchase. We visited during lunch and they were satisfied that we had begun the work on Stanley’s vision and pleased to finalize the deal. They went on to sign the papers in the name of the Great Sioux Nation along with Rosebud and Crow Creek. The door remains open for Oglala, Cheyenne River & Standing Rock to come in too. Many people won’t understand what this means to us, the vision, the return of some of our Sacred He Sapa, achieving success and not letting our people down by closing the deal. On that day, sadly, I was confronted by some of our own people who scoffed at our efforts and said some of what you stated in your article, but no one can take away from me what we have achieved and our young will remember this success. We set an example, gave hope and realize we can do anything, we are not losers. Mostly, to me this sends a strong message that we are not greedy that there are things much more important than money, it means we have begun to fulfill what the Spirits told us to do when they came to Stanley Crooks in his vision, to get the Black Hills Back and to work on a plan. I am so happy I got to be part of this effort and in our winter count this certainly will be featured and spoke of positively around the camp fires for years to come. I wanted to share this with you because I see your heart. A. Gay Kingman
It is very refreshing to see what a handful of faithful can do. Even in the face of much adversity. I applaud the efforts of all those who have contributed to this great effort, and wish more understood the value of what this means. It brought tears to my eyes for joy that the sacred site has been purchased, and for sadness that so many have no clue to the true meaning. They cannot feel the pain of the earth as it is being raped and tortured, and that is very sad. Then I thought as they would think, about those who need help with their utilities, etc. That brought other tears. At the same time thinking that most of those who complain are on their way to get drunk and talk about it, not even trying to do anything to help the situation. Which brings other tears. (these are literal tears) If the warriors would stop being women, then these things would not be as they are. And I hope they see this at some point. Just a few warriors being men is good, but it would be much better if ALL warriors would stand and be men, the way it was meant to be. To care for the people, and protect them, not wasting their lives and time wallowing in self pity and apathy. It is my prayer that the warriors rise up from the graves that have been dug for them, and see things for what they really are, and make a stand for the people, the way it should be. (that does not mean violence…there are ways of doing everything)
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