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The Heart of All That Is - Saving the Sacred Black Hills
In the heart of the Great Sioux Nation lies the Black Hills, and on Saturday, August 25, roughly 1,943 acres will be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Although the irony is obvious, the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota people are in a race against time to raise enough money to buy their land back, and they need all the help they can get.
The auction takes place Saturday, August 25. Up for sale; roughly 1,942.66 acres in the heart of the Black Hills of South Dakota...in the heart of Indian Country, of the Great Sioux Nation.
The native people want to buy it back...and they don’t have very much time to raise several million dollars to do so.
Known as Pe’Sla to the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people, it is a land full of history. More importantly, it is the center of the universe for the native people.
Being one with the land is a difficult thing for many of us to understand. It’s not just a cool thing to say. It means you are born of it; it is recognition that you are made from and given life by the air you breathe, which gives you oxygen from the land. It means the earth that nourishes the plants and animals that feed you is a part of you; that the blood in your veins is moistened by the water of the land, and that you will return to that earth some day to continue that cycle.
It means that your ancestors are part of that land, and a part of you. It is a connection that cannot be broken without consequence. It is far more than words. It is being a part of a place, and the place being a part of you. It is knowing who you are, and what you are.
Dr. Sara J. Jumping Eagle, MD, Oglala Lakota from Kyle, South Dakota, described her feelings this way.
"When someone asked me today, how would I feel if Pe’ Sla were to be bought by a developer, and destroyed, or paved with a road…. I couldn’t talk for awhile – I couldn’t speak – there was a pain in my chest, and I cried….the person on the phone thought I had hung up “Hello, Hello”. “Yes, I am here.”
"How I would feel? How would you feel if your whole way of life was threatened? If a place that was holy and mysterious was covered up by a parking lot? Bethlehem was an amusement park? How would I feel if Pe’ Sla was destroyed? It would be a pain that it is difficult to describe..I suppose because I have not felt it before….. It would only be comparable to another Wounded Knee Massacre… or to having one of my relatives killed in front of me… When we say Mitakuye Oyasin..It is a prayer…it is a way of life. It is not something we just say. We are all related, and Pe’ Sla is our relative and should be treated as such! Hecetu Ye!"
The land, being auctioned to satisfy a tax lien, is currently in the ownership of Leonard and Margaret Reynolds, and has been privately owned for some 126 years. The Fort Laramie Treaties should have prevented this kind of thing from happening - non Indian purchase of lands in the heart of Indian Country - but treaty violations are nothing new to the tribes,and there is no time to waste...the auction is this Saturday.
“People have asked how the land came to be owned by private owners” said Rob Fife, DQU graduate, horseman and artist. “After the (Fort Laramie) treaty of 1868 was violated by the US Government, they then passed new laws (Dawes Act), again violating their own laws, and parcelling out the Great Sioux Nation into allotments. Each Sioux (Lakota) head of household (men) was designated 160 acres and orphans or those under 18 years old were designated 40 – 80 acres. The remainder of land was opened up to settlers to purchase, especially in the Black Hills where Custer’s expedition had found gold.”
James Magaska Swan, a supporter of efforts to purchase Pe'Sla, asked a very good question.
"In 1980 the US Supreme Court affirmed the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868, and found that the taking of the Black Hills violated that treaty and awarded liquidated damages of one hundred twenty million dollars, which mostly remains held in trust for the Sioux tribes. Why can't the Sioux tribes use that money to purchase this block of land in the Black Hills?"
Save Pe'Sla co-organizer Karen Ducheneneaux's answer is critical, and illustrates the resolve of the native people to keep their sacred land and their sacred connection to it:
"That money is not for 'damages,' that amount represents a 'payment' for the theft of the He Sapa (Black Hills). If we accept any portion of it, we say we are giving up claims to the Hills, since we've been paid."
Support and awareness is coming from around the world. Individual contributors are making an impact; there is no donation amount too small to be important. As of 9 AM on Tuesday, August 21, $144,880.00 have been raised on Indiegogo.com This is the official site for making donations.
This is more than a fight to save land. This is in many ways a spiritual awakening and journey for a people who have been romanticized and brutalized, admired and ignored, and desperately misunderstood, since the invasion of their homeland began five hundred years ago. This is a chance to take back what is theirs...and that they should have to buy it back seems criminal in itself...but there is no time left to lament about that now. There are only a few days left before the auction...before the heart of their land goes to the highest bidder.
It does not matter what color you are. We are all related. We can, and should, come forward, come together, and help the Lakota, Nakota and Dakota people buy their land back. You can make your donation here:
You can join the Save Pe’Sla Facebook group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/490836130943714/
There is also an event page - another planning meeting is coming up on Thursday, August 23. https://www.facebook.com/events/424416784276719/
Photos: Young Lakota Warrior: Makaheya Inyan Hoksila Yracheta, courtesy Karen Ducheneaux
Indian Land For Sale courtesy Rob Fife
Courtesy Rob Fife
Please go to Indiegogo and donate to save the heart of the Sioux land from public auction.