The financial details remain to be worked out, but negotiations between representatives of the Sioux people and the owners of Pe' Sla, a sliver of sacred land in the heart of the Black Hills, have produced an agreement. Leonard and Margaret Reynolds will transfer land held in their family since 1876 to the Sioux. The deal for the 2000 acres was announced at a press conference on Saturday in Eagle Butte, South Dakota, tribal headquarters of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. A celebratory rally will take place Wednesday in Rapid City. Here's the press conference:
As Aji, navajo and I reported here and here, those 2,000 acres were at risk because the descendants of the man who homesteaded the core of the site 136 years ago had decided to auction them off. Estimates of the take from the sale went as high as $5000 an acre, $10 million. The announcement of the auction came as a surprise to Sioux activists. What does it matter? Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton-Wahpeton/Mdewakanton/Hunkpapa) wrote:
“To the Oceti Sakowin [the Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation], Pe’ Sla is The Heart of Everything. Not only does this sacred site play a key role in our creation story, it is said to be the place where The Morning Star plunged to earth, and saved the People from seven creatures who had killed seven women. The Lakota hero then placed those women in the night sky as ‘The Seven Sisters,’ called ‘The Pleiades’ by western astronomers.”With only a few weeks to raise a seemingly impossible sum, attorney Chase Iron Eyes (Standing Rock Sioux) and others at the LastRealIndians website decided not to let the land go without an attempt to keep it out of developers' hands. Although it was galling to have to raise money to buy land that was illegally taken in violation of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty and 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty, the choice was to do that or to see Pe' Sla forever gone.
Behind the yet-to-be-finalized sale lays the great irony. For 60 years, beginning in 1920, the Sioux sought legal redress for the Black Hills land snatched from them by Congress in 1877. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in their favor, agreeing in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians that the land "set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the Indians" by the 1868 treaty had been taken illegally and ordering that $17.5 million—plus a century of interest, for a total of $105 million—be paid as compensation. All the Sioux tribes refused to accept the money and have continued to refuse because, just as more than a century ago, "the Black Hills are not for sale." The money resides in a trust and now, after the accumulation of compound interest for 32 years, stands at around $1.4 billion. Less than a year's interest on that money could buy Pe' Sla. But touching that money would, in the view of the tribes, extinguish forever their right to the Black Hills, three-fourths of which are "owned' by the U.S. and South Dakota governments.
So Iron Eyes put out the call. And what seemed impossible was achieved. What began with Iron Eyes soon spread to the Oceti Sakowin that unites them all. At the time this is published, more than $316,000 has been raised in private funding from donors large and small, including several thousand dollars from Daily Kos. In addition, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe (Sicangu Oyate Lakota), which originally pledged $50,000 for the purchase has pledged $1.3 million. Other Sioux tribes have also made pledges that, together, was enough to persuade the Reynolds' family to call off the auction and, ultimately, to make a deal with the tribes. The fund-raising continues here.
Iron Eyes writes World Unites to Protect Pe' Sla:
The world is watching! We have been on an epic journey, against all odds, to mobilize to protect Pe Sla, one of the Oceti Sakowin’s (Great Sioux Nation) most precious sacred sites central to humanity’s continued existence.Lastrealindians has served the people by acting as a focal point for efforts to protect Pe Sla. We are greatly encouraged by the enormous outpouring of support for protect Pe Sla and for the reigniting of our collective consciousness relating to sacred sites and the Black Hills -Wamaka Ognaka y Cante (the Heart of Everything that is). To us, it is not about the amount of money we raised; it’s about the amount of energy shared by the world and the once in a lifetime unification of the Oceti Sakowin. Lastrealindians did not raise this money alone. Lastrealindians did not create and sustain the energy to Protect PeSla alone. The world came together as humans, as two-leggeds, to recognize our place in this universe and show each other what really matters. There was already a critical mass of motivated critical thinkers who needed no convincing as to why we should protect Pe Sla. People from all over the globe helped our cause because it is their cause. All who helped could see that knowing the sacred nature of our Black Hills and other holy places around the world is the only way to save ourselves from this corporate-western-consumer machine. We want more from life than what mainstream media and corporate economies can offer us; we want spiritual dignity, not material possessions and money. Our spirits remember, and we as humans want to respect the divine. We want to treat each other with love. [...]One victory. A small victory in the overall course of things. But perhaps something greater will emerge from this one. James Anaya, U.N. Special Rapporteur for the rights of indigenous people, has previously called for the United States to negotiate a return of the Black Hills or part of them, and he did so again in light of the concerns raised over Pe' Sla. For the first time in 40 years, a president is in office who actually listens to what Indians have to say and acts on what he hears. Perhaps he can be persuaded to act on this as well.
We know this accomplishment is historical, we know this is monumental; we know this is only the beginning. This is the return to the Black Hills, the black hills that we will never sell; the Black Hills that will deliver us to salvation. The Heart of Humanity that we will celebrate and honor at a rally to raise awareness and give wopila for all the answered prayers and hard work. We want to send a huge thank you to everyone who helped, and we invite all of you, anyone in the Rapid City area, to come to the band shelter at Memorial Park on the southeast side of the Rushmore Civic Center, Rapid City, South Dakota, on September 5, starting at 5:00 PM Mountain Time for a feed and a host of events. [...]
The Great Sioux Nation belongs to the Black Hills; as do other Nations that hold the Black Hills near to their heart including the Cheyenne, Arapaho, Crow, and Kiowa to name but a few. When it is time to stand immovable in our Black Hills to protect Pe Sla, Hinhan Kaga, Mato Tipila, Mato Paha and so forth, there you will find us, again.
But a 19th Century Congress took away the Black Hills, and righting that travesty is ultimately up to a 21st Century Congress. As the Sioux have proved repeatedly, they will never sell the Black Hills.
photographer Aaron Huey joined Shepard Fairey, the prolific street artist known
to most people for his creation of the iconic Obama HOPE campaign image,
and installed a stunning 20x80-foot mural THE BLACK HILLS ARE NOT FOR SALE.
It remained at the intersection of Ogden and the highly trafficked Melrose Avenue
in West Los Angeles near Fairfax for 30 days.