The end of the Pe’ Sla auction is not the end of the struggle. The land is STILL publicly listed for sale and so could still be bought by developers unless the Lakota can get the money together quickly.
Rumors/Misinformation going round serve to muddy the issue:
1.) ‘The Natives’ land was stolen long ago, so who cares?’
The fact is that the Supreme Court admitted in “United States vs. Sioux Nation of Indians” court case (1980) that the land was ‘illegally seized territory’. According to our own RECENT laws, the land is considered stolen. That cannot be said for a lot of places in the US.
In referring to the 1980 case, some believe that the Lakota ought to
2.) ‘Just accept the $106 million awarded in that court proceeding and use it to buy Black Hills/Pe’ Sla’
That is not possible. If the Lakota accept that money, which is explicitly marked as ‘compensation’, then the Lakota would have to give up all claims to Pe’ Sla/Black Hills.
The same goes for the ‘1 billion dollars’ that people may tell you that the Lakota have on hand. What they are referring to is a court case in which one ‘Mario Gonzalez’ filed a lawsuit asking for the land of Black Hills and $11 billion in damages. Mr. Gonzalez said that he would give $1 billion dollars to the Lakota in order to alleviate their poverty and use $10 billion dollars to remove nonrenewable resources from Black Hills.
It’s the same thing. If the Lakota took the billion, then they would have to give up the land which they see as Sacred and watch it be carved up and developed to feed various industrial interests.
3.) ‘If the Lakota are so poverty-stricken, then why don’t they take the money and give up Pe’ Sla?’
I understand how easy it is to think this way, but you must look at if from the other side. Buddists, would you abandon your path for piles of fine clothes and jewelry? Christians: if someone told you that you could move out of your shack and into a mansion where you would be fed a seven-course meal every day, would you give up Jesus in exchange and never say another prayer? Humans are not just calculators, they have a heart. There are things more important to many humans around the world than simple financial security.
4.) ‘So why don’t they just get the money from the casinos they have?’
The Lakota in question do not have casinos — as was mentioned, they are poverty stricken. There are more than 500 Native tribes in the US, as well as at least seven different tribes of Sioux to begin with. To just assume that the Pe’ Sla Lakota have such resources available to them is incorrect.
5.) ‘Development is nothing new, it goes on all the time. Why is it such a big deal?’
This question fails to acknowledge four things that are unique and that serve to raise the non-monetary value of this land in particular:
a.) The Lakota consider it a part of their creation story. A significant part of Traditional Lakota culture depends on the prayers and rituals made at Pe’ Sla on a regular basis. It would be like paving over the ‘Wailing Wall’ in Israel, parceling out pieces of ‘Sagrada Familia’ or turning ‘Uluru (Ayers Rock)’ into an amusement park. If you respect the beliefs of another, then you do not do these things. To sell the land to developers would be infringing on the Lakota’s religious freedoms, especially when one considers the State of South Dakota’s intent to put a roadway right through Pe’ Sla.
b.) The land is pristine. Few places on this planet are left that are still pristine, which is why some would prefer to make Pe’ Sla a natural preserve (something which the Lakota would be thrilled to hear).
c.) Black Hills contains ranches that belong to the homestead era of US history. It is ripe to become a living history museum. Turning Black Hills into a historic site would also be agreeable to the Lakota and wouldn’t interfere in their worshiping there.
d.) Any attempts to open a gold mine in the area or put a Keystone XL pipeline in the area (which could endanger sources of local fresh water) are likely to cause more problems for all the communities in the area than they would solve. Yet these are amongst the main interests that would be sure to buy the land.
- The Supreme Court already admitted that the land was seized illegally.
- Environmental concerns surround those that would develop the Black Hills
- Pe’ Sla/Black Hills has a kind of ‘non-monetary’ value that cannot be replaced