Subscriptions to South Dakota Magazine make great gifts!
Subscribe today — 1 year (6 issues) is just $25!
Pe' Sla Preserved
Dec 11, 2012
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 He Sapa.
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 He Sapa.
Vi Waln is Sicangu Lakota and an enrolled member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Her columns were awarded first place in the South Dakota Newspaper Association 2010 contest. She can be reached through email at email@example.com.