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Tim Giago: Air Force base not a blessing to Lakotas

"At the outset of World War II the officials at the base, then known as Rapid City Air Force Base, searched for a location where they could practice bombing and strafing. The nearest land available just happened to be on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, about 90 miles south of the base.

An arbitrary decision was made by the U.S. government to confiscate lands around Potato Creek near Kyle for this purpose. Official letters were sent to the residents living on the land telling them they had a certain number of days to pack up, gather their horses and cattle, abandon their homes and move off their land.

If any refused to leave they were arrested and forcibly removed, and if they hid out and tried to wait out the war they risked losing their lives from the live bombs and bullets that were about to descend upon their homes and land. Any horses or cows left behind became a favorite target for the machine guns of the pilots, and the homes became so much fodder for the bombs that fell.

To this day much of the land is uninhabitable because of the live shells and bombs still buried on it. Funds were allocated to clean up the �bombing range,� and the progress to do just that has been slow and tedious.

And so to many Oglala Lakota the air force base in Rapid City was not a blessing."

Get the Story:
Tim Giago: History gives us answers for future (The Kansas City Star 6/30)

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