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Lakota Country Times: Sacred site in limbo due to state appeal

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Chairman Dave Archambault, left, is seen with South Dakota Tribal Relations Secretary Steve Emery in January 2015. Photo from South Dakota Department of Tribal Relations / Facebook

Archambault Jr. slams Pe' Sla opposition
By Brandon Ecoffey
Lakota Country Times Editor

PINE RIDGE-- For centuries Lakota people have traveled to the sacred site of Pe' Sla to perform spring ceremonies. Those ceremonies had been set to continue unencumbered as the sacred site was seemingly headed for protected trust status until an intervention by South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard halted the process in its tracks.

"It is heartbreakingly disappointing that the State of South Dakota has filed an appeal to stop the transfer of our sacred, ancestral land into trust. Land that is but a fraction the size of the Black Hills, which were taken from Tribes unwillingly," said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal President Dave Archambault Jr.

Roughly four years ago the land upon which the sacred site of Pe' Sla sits in the Black Hills of western South Dakota was placed up for auction for the price of $9 million. Information about the efforts to sell the land were quickly disseminated by the independent journalism site LastRealIndians.com, and efforts to raise the funds needed to buy the land were set in motion.

In 2012, the Rosebud, Crow Creek, Standing Rock and Shakopee would pay the $9 million for the 2,300 acres. Shortly after, tribes would begin the 16-step process of transferring the land to protected trust status with the federal government. Land held in trust refers to property where the federal government holds legal title but the beneficial interest remains with the tribe. This process has been used by tribal-nations in western New York as part of efforts to open off-reservation casinos. The land at Pe' Sla, however, was set be left open for ceremonial use and as a possible site for a tribally owned buffalo herd.

The objection to the application from tribes by Gov. Daugaard has been met with stiff backlash from tribal leaders including Standing Rock Sioux Tribal President Dave Archambault Jr.

"One step forward, two steps back. The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe is part of a consortium of Tribes that has expended significant time and money to acquire, and place into trust for our children, Pe’Sla --an area of the Black Hills especially sacred to us," said Archambault.

The first-term tribal president has been active in holding non-tribal entities responsible for their actions in Indian Country. He would go on to accuse Gov. Daugaard of failing to understand tribal-nations and their beliefs.

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"South Dakota’s appeal is perplexing, disheartening, and reveals a lack of understanding and respect for our beliefs, values, and the origins of our people," said Standing Rock Sioux Tribal President Dave Archambault Jr.

According to the Bureau of Indian Affairs their are many incentives for tribal-nations to place land in trust.

"The benefits to tribes are many. For example, trust acquisitions provide tribes the ability to enhance housing opportunities for their citizens. Trust acquisitions also are necessary for tribes to realize the tremendous energy development capacity that exists on their lands. Trust acquisitions also allow tribes to grant certain rights-of-way and enter into leases necessary for tribes to negotiate the use and sale of the natural resources. Additionally, trust lands provide the greatest protections for many communities who rely on subsistence hunting and agriculture that are important elements of tribal cultures and life ways," writes the BIA on their website.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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