Negotiations for the Treaty of Fort Laramie at Fort Laramie in Wyoming Territory in 1868. Photo: Department of Defense / National Archives and Records Administration

Bill in South Dakota affirms state's support for Treaty of Fort Laramie

A bill that affirms the legitimacy of the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie is on the books in South Dakota.

State Sen. Troy Heinert (D), a citizen of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, introduced Senate Resolution 1 on Wednesday in recognition of a key milestone of the government-to-government agreement. His bill cleared the chamber a day later, by a vote of 25 to 7.

"This resolution is not as much about the past as it is about the future," Heinert said. "By passing this resolution, and helping to educate Native and non-Native people about this treaty on its 150th anniversary, the State Senate has sent a message that it wants to do what it can to help build forward-looking, positive relationships in the future."

State Sen. Kevin Killer (D), a citizen of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, also hopes the bill sends a message to the federal government. He is a co-sponsor of Senate Resolution 1.

Sioux Nation lands. Source: Kmusser

"I hope that it serves as a reminder to the federal government of its treaty responsibilities and that Article VI of the United States Constitution clearly states that treaties, such as the 1868 Treaty of Fort Laramie, are the supreme law of the land," Killer said. "This resolution shows that Native and non-Native South Dakotans stand together in calling for the federal government to keep its promises, so that working together, we can build a better future for all South Dakotans."

The bill notes that the 1868 treaty promised "all South Dakota lands west of the Missouri River" to the Sioux Nation. It states that the most of the lands, including the Black Hills, were later taken by force by the federal government.

The Rosebud Sioux Tribe supports passage of the resolution to show "we're still here" and to support "forward-looking, positive relationships with full respect for the sovereign status of Native American nations confirmed by the treaty," the text states.

The treaty was signed at Fort Laramie, in present-day Wyoming, on April 29, 1868. In addition to promising land to the Sioux Nation, it recognizes hunting and other rights in a vast area of present-day South Dakota, Montana and Wyoming.

Passage of Senate Resolution 1 means it represents the official views of the South Dakota Senate. The bill does not need to be considered in the House.

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