Return the Black Hills to the Sioux
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To The U.S. Congress:
We petition you as OUR government to restore the Black Hills ((Lakota: Ȟe Sápa; Cheyenne: Moʼȯhta-voʼhonáaeva; Hidatsa: awaxaawi shiibisha) to the Lakota Sioux people. We, the signers of this petition, stand in solidarity and demand that the rightful owners (The Lakota Sioux people) are given back their land (The Black HIlls). We, the signers of this petition, demand that you, our congress, make legislative provisions which provide the Lakota Sioux their land, namely, The Black Hills. As it stands, The United States is still in violation of the treaty made in 1851.
Each day, the u.s. government remains in violation of international laws, Article VI of the U.S. Constitution, and the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie, by continuing to possess stolen property Black Hills gold from the Sacred Black Mountain Region which belong to the Lakota Sioux.
We, The signers, hereby petition congress and all parts of the U.S. government to draft legislative amends which directly give the Black Hills back to the Lakota Sioux people without any strings attached.
"Pe' Sla is an area in the Black Hills of South Dakota (just west of Rapid City) that is considered by the Lakota people to be the Center and heart of everything that is. It is part of our creation story. It is a sacred place. We perform certain ceremonies at Pe' Sla which sustain the Lakota way of life and keep the universe in harmony. This area is partly owned by the Reynolds family. They plan to auction off almost 2,000 acres on August 25, 2012 to the highest bidder. It is likely that the state of South Dakota will put a road directly through Pe' Sla and open up this sacred place for development. The seven bands of the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota Oyate (people) aka Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) have a collective effort to buy as much of Pe'Sla as we can at this auction (although we also believe that the land cannot be owned and that our sacred places were illegally taken by the United States). Yet we are trying to work within the current U.S. laws to regain custody of our sacred sites and prevent future road and industrial development. Our sacred ways must be protected and passed on to our future generations so that our children may live. This area of the Paha Sapa (Black Hills) is also home to many plants and animals who should also be protected. In fact, many consider that the area should possibly be a historical site, which would also assist in protecting it from future development as well. As Lakota people, our ancestors prayed here, at Pe' Sla, at certain times of year, when the stars aligned. We cannot go elsewhere to pray. We were meant to pray here. This is what they do not understand. Please help the Lakota people. "Let us put our minds together and see what life we can make for our children." Chief Sitting Bull, 1877 We have a group of young professional Native people that are dedicated to the promotion of education, health, leadership, and sovereignty among our indigenous Nations. Our goal is to assist in any way possible the purchase of Pe' Sla and other sites by a collective effort of the seven bands of the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation) - the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota people. All proceeds from this campaign will go towards that effort. This area would be open to tribal nations for ceremonial purposes. The plants, animals, water, and air in the area would be respected and honored. Please see https://indiancountrymedianetwork.com/news/opinions/reclaiming-the-sacred-black-hills/ for more information. We thank you for your hope in the future."
We are hoping to buy as much of the sacred sites as possible. Currently for sale is 1,942.66 acres which is in 5 tracts (300 - 440 acres each). It is difficult to say how much this land would be sold for as developers may increase the true western "value".
The Rosebud Sioux Tribe has designated $50,000 for the purpose of purchasing Pe' Sla land. By contributing to the effort of all the Sioux Tribes, we aim to purchase at least some of the tracts, if not all. Many of the Sioux Tribes continue to exist in poverty and do not have a thriving casino-based economy as the media may have portrayed. Yet we continue to fight for what is sacred, because it matters!
Here is the Story of how the Black Hills were taken by a tribesman of the Lakota Sioux people:
The Lakota look at the Black Hills as having spiritual power. All the Plains Tribes look at them that way. But the white man saw only the yellow rock called gold. They tried to make deals to get the land in the Treaties of 1825, 1851, 1868, and even the Bradley Bill of the 1980’s.
However, the only Treaty that should be recognized concerning the Black Hills is the Treaty of 1851. At that time, all the tribes signed this Treaty and they signed it in a holy way. The Lakota brought the Sacred White Buffalo Calf C’anunpa, the Cheyenne brought their 7 sacred arrows, and the Crow, Arikara, and other tribes brought their sacred bundles.
They all held ceremonies before they held the pen. They all agreed that no settlers should enter that sacred area, the Black Hills. The way that Treaty was written, this became a non-negotiable matter from that time on. No other Treaty would have the right to change that.
But the government and homesteaders, the settlers and prospectors kept invading the Black Hills.
As a result, the Federal Government renegotiated the terms and called it the Fort Laramie 1868 Treaty. This time, the original signers of the 1851 Treaty didn’t want to sign. Many were fighting. There were no sacred ceremonies done and only one sacred c’anunpa, only one sacred prayer pipe, was present.
The prospectors and homesteaders brought in whiskey to get many of the signers drunk so they would sign. My grandfather told me all about this. He saw it, personally. Mni wakan, sacred water, is what the Lakota called alcohol because it affected our people so strongly.
So this is how we lost the Black Hills
Six years later, in 1874, General George Armstrong Custer took an expedition into the Black Hills which included a geologist and numerous miners. What they found immediately caused a major gold rush and the white settlers and miners began pouring into the Black Hills. The treaties were completely ignored.
In 1876, the Indian Appropriations Act demanded the Sioux give back the Black Hills or starve under siege. Then they ordered the destruction of all the buffalo herds. By 1889, the Federal Government had forced the Lakota into prisoner of war camps which they now call Reservations. According to government documents, Pine Ridge Indian Reservation is prisoner of war camp #344.
Around 1990, I rode 7 years with many young people to the Crazy Horse Monument. When we crossed our so-called homelands, we were stopped by the white landowners because we didn’t have their permission. One old homesteader showed us his deed showing where he had bought the land from the Federal Government. He told us that if we didn’t like it, we should go talk to the Federal Government who got it from the Louisiana Purchase.
So, we lost our Black Hills. Some said we sold them. If so, I believe somebody took the money without any of us Lakota, Dakota, Nakota, Cheyenne or Arikara knowing it. There is no money.
In 1980, the United States Supreme Court said the Black Hills did rightfully belong to the Lakota. They wanted to buy them from us but our People have refused that money. The sacred Black Hills are not for sale.
But that’s why the Bradley Bill was introduced in 1987 in Congress, to make it look good. It supposedly would have let us live in the Black Hills while the Federal Government could still mine, trespass, and do whatever they wanted. But even that was never approved.
So, saying the Black Hills are ours and belong to us are just hollow, empty words. If they are really ours, why can’t we live there? It’s only occupied by white people with land deeds.
We cannot even go to the Black Hills and exercise our spiritual ways. We are forbidden. We have to get permission from the Government and the BLM and then we have to follow their rules and regulations. But if we are a sovereign nation like they said, we would have our own jurisdiction (county-state-reservation).
If we do still own the Black Hills, we need a new treaty, to renegotiate a new treaty. All the other treaties were violated or abandoned, often with the approval of Congress, without us knowing about it. That’s not supposed to happen in nation to nation dealings.
We have a treaty council, a council of elders, all kinds of councils but none of them are effective. The government and state have kept us hungry and distracted with their projects which accomplish very little.
Every other foreign nation conquered by the United States has received huge efforts towards rehabilitation and rebuilding. Yet, while the U.S. cries about 20% unemployment, we have 80% unemployment. We remain isolated and have living conditions which are as bad as or worse than any “third world country.” Our life expectancy is only 48 years old for men and 52 years old for women.
We are the longest prisoners of war in the world’s history. It must change. We need to be set free so we can deal with our own people and our children and their children.
Unfortunately, most of our old people are in the spirit world. Today, our young people have no knowledge of the treaties, the massacre of Wounded Knee, the struggle of Wounded Knee 2, or our history. These are the reasons our culture is dying. No one remembers the language, culture, virtues, or spirituality. No one knows the real history.
But they need to know. If we are to survive, people need to understand. When we’re talking about the Black Hills, it’s not just the land that was lost but our way of life. It’s not just money. Money is the least important thing. We have lost our way of life.
When we talk about the Black Hills, it is about everything. That place is holy and sacred.
Ho he’cetu yelo, I have spoken these words.
David Swallow, Wowitan Yuha Mani
Porcupine, South Dakota - The Pine Ridge Indian Reservation
It is time to petition congress to set right one of the biggest wrongs in history by returning land which was taken from the Lakota Sioux People.
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