The high plains of the American midwest brings with it images of agriculture, of the taming of the wilderness. It also brings with it the horrid memory of how the native cultures of the American continent were treated. One of the most tragic being the near destruction of the Lakota, when the original treaty signed with the US Government, which left them the Black Hills of South Dakota, was ignored after the discovery of gold in the hills. The gold rush which followed had foreseeable consequences for both the prospectors and the natives, and conflict raged for decades. With the US having abandoned its treaties with the Lakota, a legal fight raged in the US Courts for over a century, until the landmark decision of UNITED STATES v. SIOUX NATION OF INDIANS which found that the US had indeed taken the hills improperly. However, even then the conflict remained, as some of the land was now a national park, and other pieces of the land, including the most sacred Pe’ Sla, now called Reynolds Prairie, were private property.
And it is Pe’ Sla which has caused the most heartache for the natives which hold it sacred. Some time back, the family which has owned and cared for it for over 100 years put it up for auction. Dismayed, the natives initially tried to argue, but then, they turned to what many people who need to raise money for religious or cultural reasons have done as of late; they turned to the internet. Opening up a dedicated website and beginning to hold fundraisers, and negotiations between tribes, the group managed to raise a significant portion of the funding needed, when suddenly the auction was abruptly cancelled on Thursday. No immediate reason for the cancellation was given, but it has given hope that the family is willing to negotiate with the tribes for the return of their land.
The Obama administration has already pledged greater self determination for the tribes, and to empower them greater control over their internal affairs, saying that the tribes deserved their own voices. He also has declared support for the United Nations Declaration of Rights for Indigenous Peoples, which would apply to the Black Hills situation. With the Federal Government still controlling large sections of the Black Hills, such as the Black Hills National Forest, it is possible that some arrangement can yet be brokered to allow the native tribes to return to their homes not as visitors, but as residents once again.