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2017-10-12 / Front Page

The Black Hills Are NOT FOR SALE

Social Media Post Drives Rumors
BY BRANDON ECOFFEY
LCT EDITOR


In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to pay $106 million to the nations that comprise the Oceti Sakowin or Great Sioux Nation for the taking of illegal acquisition of the Black Hills. These tribal-nations unilaterally rejected the money despite residing in some of the poorest pockets of the entire United States. That money has been collecting interest since 1980 and is now worth close $1.5 billion. In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to pay $106 million to the nations that comprise the Oceti Sakowin or Great Sioux Nation for the taking of illegal acquisition of the Black Hills. These tribal-nations unilaterally rejected the money despite residing in some of the poorest pockets of the entire United States. That money has been collecting interest since 1980 and is now worth close $1.5 billion. PINE RIDGE – Several Oglala Sioux Council Members and the President Scott Weston issued statements this weekend vehemently denying any notion that the current administration was pursuing the Black Hills Settlement money.

Early last week, social media across Indian Country was in an uproar over a rumor that the Oglala Sioux Tribal council would be entertaining a resolution to accept those funds. These rumors proved to be false.

The post declared that the OST council had already taken action on an ordinance that would begin the process of directing the tribe to pursue money set aside as a result of the Black Hills land claim settlement. It also fueled other rumors that a presentation being given by Mario Gonzalez this weekend in Rapid City to tribal leaders was directly related to the phantom action by the council.

In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ordered the federal government to pay $106 million to the nations that comprise the Oceti Sakowin or Great Sioux Nation for the taking of illegal acquisition of the Black Hills. These tribal-nations unilaterally rejected the money despite residing in some of the poorest pockets of the entire United States. That money has been collecting interest since 1980 and is now worth close $1.5 billion.

“Attention Oglala Nation there has been no discussion, nor resolutions passed in any Tribal Council meetings that discussed the selling of the Black Hills. We stand strong and The Black Hills are NOT for sale,” said OST President Scott Weston in response to the talk that had gained steam over the weekend.

“Selling out the Black Hills” has become a catchall phrase for any suggestion that tribal governments or individual tribal citizens accept money set aside by the Supreme Court for the illegal taking of the Black Hills by the federal government.

Rumors of a possible alternative settlement came about during President Barrack Obama’s first run for office in 2008. Then a statement was issued from his campaign saying that if elected Obama would be open to talks about a settlement to the Black Hills Land Claim.

“Barack Obama is a strong believer in tribal sovereignty. He believes the courts nor the federal government should force Sioux tribes to take settlement money for the Black Hills. He believes the tribes are best suited to decide on how to handle the monetary award themselves. Obama would not be opposed to bringing together all the different parties through government-to-government negotiations to explore innovative solutions to resolve the Black Hills land claim,” wrote Obama’s campaign.

That statement sparked interest amongst some in Lakota Country to form groups that could capitalize on having a perceived ally in the White House. These efforts loosely fell under the umbrella of The Black Hills Initiative. The initiative was supported by some on council and included longtime OST lawyer Mario Gonzalez who was one of the primary agents in litigation about the Black Hills for decades.

Gonzalez told the Rapid City Journal in 2013, “All we are trying to do is respond to Obama’s invitation in a realistic way.” Gonzalez never stated publicly that he had advised any tribal-government to accept the money.

Discussion of the topic was nipped immediately by then OST President Bryan Brewer who said, “I will not support any resolution that promotes our tribe receiving any of the money from the Black Hills without input from the other tribes of the Great Sioux Nation and from our Treaty Council.

After Brewer left office in 2014, a letter surfaced from President John “Yellow Bird” Steele to the White House that provided guidance on how his administration viewed the statements from Obama.

“The Oglala Sioux Tribe greatly appreciates the stance you took in this policy statement on the Sioux Nation’s rejection of the Black Hills Claim,” wrote Steele. “The Oglala Sioux Tribe feels that there are innovative solutions that can fulfill our sacred obligation to protect our aboriginal homelands for the next seven generations of our people, and still enter into a mutually agreeable accord with the Federal government to resolve all the issues involved in the Black Hills Land Claim to the satisfaction of all interested parties.”

The letter would go on to request the White House appoint a contact person to meet address the issue and that the Oglala Sioux Tribe would work to bring in other vested tribal-nations to participate in the “collaborative talks.”

The letter would also state that the Fifth Member’s office of the Oglala Sioux Tribe would be the point of contact regarding the issue. No officials actions came from this effort and there is currently no talk of council actions to pursue the money.

(Contact Brandon Ecoffey at editor@lakotacountrytimes.com)

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