The following appeared in The Native Sun News and was written by Tim Giago, publisher and owner.
GREEN GRASS, SOUTH DAKOTA — The days of July 26 and 27 could not have been more beautiful. The grass was indeed green, the sky was blue and several eagles circled above as if to greet the People of the Great Sioux Nation.
Arvol Looking Horse opened the Pipe Bundle. He prayed, “We have no choice but to take on the issue of the Black Hills. Spiritually it is all about our language, our culture and our land. It is the responsibility of the Spiritual People to deal with the Black Hills and Bear Butte where the Spirits live. Everyone is invited in unity to Green Grass where the Can Nupa Wakan (Sacred White Buffalo Calf Pipe) lives. According to the prophecies the time is right for the People to come together. Today there are many challenges and it is important that we gather in unity.”
The words of several great Lakota were spoken. “I have seen that in any great undertaking it is not enough for a man to depend simply upon himself,” said Loneman, (now deceased) Teton Lakota. Longtime Indian educator Calvin Jumping Bull (deceased) was quoted when he said, “The purpose is to achieve Wolakolkiciyapi – mutual respect, cooperation and understanding with everyone working towards one goal.”
And that was the theme of the solemn meeting of the Lakota spiritual leaders, chiefs, tribal chairs, elders, traditional and resource people that met at Green Grass in a show of unity in July.
Harold Dean Salway, former Chairman of the Oglala Sioux Tribe, was the moderator for the conference because he is fluent in Lakota and English. The purpose of the meeting was to begin the effort in a spiritual way to address the actions to be planned for the upcoming meetings on the Black Hills. It was intended as a listening time to hear the comments of spiritual, traditional and tribal leaders seeking solutions to the Black Hills settlement.
In 1876 the United States government attempted to get the Sioux Nation to sign away the Black Hills. When the government could only obtain 10 percent of the adult male signatures instead of the 75 percent as required in the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868, Congress enacted the so-called agreement in law that caused the confiscation of the Black Hills in direct violation of the 1868 Treaty and it was done without compensation.
The U. S. Supreme Court awarded the Sioux Nation $44 million for lands the U. S. claimed it had acquired by cession under docket 74A, and $102.5 million for the lands of the Black Hills under Docket 74B. In the nearly 30 years since the awards were made the monetary amounts combined has risen to about $1 billion. The Sioux Nation has steadfastly refused the monetary awards for both Dockets.
On May 12, 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama said that he does not believe the courts or the federal government should force the Sioux to take settlement money for the Black Hills. He said he believes the tribes are best suited to decide how to handle the monetary award themselves. He added that he would not be opposed to bringing together all of the different parties through government-to-government negotiations to explore innovative solutions to this long-standing issue.
Several objectives were approached at the meeting. One was to revisit the Bradley Bill that was approved in 1985 by all of the Lakota, Dakota and Nakota nations as a basis for the return of at least federal lands in the Black Hills.
Issues discussed were to develop a joint management plan with the federal government for the management of restored lands; identify the lands to be returned; agree on what rights will be recognized on returned lands; look at restoration of the boundaries of the Great Sioux Nation as was done in Oklahoma, and to pursue the possibilities of reparations/compensation for rental, minerals, water and other natural resources, without selling the land; revise a bill to be approved by all tribal councils and introduced in Congress; and to develop an agenda for a meeting with President Obama to discuss all Sioux Nation issues prior to the elections in 2010.
Also included in the discussions were plans to develop agreements with the National Park Service to set up training programs for tribal members to become stewards of the land and to put together a budget and seek funds to open a He Sapa Office with staff and resources. A plan to seek out influential people, former politicians and others who would lend the people their support was also discussed. The main theme was unity. All in attendance wanted all of the people to come together with one heart and one mind and to dispel the problems of disunity that has plagued the Sioux Nation since 1877.
The more than 300 people at the meeting gathered around the Prayer Bundle and prayed together that Wakan Tanka would smile on their efforts to finally bring justice to correct a wrong that was committed against them more than 150 years ago. As they prayed several eagles circled high above the sacred grounds as if to lend their support to the Oyate.
The next meeting on the Black Hills is scheduled to be hosted by the Lower Brule Sioux Tribe on September 14 through the 16th at the Powwow Grounds. The Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association calls upon the people of the Great Sioux Nation to attend. The leaders say the people will meet in unity and all will be heard.
For more information call A. Gay Kingman at (605) 721-4375 or email her at KingmanWapato@rushmore.com.
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