"Pending the results of management plan vetting currently under way, the National Park Service is primed to turn the South Unit of Badlands National Park over to the Oglala Sioux Tribe (OST) for management as America's first tribal national park. In other words, it looks like the Oglala Sioux Tribe is going to get their half of the park back.
The South Unit of Badlands National Park is an oddity, having been born of an administrative decision that incorporated a large tract of Indian-owned land into a national park in a rather heavy-handed manner. A gunnery and bombing range was established on OST land in 1942 shortly after America entered World War II. When the range was declared excess and closed in the 1960s, it was returned to the Oglala Sioux in the form of a government-held trust, and with the provision that it be part of the expanded Badlands National Monument. A Memorandum of Agreement stipulated that the OST-owned land was to be managed by the National Park Service.
The South Unit consists of two tracts of OST-owned land -- the Stronghold and Palmer Creek units -- lying entirely within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. For administrative purposes the reservation tracts are collectively referred to as the South Unit. At a little over 133,000 acres (208 square miles), the South Unit accounts for more than half of the park’s total area of 244,000 acres. (For map orientation, see this site.)
In 1976, the Oglala Sioux Tribe and the National Park Service reached a new agreement regarding the governance of the South Unit. Under these terms, the Park Service and the Oglala Sioux Tribe would henceforth jointly administer the South Unit. Two years later, Congress redesignated the monument as Badlands National Park.
The central problem is this: The Oglala Sioux Tribe doesn't like the way the federal government took control of the South Unit land back in 1942, doesn't like the way it is being managed today, and doesn't believe their grievances can be resolved unless management of the land -- the tribe's land -- is returned to them for management."
Get the Story:
The South Unit of Badlands National Park is Likely to Become America's First Tribal National Park
(National Parks Traveler 9/13)
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