Opinion | Politics

Ruth Hopkins: South Dakota lawmakers make ploy for treaty lands






Spearfish Canyon in winter. Photo by Jordan Wilms

Writer and activist Ruth Hopkins (Sisseton Wahpeton / Mdewakanton Dakota / Hunkpapa Lakota) sheds light on the Spearfish Canyon and Bismarck Lake Land Exchange Act. South Dakota's Congressional delegation introduced the bill [H.R.5871 | S.3254] in July to transfer Sioux Nation treaty lands to the state, all without tribal consent:
This land transfer is comprised of 1,468 acres of federally owned acreage in Spearfish Canyon, and an additional 524 acres of federal land around Bismarck Lake. Camp Bob Marshall, which hosts a number of youth camps, is included.

There’s just one problem here. The Black Hills of South Dakota, Khe Sapa, belongs to the Oceti Sakowin (Great Sioux Nation). It is sacred land and we oppose this federal-to-state land exchange.

The parcels requested are treaty lands.

The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851, ratified by the U.S. Senate, recognized title in the “Sioux Nation” to approximately 60 million acres of land within present day Montana, Nebraska, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. The Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868 went onto establish the “Great Sioux Reservation” which was made up of 26 million acres of land, including the Black Hills. This land was set aside for our “absolute and undisturbed use and occupation.” It also set forth that in order to be valid, any future cession of these lands would require the signatures of 3/4ths of the adult male population from the aforementioned “Sioux” bands.

The Black Hills were stolen from the Oceti Sakowin. It all started when Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer (yes, that yellow-haired S.O.B.) led a military expedition into the Black Hills in 1874, and reported that gold had been discovered. Soon after, the Black Hills was barraged by an influx of miners and settlers. The Federal government then unilaterally broke treaties it made with us and opened the Black Hills for settlement.

Read More:
Ruth Hopkins: South Dakota Politicians Make a Covert Play for Black Hills Land (Indian Country Today 9/10