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Native Sun News Today: Tribes asked to participate in treaty 'land grab' in South Dakota

Camp Bob Marshall under federal jurisdiction in the Black Hills serves youngsters from 195 tribes and could be administered by the state of South Dakota if a land-swap occurs. Campers take lessons in hoop dancing, drum making, bead working, and sporting activities. Photo: Indian Youth of America

Tribal chairs asked to volunteer as advisers on ‘land-grab’
By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

PIERRE –– Before South Dakota’s nine tribal chairs could respond to a letter asking their participation on an advisory committee for a state takeover of federally administered Bismarck Lake, Camp Bob Marshall and Little Spearfish Canyon campgrounds in the Black Hills, the governor’s office withdrew its request to the Legislature for $2.5 million enabling the proposal.

However, the tribe’s top elected officials still have a chance to weigh in on it, as a private contract for the state’s master plan on the takeover will go forward with a goal of reaching its conclusion by September, according to participants.

“Granted, we were a little late” in contacting tribal government leaders, said South Dakota Tribal Liaison Officer Ron Skates, citing “the process of getting all the information we needed” in the state Tribal Relations Department.

However, he told the Native Sun News Today on February 13, “The letters went out last week to each of the individual chairmen asking them if they were interested in serving on the committee.”

The Legislature’s Joint Appropriations Committee, in response to the governor’s about-face on Senate Bill 114, voted unanimously February 15 to table the proposal to “make an appropriation to the Department of Game, Fish and Parks to provide for the purchase and land exchange of properties held by the Office of School and Public Lands and to declare an emergency.”

The bill asked the Legislature to declare the emergency in order to approve a $2.5-million layout to buy grasslands and badlands from the public schools for an exchange with the U.S. Forest Service. A related bill in the U.S. Congress enabling the National Forest system to take part in the scheme died in 2016, but its sponsor South Dakota Sen. John Thune wants to reintroduce it.

Watchdogs of the controversial arrangement warned that the recent action in the state capital puts the measure to rest but not necessarily for good.

“It's not over, but we have some breathing room. Time to build a war chest and organize,” said an administrator of a social media site named “Spearfish Canyon Bismarck Lake Land Grab.” The site’s motto is “We oppose the State of South Dakota's backdoor land-grab of high-value National Forest lands in Spearfish Canyon and at Bismarck Lake.”

Read the rest of the story on the Native Sun News Today website: Tribal chairs asked to volunteer as advisers on ‘land-grab'

(Contact Talli Nauman at talli.nauman@gmail.org)

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