Black Hills State University dedicated its newest residence hall on campus to Class of 1964 alum Lionel R. Bordeaux, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. Bordeaux is one of the longest-serving college presidents in the United States. Photo by Talli Nauman
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Native Sun News Today: Tribal college leader calls for return of Black Hills territory

Bordeaux challenges colleges to help resolve Black Hills claim

By Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today
Health & Environment Editor

SPEARFISH – The naming of a Black Hills State University residence hall after distinguished Lakota higher education expert Lionel Bordeaux gave him a springboard to instigate cooperation for return of 1868 Ft. Laramie Treaty territory to the Oceti Sakowin.

“This honoring was spiritually brought about,” Bordeaux said during the naming ceremony at the campus outdoor amphitheater on October 10.

“Through the leadership role I’ve been assigned in this country and the further leadership I’ve been recognized for today, I intend to take this forward so our young people can have a home or a business in the Black Hills,” he told the Native Sun News Today.

“That’s where the Black Hills claim, education and higher education all come together,” he explained. Bordeaux said that working through educational institutions “truth and compassion can start to unveil itself and become a foundation of a future resolution addressing concerns that have been there for over a century now.”

He pointed out that Black Hills State University is located on land reserved to the Oceti Sakowin, or Seven Council Fires of the Great Sioux Nation, under the terms of the Ft. Laramie Treaty, ratified by the U.S. Congress.

The U.S. military took the land and removed the tribal people when Gen. George Armstrong Custer verified that invaders discovered gold in the Black Hills, he noted.

He retold the story about the 1980 Supreme Court-ordered monetary award of $105 million to the tribes for the treaty violation. Supreme Court Justice Harry Blackmun’s accompanying opinion was: “A more ripe and rank case of dishonest dealing may never be found in our history.”

Bordeaux called the money “a slap in the face” with no consideration for the value of water, timber, or mineral value. “That’s why tribal nations are rejecting the judgement,” he said. “They want part of this land back.

“There’s enough land here; there’s no reason they couldn’t have some of it back,” he added. He observed “a changing mood in this country,” evidenced by the reinstatement of tribal place names on landmarks and communities. “The spirit of the land” is a guiding force that makes him “very hopeful that there is going to be a correction,” he said.

He is confident that Black Hills State University, under the supervision of President Tom Jackson, Jr., will honor its location “in such hallowed ground as the Black Hills” by taking on responsibility for strengthening institutions of learning to begin a discussion that one day will lead to support for their return, he said.

“It’s a tremendous challenge. Dr. Jackson and I will take it on. But we can’t do it by ourselves. We all need to walk together,” he said.

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