A quote from the U.S. Court of Claims decision in the Sioux Nation's Black Hills land claim case appears on a sign on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. Photo: Hamner_Fotos

'He was a force': Attorney in Sioux Nation land claim passes on at age of 92

Arthur Lazarus Jr., an Indian law practitioner who represented the Sioux Nation in its Black Hills land claim, died on July 27. He was 92, The Washington Post reported.

Lazarus secured the judgment which concluded that the United States illegally took the Black Hills in the late 1800s. But the decision did not require the return of any of the millions of acres of stolen land, which had been promised to the tribes by treat.

“A more ripe and rank case of dishonorable dealings will never, in all probability, be found in our history,” the U.S. Court of Claims wrote in United States v. Sioux Nation of Indians -- a quote that is often incorrectly attributed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which also heard the case.

The case eventually led to a $106 million judgment for the theft of the land. But the tribes have so far refused to accept the money, which sits in a trust fund account at the Department of the Interior that has grown to nearly $2 billion, according to Native Sun News Today.

Lazarus also helped draft the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which became law in 1971, and helped tribes across the nation with issues before the federal government, The Post reported. He was a mentor to many in the Indian law field.

“He was a force,” attorney Kevin Gover, a citizen of the Pawnee Nation who serves as director of the National Museum of the American Indian, “and sent a lot of us out to have impactful careers.”

Read More on the Story
Arthur Lazarus Jr., who represented Sioux Nation in landmark Supreme Court case, dies at 92 (The Washington Post July 31, 2019)
Arthur Lazarus Jr., Champion of Native American Rights, Dies at 92 (The New York Times August 4, 2019)

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