Gathering firewood at Camp Mni Luzahan, a tipi encampment located on tribally-owned trust land in the Black Hills of South Dakota. Photo © Independent Media Project
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Monday, November 16, 2020

Support Camp Mni Luzahan

“Creek Patrol created Camp Miniluzahan on tribal land outside of Rapid City on Sunday” read the headline in the Rapid City Journal on October 12, 2020.

The “tribal lands” spoken of here are part of the hills and forest that are the lands stolen and claimed (1880) and occupied illegally by an imposed white-man regime of invaders called Americans stretching up into the lush acres of homelands where the Sioux Nation has lived for thousands of years.  

The public is told today that the site of the Creek Patrol camp is part of the 1,200 acre Rapid City Boarding School property that was owned and operated by the Department of the Interior from 1898-1933. Its title is still contested since it is the treaty lands of a sovereign tribal People.

It is, in itself, a continuation of land issue violence stemming from one of the most famous historical land theft crimes of all of Indian country, the Black Hills. (Reference: 1868-1920-1980). 

Elizabeth Cook-Lynn. Courtesy photo

Its so-called legitimacy stems, the thieves say, from 1948 when the US Congress passed a law that said the school land could be broken up and sold to Christian churches, freely given to the city and the state run district and the Military, namely the National Guard.

All of this historical fundamentalist narrative created by the State of South Dakota as it assumed control ten years after statehood was achieved, (1889) is in violation of the Peace Treaty of Fort Laramie signed by the US and the Sioux Nation. This is not just the opinion of local writers and scholars and bystanders and Sioux Indians. It is in the records of a 1980 Supreme Court decision.  

It is a remarkable achievement by a colonizing legal system that the silence of that hideous, anti-Indian (racist) violent act of theft continues into a 1948 certified congressional document and remains silent. In spite of the lack of appropriate oversight, this story has become part of the current understanding. Indian historians such as the now deceased legal scholar Vine Deloria, (Yankton Sioux Tribal member) have written about these matters saying that the massacre of the Sioux continues when Congressional Acts prevail. His work does not celebrate the colonial takeover in such matters.

He has written extensively about the 1980 Supreme Court decision describing the tribal title loss of the entire Black Hills as a “theft”, rather than a “taking”. His work and the work of many other esteemed scholars hold that these lands have never been “owned” by the U.S., nor the state.

Rather, it is said, the US as a treaty participant and “trustee” has failed to defend Sioux treaty rights. Much legal wrangling and protest has been ongoing for most of the 20th century.

About the 2020 establishment of the camp, the Creek Patrol members have acted on the assumption that there was authority and agreement when, in 2017, the Department of Interior entrusted two parcels to the Oglala, Rosebud and Cheyenne River Sioux bands of the Sioux Nation. It is on that parcel that the camp exists.


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Elizabeth Cook-Lynn is a retired Professor of Native Studies. She taught at Eastern Washington University and Arizona State University. She currently lives in the Black Hills of South Dakota. She has written 15 books in her field. One of her latest is Anti-Indianism in Modern America: A Voice from Tatekeya’s Earth, published by University of Illinois Press.

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