The fight to protect sacred sites in the Black Hills - KOTA Territory News

The fight to protect sacred sites in the Black Hills

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Sioux tribes in South Dakota have helped to purchase close to 2,400 acres of sacred land near Deerfield lake in September.

Tuesday, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe was successful in purchasing 40 acres of land in the same area.

Treaty council members and activists say that leaving politics at the door and putting money on the table may be the only solution to protecting sacred Indian sites.

"Trees know where a sacred place is and they will not grow there," said Charmaine White Face, Spokesperson for the Sioux Nation Treaty Council.
 
It's known as 'Old baldy'. Two-thousand acres of largely undeveloped land between Hill City and Rochford which is at the heart of the Sioux Indian creation story.
 
"The Black Hills geologically are the oldest mountains in the world. The hills for us are where we entered the world," said White Face.

But the fight to protect sacred sites like Old Baldy in the Black Hills has reached a costly and critical turning point.
 
"It's what I can legalized ransom. Whenever you have a victim, in this case a sacred site, you pay whatever you have to pay to get it back," said White Face.
 
Putting aside the forgotten promises found in treaties from two centuries ago, tribes are buying back much of their sacred land to prevent desecration.
 
"People are asking why we're buying land that belongs to us. If we didn't buy it, road graders would be there to tear it up and build houses, golf courses and it would be exploited and destroyed," said James Swan, President of the United Urban Warrior Society.
 
And the list of sites to protect is getting longer because of development and land sales.
 
"Evans plunge is for sale. That's a sacred place. I wish the tribes would get together and buy that. Bear Butte has years of controversy behind it. How do you buy it back when the court system is against you. Which court can we go into?" said White Face.
 
Activists say they'd like to reclaim the land that was once theirs, but if they cannot, they will still act as watchdogs to protect it.
 
The American dream for Native people isn't to have a big yard and house, and having a new car. We value earth," said Swan.

Not all Native Americans agree with buying back their sacred sites.

Recently, Oglala Sioux Tribal President elect Bryan Brewer, said he doesn't believe tribes should have to pay for land that belongs to them according to the treaty of 1868.

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