“They see us unite, and it makes them afraid … see what can happen when we work together?” – Oglala Lakota Tribal member
South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard traveled to the Rosebud Reservation last week to address the Sicangu Nation’s tribal council on the state’s formal opposition to the tribe’s cooperative plan to convert 2,100 acres in the He Sapa, the Black Hills, into federal trust land.
Traditionally know as Pe’ Sla, the land, held in fee simple status by its previous owners, the Leonard and Margaret Reynolds family, carries with it an estimated annual property tax valuation of $80,000. If converted to trust status for beneficial use of the tribes, no state taxes may be collected. The tribes’ plans include federal recognition of Pe’ Sla as a sacred site.
Daugaard’s office filed a 14-page appeal last week opposing the Bureau of Indian Affairs’ decision in March to approve a request for trust status filed two years ago by the Oceti Sakowin, a group composed of the Crow Creek, Standing Rock, Mdewakonton Shakopee and Rosebud Sioux Tribes. His reception in the Sicangu Nation’s tribal council chambers was described as “respectful, of course – but that’s about it.”
One tribal member, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said: “[Gov. Daugaard] told us we should focus on our problems here, like we don’t already do that. They see us unite, and it makes them afraid. They stole He Sapa, and we took Pe’ Sla back legally – see what can happen when we work together?”
The state’s appeal now introduces a legal dialogue known as a briefing schedule where the state challenges the propriety of the BIA’s determination. The tribes then respond. A study of the state’s appeal reveals a focus on language contained in the 1934 Indian Reorganization Act that challenges the BIA’s ability to take a single parcel of land into trust for more than one federally recognized tribe.
There is precedence for such recognition. North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation consists of three separate tribes in language, tradition and culture: Now legally one tribe, the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara (Sahnish), were consigned to Fort Berthold since its beginning in 1870.
The announcement in 2012 by the Reynolds family that they would sell their ranch property which lay at the center of Pe’ Sla generated immediate excitement among the Oceti Sakowin, the Seven Council Fires. The website LastRealIndians.com set up fundraisers that included fundraising sites like Indiegogo and Hollywood celebrities contacting their networks. The effort quickly raised over $900,000. By year’s end, the tribes purchased an initial 1,900 acres of the property for a reported $9 million. In 2014 the remaining 437 acres were purchased for an additional $2 million.
Governor Daugaard’s appeal was prepared by State Attorney General Marty Jackley in September, 2015, in anticipation of BIA approval of Pe’ Sla trust status.