The United States Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs informed the Great Sioux Nation (Oceti Sakowin) on March 10, 2016, of its decision to take Pe’ Sla, a 2,022-acre sacred site in the Black Hills of South Dakota, into federal Indian trust status.
In 2012, the Rosebud, Shakopee Mdewakanton, Crow Creek, and Standing Rock Sioux Tribes worked together to raise $9 million to purchase the land. The tribes petitioned the Secretary of the Interior to take the land into trust status so that it could retain its original character as a sacred site.
At a meeting of the tribes earlier in March, the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe presented the other tribes with an initial financial contribution confirming its long-term commitment to the Pe’ Sla land initiative. Chairman Herold Frazier said of the contribution, “We must all work together to protect our sacred sites.”
The Oceti Sakowin, Seven Council Fires of the Lakota, Nakota, Dakota Oyate (or Sioux Nation), has revered the high-mountain prairie named Pe’ Sla as a sacred site for time immemorial. Pe’ Sla was originally protected by the 1868 Sioux Nation Treaty until the United States unconstitutionally seized the land in the aftermath of the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876 Pe’ Sla was then sold for non-Indian homesteads and used to graze cattle.
The four Sioux tribes collaborated to reacquire the land in 2012 and return it to its rightful status. Throughout the process, the tribes worked to accommodate state and local interests – including a law enforcement compact; right-of-way agreement; and provisions for cooperation to prevent invasive species, fight fires, secure ambulance service, and obtain general liability insurance.
The tribes’ goal is to keep the land in its original and natural state, reintroduce buffalo and natural species, and preserve the area for traditional ceremonies. In the spring of 2015, the first calves were born to buffalo reintroduced to Pe’ Sla.
Chairman William Kindle said, “In 2012, our Rosebud Sioux Tribe initiated the purchase of 1,940 acres known traditionally as Pe’ Sla (Reynolds Prairie) in the central Black Hills. Pe’ Sla is a known and highly regarded area holding sacred significance (validated by a Traditional Cultural Property survey) to the Lakota and their allies. In the ensuing years and after tremendous effort with fundraising, the land was purchased. Our sister Sioux tribes, private organizations, and private individuals assisted with this effort and supported the initiative.”
Chairman Charlie Vig, Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, said, “This is a historic moment as our Sioux Nation tribes work together to protect our sacred site, Pe’ Sla. Future generations of our people will conduct ceremonies, honor Mother Earth, and preserve our traditions at Pe’ Sla.”
Chairwoman Roxanne Sazue, Crow Creek Sioux Tribe said, “These lands are so sacred – they provide an important way for our Dakota and Lakota tribes to work together to preserve our traditions. We are proud to be part of this sacred undertaking, and the Secretary’s decision to take the land into trust helps us to preserve the area as a sacred site for now and for future generations.”
Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Councilman Frank White Bull said, “Pe’ Sla has been in our hearts since the time of our creation, and by bringing the land into trust through unity among our tribes as one Sioux Nation, our children and grandchildren now have a place to prosper in our traditional ways.”