West River Eagle

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Farm Pasture bidding underway: Modern practice diverges from Constitutional intent


On August 1, 2022, the BIA Cheyenne River Agency Office began accepting sealed bids for 48 Farm Pastures encompassing 11,611.07 acres, or nearly 20 square miles of the most agriculturally valuable land on the reservation.

Bidding closes at 10 a.m. MST on August 22, with the bid opening immediately following the close of bidding at the BIA Agency Office located at 24343 Hwy. 212, Eagle Butte, with a call-in option 1-866-564-9543, participant code: 18038303.

The land committee must then meet within 30 days and recommend the highest eligible bidders to Council to approve by resolution or disapprove and readvertise within 30 days of the recommendation from the land committee.

Tribal preference

This marks the sixth year of Farm Pasture bidding under CRST Ordinance 78, passed on July 8, 2016. 

Ordinance 78 marked a big change in Tribal policy on leasing as it reaffirmed a constitutional provision giving preference to landless tribal members that had often been overlooked. Prior to 2016 leases often went to the highest bidder.

CRST Constitution Article VIII, Land Section 3, states preference in leasing tribal lands and issuing grazing permits shall be given “first to Indian cooperative associations, and, secondly, to individual Indians, who are members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.”

Ordinance 78 states “Bid advertisements shall be advertised and accepted as follows on Tribally owned lands or on allotted lands in which the Tribe is the majority landowner; Tribal member residents only…”

While agricultural leases have always been made by CRST to both Indians and non-Indians, an analysis of the Tribal Constitution makes it clear that as early as 1950 and possibly earlier, Tribal Council, Tribal Courts, and the BIA ignored constitutional provisions regarding the issuance of leases and permits with haphazard processes.

Agricultural as permissible use

The Tribal constitution does not specifically mention agriculture as a use for the lease of Tribal land. There is a separate provision for grazing permits, but no mention is made of leasing Tribal land to be used as farmland.

Ordinance 78 codified agriculture as a permissible use of Tribal land under lease. It can be argued that agriculture was not originally a permissible and intended use of Tribal land leased under the Constitution.

CRST Constitution Article VIII, Land Section 3, SEC 3. leasing of tribal lands, states that Tribal lands may be leased for “public, religious, educational, recreational, residential, or business purposes.” One could argue that the inclusion of agriculture is implied under “business purposes.”

Acres allowed under lease

Additionally, notably absent from Ordinance 78 is reference to other Constitutional provisions regarding the allowable number of acres to be leased, and the lease to non-Indians, as mentioned in Article VIII, Land Section 3, Sections 3.

Further, SEC. 3 states “no one lease or contract shall be for a tract in excess of 160 acres.” It’s important to note that 25 of the 48 Farm Pastures advertised this year are in excess of 160 acres. The largest is 1077.74 acres.

Method of making assignments

Further, the West River Eagle was unable to find evidence to indicate that Article VIII, Land Section 3, SEC 13, regarding the method of making assignments, has ever been fully implemented.

SEC. 13 states notice of all applications received by the secretary shall be posted in the agency office and “in at least three conspicuous places in the district in which the land is located” so that records of assignments “shall be open for inspection by members of the tribe.”

Today, records of assignments may technically be “open for inspection by members of the tribe” as constitutionally-required. In practicality these records can be difficult to access

CRST Constitution Article VIII: Land

SEC. 3 leasing of tribal lands

“Tribal lands may be leased by the tribal council, with the approval of the Secretary of the Interior for public, religious, educational, recreational, residential, or business purposes for a period not to exceed 25 years and may include a provision authorizing a renewal or an extension for one additional term of not to exceed 25 years, but no one lease or contract shall be for a tract in excess of 160 acres.

“…In the leasing of tribal lands and the issuance of grazing permits preference shall be given first to Indian cooperative associations, and, secondly, to individual Indians, who are members of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe. No lease of tribal land to a non-member or the issuance of a grazing permit to a non-member shall be made by the tribal council unless it shall appear that no Indian cooperative association or individual member of the tribe is able and willing to use the land and to pay a reasonable fee for such use.”

SEC. 13. Method of making assignments

Applications for assignment shall be filed with the secretary of the council and shall be in writing, setting forth the name of the person or persons applying for the land and as accurate a description of the land desired as the circumstances will permit. Notices. of all applications received by the secretary shall be posted by him in the agency office and in at least three conspicuous places in the district in which the land is located for not less than twenty (20) days before action is taken by the council. Any member of the tribe wishing to oppose the granting of an assignment shall do so in writing, setting forth his objections, to be filed with the secretary of the council, and may if he so desires appear before the council to present evidence. The secretary of the council shall furnish the superintendent or other officers in charge of the agency, a complete record of all action taken by the council on applications for assignment of land, and a complete record of assignments shall be kept in the agency office and shall be open for inspection by members of the tribe. The council shall draw up one or more forms for standard and exchange assignments, which shall be subject to the approval of the Secretary of the Interior.

CRST Agricultural Leasing (Farm/Pasture) Ordinance No. 78

Section 106 Award of Agricultural Leases

A. Eligibility Requirements: To be eligible for an award of agricultural leases, the bidder(s) must meet the following requirements: 

1) Persons who are 18 years of age or older may submit bids. Priority for acceptance of bids, shall be as follows: 

a) Resident Tribal members, who meet the residency and age requirements:

b) i. Residency is defined as those Tribal members who have physically resided within the exterior boundaries of the Cheyenne River Reservation for at least ninety (90) days.

c) Non-Resident Tribal Members.

d) General Public.

2) Shall be required to have a complete bid packet submitted by the deadline. Bids received after the deadline will not be considered.

3) Must have any associated fees or bid deposits attached.

4) Eligibility requirements become a part of the lease obligations and must be maintained for the period covered by the lease.

5) Persons who are currently delinquent to the Tribe or the BIA for any associated fees with a range unit or an agricultural lease shall not be eligible to receive an agricultural lease bill.

E. Agricultural Leases – Right of First Refusal requirements not met. In the event that the incumbent lessee does not meet the eligibility requirement for the right of first refusal on an agricultural lease, the following shall apply; 

1) i. Bid advertisements shall be advertised and accepted as follows on Tribally owned lands or on allotted lands in which the Tribe is the majority landowner;

a) Tribal member residents only, if no bidders, then;

b) Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation non-Tribal member residents and all Tribal members, if no bidders, then;

c) General public.

2) ii. Bid advertisements shall be advertised and accepted as follows on allotted lands in which the Tribe is not a landowner or is a minority landowner and shall follow the requirements of this Ordinance;

a) Cheyenne River Sioux Reservation non-Tribal member residents and all Tribal members, if no bidders, then;

b) General public.

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