Leonard and Margaret Reynolds have accepted the Rosebud Sioux tribe's bid on Pe 'Sla, the sacred 2000-acre grassland in the middle of the Black Hills. The Reynolds family was going to auction the property off to the highest bidder in August, but Native activists and public outcry encouraged them to cancel the auction and accept bids privately. The Reynoldses do not appear to have cut the Rosebud Sioux a particularly easy deal: the final sale price is $9 million, toward the upper end of the $6 million to $10 million range that Lakota activists expected last month.

According to the Associated Press, the Rosebud Sioux have put up a 10% deposit; they have until November to pay in full.

Some quick spreadsheet math says that if the tribe were to take a 30-year mortgage on Pe 'Sla for the remaining balance, at today's 3.25%, their monthly payment would be over $35,000. That's over $423,000 a year, enough to hire a dozen workers in Mission.

I know, the land is priceless. Western-flavored discussions of opportunity cost may not register with those who hold the Black Hills sacred. But I wonder what will do more good for promoting the strength of Lakota culture: legal possession of this holy place in the Black Hills or the investment of the sale price on priceless land in jobs and economic development?

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Charmaine White Face inspired my latest online column in South Dakota Magazine. Her public testimony to the Lawrence County Commission against the Deadwood Standard Project got me thinking about the intersecting lessons of our efforts to dig for more gold in Spearfish Canyon and Native American efforts to outbid developers for Pe' Sla, the sacred grassland just north of Deerfield Lake:

In Deadwood, a Native woman says we whites cannot own, let alone mine, the Black Hills. Just down the road, Lakota people believe that, to protect the holy land, they must buy that which is not for sale from those who do not own it [CAH, "Black Hills, Mining, Land, and the Lakota," SouthDakotaMagazine.com, August 22, 2012].

I invite you to check out my full column at South Dakota Magazine... and say hi to Bernie while you're there!

* * *
I would like to discuss Charmaine White Face's testimony in more detail here. She said that she had heard nothing so far about the impact of the Ragged Top mine on Native Americans. Indeed, no one else at Tuesday's meeting mentioned how white men digging for gold anywhere in the sacred Black Hills offend the Great Sioux Nation. The DSP attorney said at the hearing that the conflict boiled down to the company and the community seeking economic opportunity versus a couple hundred Spearfish Canyon landowners, with no acknowledgment of legitimate concerns of anyone else—Native Americans, environmentalists, tourists—not holding a white man's title to the neighboring land. On DSP's website, the history of Ragged Top begins with white gold mining in 1896.

DSP's conditional use application to Lawrence County also makes scant mention of the folks from whom we stole the Hills. DSP's cultural and archaeological assessment sites one study from 1983 that focuses almost entirely on remnants of recent Euro-American activity. That study mentions one pre-historic jasper flake. It says nothing specific about the Sioux, the Arikara, or any other pre-Euro-invasion inhabitants. The socioeconomic study by Michael K. Madden takes a similar Eurocentric view: Native responses to further desecration of the Paha Sapa are absent from discussion of social impacts. As far as Deadwood Standard Project is concerned in its permit application, Indians are irrelevant to the Black Hills.

Ignoring Native Americans isn't unique to Deadwood Standard Project. It's how most of us occupiers of the Black Hills get through the day. It's how we sell most of our tourist attractions (I have a book review on that topic coming soon—you're still on my desktop, SDSHS Press!). It's how we avoid addressing the moral challenge of the original sin (think about that term) of our state and our nation.

And it's why a full meeting room was uncomfortably quiet when Charmaine White Face, Oglala Lakota of the Great Sioux Nation, questioned the right of Deadwood Standard Project and every other white person in the room to take anything (except themselves) from the Black Hills.

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Lakota activists and allies from Deep Green Resistance and Occupy organizations blockaded Whiteclay, Nebraska on June 9. They are following up that action with a Women's March on Sunday, August 26, to further protest beer sellers' exploitation of the neighboring Pine Ridge Reservation.

From the organizers' press release:

"For over 100 years the women of the Oglala Lakota nation have been dealing with an attack on the mind body and spirit of their relatives", says Olowan Martinez who is a main organizer of the event and resident of Pine Ridge. "The Oglala have been silenced through chemical warfare waged by the corporations who are out to exploit and make a profit off of the suffering and misery of our people. The time has come to end this suffering by any means necessary."

The organizers of this women's march have point people throughout the region, in the Southwest, and on the West Coast. They plan to gather at Wounded Knee on Friday, August 24, spend the 25th conducting social meetings, women's and men's circles and training, then assemble at noon on the 26th at the Billy Mills Hall in Pine Ridge, whence they will march two miles south down 407 across the reservation and state border to Whiteclay.

Now before you pack your headbands in the Kia and drive out to Indian Country to do right by your Lakota neighbors, Deep Green Resistance offers some "Indigenous Solidarity Guidelines" that warrant your consideration:

  1. First and foremost we must recognize that non-indigenous people are occupying stolen land in an ongoing genocide that has lasted for centuries. We must affirm our responsibility to stand with indigenous communities who want support and give everything we can to protect their land and culture from further devastation; they have been on the frontlines of biocide and genocide for centuries, and as allies, we need to step up and join them.
  2. You are doing Indigenous solidarity work not out of guilt, but out of a fierce desire to confront oppressive colonial systems of power.
  3. You are not helping Indigenous people, you are there to: join with, struggle with, and fight with indigenous peoples against these systems of power. You must be willing to put your body on the line.
  4. Recognize your privilege as a member of settler culture.
  5. You are not here to engage in any type of cultural, spiritual or religious needs you think you might have, you are here to engage in political action. Also, remember your political message is secondary to the cause at hand.
  6. Never use drugs or alcohol when engaging in Indigenous solidarity work. Never.
  7. Do more listening than talking, you will be surprised what you can learn.
  8. Recognize that there will be Indigenous people that will not want you to participate in ceremonies. Humbly refrain from participating in ceremonies.
  9. Recognize that you and your Indigenous allies may be in the minority on a cause that is worth fighting for.
  10. Work with integrity and respect, be trustworthy and do what you say you are going to do.

I read those rules and wonder if "do right by" could be read as negatively and imperialistically as "help." And of course, I'm saying those words as I myself occupy stolen land at the foothills of the Paha Sapa.

As we discuss language, good intentions, and white man's guilt, you can learn more about joining the Life Givers of the Nation in their call for no more alcohol in Whiteclay at BattleForWhiteclay.org.

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