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Deadwood Standard Project: Indians in the Black Hills? What Indians?

Last updated on 2012.08.22

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,", 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.


  1. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    Just for the record: Spearish hasn't used the creek for its water supply for decades because of fecal coliforms produced by Les, his neighbors, and the cattle that infest the upper canyon and its tributaries.

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.08.23

    Larry's right about the water supply: it was mentioned in testimony Tuesday that Spearfish used to use the creek for water supply but no longer does because it would cost too much to treat.

  3. Frank James 2012.08.23

    Looking forward to the book. This is one issue that I have spent some time trying to better understand. One failing we have is not addressing the treaties and this history in school. I know it is uncomfortable but it is our combined history.

  4. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    These same commissioners have had their ears filled with arguments seeking to ban septic systems in the Spearfish Creek watershed: Cheyenne Crossing Store has a history of faulty plumbing, just for instance.

    The hypocrisy of these property owners is only thinly veiled by their opposition to the massive volume of water destined for DSP in lieu of their own lack of environmental conservation.

  5. Ben Cerwinske 2012.08.23

    I agree this land should be preserved. I agree that it hasn't be taken as good a care of as it should have been after white people came in, took over, stole it, however you want to put it. But were the Sioux the first to occupy this land? Sometimes in our sympathy for how tragically bad the Native Americans were treated we tend to look over the fact that these people weren't perfect either.

    We're all here now. Can we just agree to share and take care of the land together? Perhaps that't exactly what you (Cory) and Ms. White Face are saying. I'm just checking to see if we're all on the same page...

  6. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    Ben: follow Cory's link to Bernie's blog, read his full post, "Julie's" attempts to hijack it, and some additional history.

  7. Anne 2012.08.23

    Mr. Kurtz,

    You apparently think "Julie" is the author of the War Toilet. It is certainly consistent with his tactic of posing as other people in blog comments, on his own and others. Some people who come through my office think the writing style is consistent with a War Toilet cohort. There are many, including me, who think this applies to some of the comments:

    20-11-3. Libel defined. Libel is a false and unprivileged publication by writing, printing, picture, effigy, or other fixed representation to the eye which exposes any person to hatred, contempt, ridicule, or obloquy, or which causes him to be shunned or avoided, or which has a tendency to injure him in his occupation.

  8. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    Cory would probably know if Julie and PP are the same person. He has the IP addresses and a software that does writing style analysis.

    My gut says no, I don't think so. That's not really Pat's style in my experience.

    Could be wrong, but I'd need to see better evidence than what you and Larry are saying, Anne.

  9. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    That said, it's entirely possible that Julie and Pat work off the same set of crib notes. But then so does at least 85% of the GOP blogging faithful. It's the old "echo chamber" technique. Get enough people to something dumb enough times and everybody will start to believe it. LOL.

  10. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    Being guilty as hell myself, the difference is that Pat is a commercial vendor and I am not: Cory is held harmless by his statement.

  11. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    disclosure: i impersonated dan lederman one time in a post at the war toilet but never, ever anywhere else. it wasn't even very funny.

  12. larry kurtz 2012.08.23


    Cory: are you debugging yer right-hand sidebar or is it my browser?

    [CAH: I've noticed that sidebar hang. It happens in the RSS feeds. I think every now and then, someone's RSS feed takes a long time to load. I've not been able to figure out which one. Does it happen all the time to you? Maybe the widget itself is just slow?]

  13. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    I have often wondered if "Reynolds Prairie" played a role in Native culture prior to the influx of whites. Is there any history on this? Such an amazing anomaly right in the middle of the hills. The first I really noticed it was when we started seeing satellite images of the whole Hills formation back in the '70s.

  14. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    Now, "Julie" is claiming to be from South Dakota at Bernie's.

  15. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    Ah, Sundstrom. Cool. I went to high school with her and her brother Carl. Their family ran the local weekly newspaper. Her book on paleo-Indian rock art in the Black Hills is great. Look forward to reading the article. Thanks Larry!

  16. Les 2012.08.23

    Larry does not surprise me in his broad expanse of knowledge, at least bits and pieces of knowledge and yes, he is right at least twice a day.

    Our family has a 70 year history of keeping your fecal matter flowing Larry, though I would never compare myself to you in that verbal department.

    You are right though, the canyon does have many culprits. Not just the old rotted steel septic tanks or lack thereof, but the wealthy that build outside of the SCOA and state regs and then settle for a small fine on the accomplishment. The latter is getting to be less of an issue but the former is still ongoing.
    As to Les's fecal matter in the creek Larry, I have offered on several occasions to initiate a dye check of the septics in the Canyon. Les has no fear that his systems are contaminators..

  17. John Hess 2012.08.23

    Wow, "Julie" is vindictive. She aggravates and taunts, then bashes in a different setting where readers would lack the background or perspective. She's just full of ugliness or a few of her screws are loose. Cut her off, hit the delete key, send her packing.

  18. grudznick 2012.08.23

    The auction is cancelled? Well that's disappointing.

  19. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    Grudz, why? Did you have your checkbook all out and stuff? Getting ready to throw down some big bucks?

  20. grudznick 2012.08.23

    Bill, you know how I like to listen to the "fitty-fitty-fitty-whoolgimmesitty" sing song of the auctioneer's voice while I sit in the shade and enjoy a good auction vendor hot dog and pick through boxes of old tools. Plus, there's always a lot of hot widows looking at the lamps and old paperback books.

  21. Justin 2012.08.23

    Speaking of big bucks, do you know how I can contribute to ed's lawsuit fund, grudz? I'm willing to pay a little bit for transparency in our state even if has to come through civil courts.

    And speaking of Julie, "she" is gone from here it seems shortly after Bill started calling her Pat. When I think of the name Pat I always think of SNL. Do you guys see any resemblance between Pat and Chas Bono or is it just me? I wonder how Thune and Daugard would feel if it got out that they were advertising on a site run by a man who pretends to be a woman online? Have you heard about the famous lesbian blog(s) run by a man posing as a lesbian? It's an interesting theory, I don't recall Julie ever standing up for anybody in the SOS inner circle, which is also odd.

    [CAH: To clarify: I have given Julie Gross a time-out. I want commenters to engage in constructive conversation from which we all can learn something, not just wage war. I see no PP connection.]

  22. Justin 2012.08.23

    Who could forget LeRoy VanDyke's famous auctioneer song.

    I'm going to one myself this weekend.

  23. LK 2012.08.23


    Thought you were going to admit that you listened to some rap. The young folks all call 50 Cent "fitty"

  24. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    "And speaking of Julie, “she” is gone from here it seems..."

    Erased, I'm thinking.


    Drop-kicked through the goalpost of the MT end zone.

    (p.s. I didn't call her "Pat" Larry did. But still funny.)

  25. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    LK, me too!
    I love when Grudz goes off like that though.
    You can almost feel his disease.

  26. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    (Side note: in my early days as a commenter on Mt. Blogmore, I used to post under the avatar of "25¢".)

  27. larry kurtz 2012.08.23

    Wasúton Wi - Moon of the Harvest

  28. grudznick 2012.08.23

    Mr. Kurtz, you know that fifty cents is actually 4 bits.

  29. grudznick 2012.08.23

    Mr. Kurtz, if you are suggesting that I am the puppet master behind Mr. Sibby and his insaner bretheren then I shall go to bed tonight slightly offended, sir. Sock puppets indeed.

  30. Bill Fleming 2012.08.23

    "grudz=iktomi" Perfect.

  31. Justin 2012.08.23

    Bill, Larry, I guess since I don't know you personally I confuse you. Sorry if that rubbed either or both of you the wrong way.

    That does seem to be more Larry's style. I paused a long time trying to remember which one of you it was, but since I was posting on a phone I figured I had a 50/50 shot and the risk of being wrong wasn't worth the hassle of abandoning my post to go back and look.

  32. John Hess 2012.08.23

    Can't we all just get along? Wise words from Rodney King but so many don't seem to try.

  33. Bill Fleming 2012.08.24

    Justin, no problem.

  34. Douglas Wiken 2012.08.24

    Git along you all. Nuthin behind that curtain.

  35. larry kurtz 2012.08.28

    Barrick Mining Co., a Canadian firm, owns most the water rights for DSP. As its stock plummets after it was revealed that they own access to Canada's PM some of its assets are headed for sale to China.

  36. larry kurtz 2012.08.28

    Suing the Corps because the silt in Oahe and other dams are toxic and South Dakota can't afford to dredge and treat it so it expects taxpayers to do it: Barrick Mining Company is on the hook for this shit.

  37. larry kurtz 2012.08.30

    Update on Pe' Sla.

    Quoted from a piece by Talli Nauman, Native Sun News, health and environment editor via Buffalo Post:

    "An Aug. 25 public sale of land at the Pe’ Sla Native American prayer site in the Black Hills of South Dakota was canceled after the top Oglala Lakota traditional and elected officials requested federal intervention.

    In signing the written request on Aug. 22, Chief Oliver Red Cloud and Oglala Sioux Tribal Council President John Yellow Bird Steele said, “Due to the extremely short timeframe we have in addressing the auction of Pe’ Sla, we are under duress and have no alternative but to make this special request of you.”

    Addressing a letter to Donald “Del” Laverdure, acting assistant secretary of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., through Robert Ecoffey, superintendent of the Bureau of Indian Affairs at Pine Ridge Agency, the Lakota leaders stated:
    “We are writing to you, as trustee of the Oglala Sioux Tribe and protector of the tribe’s rights under its treaties, Article 8 of the 1877 Act and under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. We need you to intervene in the auction of Pe’ Sla, that is scheduled for Aug. 25, 2012, by providing funds to the Oglala and other Sioux tribes to purchase the 1,900 acres of land that make up Pe’ Sla.”

    While signing the Aug. 22 letter, Steele noted: “The United States is a signatory of the United Nations Declaration of Indigenous Rights and bound to the provisions of that declaration. Not only that, they are bound to the Constitution of the United States, which states that treaties are the law of the land."

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